144 Summer on the Erie Canal


Jeff and Heather walk the no water marina dock.

Spring Flowers Brighten an Empty Marina

Spring flowers brighten an empty marina

It was just a slight fumble while attaching the sunscreen, but the clamp took full advantage of gravity, hit the deck and bounced over the side to seek its new home at the bottom of the marina harbor. Eight months later in mid April it was easy to retrieve the clamp and a few other things lost overboard from the now dry harbor floor. This portion of the canal is drained each winter.A few weeks later, like a very slow advancing high tide, water again began to fill the marina. By May 1 the canal and marina were back to normal depths and open for business.
Spring Outfitting

After taking the picture we reversed the Trek for a better view and shorter commute

The commute to work each morning was quite short–5 feet to be exact–from the Trek to Odyssey. Each evening tired muscles earned while working on our extensive spring Odyssey outfitting appreciated the short distance between work and home.

A Canada goose pair arrived shortly after we did. Their nest between two signposts on the thin peninsula between the marina and canal made for easy spotting. Once the goslings hatched we had a constant source of entertainment watching the new ones rapidly grow through the terrible twos in a week and through teenager stages in a month or two. Sadly, just about when it was time to learn to fly the family moved on to a different spot along the canal. We’d spot them occasionally as we traveled the canal looking for the distinct limp of one of the parents.

We found our 3’ draft to be a mixed blessing as we started work on the hull. Sanding and painting the bottom was tough work since I was on my knees all of the time. However, large portions of the gel coat could be reached without a ladder so it was a bit easier for Ruth as she first used rubbing compound then wax to bring the hull shine back. Inside she removed and replaced joint caulk that had become dirty and no longer cleanable.

The first scrape mark caused by a cement wall in Ottawa in 2000 finally disappeared under my developing skills doing minor fiberglass repairs. The swim platform ding picked up in Bradenton got patched. As I gained confidence and more critical eyes the six spots I planned on repairing rapidly grew to twelve or more as scratches we’d ignored became obvious again.

Finally, new accent stripes were applied and Odyssey was ready to splash. The work had taken longer than expected as we had to pace ourselves with shortened workdays and many breaks to allow aching joints and sore muscles a bit of recovery time. It was mid May when we moved from the Trek to living aboard Odyssey.

This was an experimental summer for us. Instead of taking off and exploring by boat we decided to hang around, enjoy family, become marina queens and enjoy a quiet life for the summer. Every few weeks we took a brief cruise, heading up to Fairport and Pittsford or down through the lock to Palmyra and Newark.

'Fireworks Mike' setting up fireworks on Memorial Day Picnic 2006

Rack after rack of fireworks mortar tubes were unloaded from a trailer and set up. Then ‘cakes’–large blocks of up to 240 shells fused to go off sequentially–were set along the water edge. Cindy and Mike’s friend, Mike and his friend began stringing wire, connecting electric detonators and loading shells into the motors. They shoot fireworks as a hobby and were pleased to be at Cindy and Mikes with its perfect, safe setting for a fireworks display. By early evening after four hours of work a large area was covered with fireworks wired to a central controller. Finally they ran some tests, picked up their remote and joined the party on the other side of the pond. In the early darkness Mike and his friend began pushing buttons and we were treated to a Memorial Day fireworks display rivaling many of the professional shows we’ve seen.

We took Odyssey to Fairport Days to enjoy the festival from a prime spot on the water. We didn’t expect to end up filing a police report. The officer and later the dock master listened as we explained that someone had disconnected our water, electric and then cast off the dock lines letting Odyssey slowly drift down toward the Fairport lift bridge late at night. I woke Ruth and we managed to get back to the dock without mishap. Both the police officer and dock master explained the prank was probably outsiders and was a first for them. We reminded them that two years earlier someone had set the Colonial Belle tour boat free. Now we have a chain and lock for future overnight visits to Fairport.

Our water concert seats. Photo from Times Union

A highlight of the festival this year was a performance of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra. They were set up on a barge. A performance artist painted the scene while the Orchestra was playing. We had front row seats in the dingy right next to the barge.

We relocated Odyssey to the south side of the marina and watched as the now empty north side slips fill with steamboats. Piles of wood stacked along the shore disappeared aboard to be converted to steam to power the boats.

Dave and Barb out on their steam launch

Skilled captains deftly worked cords coaxing whistles to express a variety of sounds as each launch left the docks in a clouds of smoke and steam. For three days we enjoyed the sight and sounds as the steam launches poked around the canal and marina.

Jeff, Danielle and Heather enjoy hand car

Dave and Barb, hosts of the flotilla even had their steam train engine operating. They also had a railroad hand cart set up that Danielle and Heather had fun on.

Judging by Danielle the speed gene goes active at age 6. It also turned out that her light body was just the right weight in the dinghy’s bow to bring the bow down and the dinghy up on plane. Off we went, flying down the canal inches above the water following the big smile on Danielle’s face. Once wasn’t enough; of course, and we made a number of flying runs. Heather, 2 years younger, interests were completely different. She preferred dragging fingers in the water as we idled along.

For exercise we would walk the mile to the grocery store and carry groceries back. For larger projects we’d rent a car every few weeks getting Enterprise’s weekend specials. We ended up on a first name basis with the Enterprise staff.

Jody and Brian had an interesting reaction as we took them and Linda and Steve for a ride on Odyssey while we were at Newark enjoying Newark Fest. They both had problems getting their heads around the idea that we could take our home for an afternoon joy ride. Later that evening we relocated away from the fireworks ash fall zone and watched Newark’s first class fireworks show.

Don, Jim, Mike, Cindy, Ruth, Steve, Linda, Brian, Jody

Jim, Ruth’s brother, came up from Florida, visited family and friends in Michigan and then stopped to visit the New York branch of the family. We took the Trek to Linda and Steve’s so we could all be together. Of course, we had to show him Cindy and Mike’s special spot where we had lunch and then Jeff, Danielle and Heather’s cozy haven.

We talked into the evening with John and Bobbie swapping notes about our mutual adventures since our last meeting at Harborfest in Oswego. This time Short Circat, a sister ship to Odyssey, was home in Florida and they spent the night with us during their trip north to visit family and friend.

Ruth gave Mike a hand moving stone to finish filling the shed foundation. Cindy and I started in on component sorting and building up roof beam sub assemblies. Faster than we expected the shed came together. We finally stopped when we reached the spot for the first skylight, which fortunately for our tired bodies was back ordered.

An evening sail

A marina visitor sharpening his radio control sailing skills gave me some time at the electronic helm. That did it; old suppressed urges to have a RC sailboat came surging back. A bit of research located a kit source and after a few days of building I was at the helm of my own RC sailboat. It’s a kick to sail around the harbor.

The rainy day turned into a really rainy day. Snuggled in aboard Odyssey our rain gauge climbed to 2 inches and continued rising along with the canal water level. The rain gauge read 4 inches when we found the end of our dock close to floating off anchor pipes holding it and Odyssey in place. Working quickly we rigged lines to stabilize the dock and Odyssey from a further rise in water. Fortunately our preventative action wasn’t needed as the rain stopped shortly after our efforts and over the next few days the canal slowly returned to normal levels.

We had one last encounter with high water, this time it was internal. Ruth had gotten up around 1 am to use the head. Through a sleepy haze I heard her say, “There’s water all over the floor in the head.” Talk about a wake up call! I was out of bed in an instant trying to figure out what was going on. Both bilges were full and we had two inches of water in the head and galley. Now fully awake a rapid search located the leak– a water line connection under the settee had come free and city water was rapidly filling Odyssey. Seconds later I had the water shut off. Now with the threat of sinking past we went to work getting everything back to normal. For the next two hours I worked the bilge pumps one of which quit working while Ruth mopped.

Our late night crisis had one odd distraction. Ruth noticed a bright light on the canal shining from a boat on someone in the water. For a second we thought we were witnessing some sort of water rescue. Then the boat accelerated and up came a water skier! The boat driver alternated between shining the light forward to see where he was going and back to check on the skier headed down the canal. We shook our heads and went back to our clean up.

Danielle helped as we worked our way through the locks. The trip (less than an hour) worked out just right for the kids. Just below the second lock we tied up at Palmyra and poked around in the park playing on swings and slides.

Danielle and Jeff fishing

Back at the boat Jeff taught Danielle to fish using baloney for bait, just as I’d taught him many years ago when he was about Danielle’s age. He had won a fishing contest when he was that age.

Restlessness began to work on us. Our idyllic day-to-day routine got old as we got itchy to be on the move. A last round of visits and hugs let us say our farewells, and we headed east on the Erie Canal for our fall trip south.


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