41. A Very Rivery Summer – Part Deux

Greetings adventurers. You join the action back on the shores of Oneida Lake. The original plan was for Sylphide, Steve, and I to stay at Sylvan Beach for just a couple of nights, and then start heading back east. As time went on, that plan changed. The trip had started a day late due to weather, and had been a day longer than expected. We also decided that a quick two night stay at Sylvan beach really wouldn’t be enough time to relax, or to visit everyone we wanted to, so we stretched that out a bit.

Those additions pushed Steve past the amount of time he wanted to waste with me, and honestly, neither one of us was in any big hurry to do all 22 locks again. So, Steve stayed aboard at Sylvan Beach for a few days, and returned to Albany by land yacht instead.

Sylphide’s stay at Sylvan Beach was marvelous. We had several wonderful visits from Moms, Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Grandmothers, and about 975 passersby. Every single one of those passersby wanted to know: 1. What kind of sailboat Sylphide was, 2. How do you pronounce Sylphide? or 3. What does Sylphide mean? After explaining it several hundred thousand times, and secretly wishing I’d just changed her name to Aluminum Falcon, we decided to just start making things up. Steve rather brilliantly suggested we tell people that Sylphide means ‘the back third of a worm.’ Perfect.

We spent most evenings on the back porch with excellent company, enjoying magnificent sunsets, and takeout from one of the nearby restaurants. We enjoyed a loud and boisterous gaggle of cool and interesting cars that paraded by on their way to and from the regular Thursday night car show. I’d been meaning to go to that car show for about 20 years, and it wasn’t until I moved away that I actually kinda got around to it.

We took Sylphide out for several short cruises around the harbor, and we walked around town a bit. The amusement park, which looks like a Scooby Doo ghost town in the best of times, looked extra apocalyptical being closed for Covid season.

Plans continued to evolve, and I realized that we really didn’t have enough time to properly make the trip that my sister and I had planned to Lake Champlain. The obvious substitute was for her to join me for the trip back to Albany. We also decided that Mom and Marc should come with us, because we like them an awful lot. It would be like the old days, when we’d all pile into the ol’ Partridge family boat and float around for a while. I was very much looking forward to it.

I spent a day turning the boat around for new guests, scraping Steve’s filth off the walls, sneaking into my empty house that’s almost sold to use the laundry machines one last time, and tending to myriad other chores. I found that Sylvan Beach wasn’t as well equipped to service the large cruising vessel as it once had been. There was no diesel in the area, and the pumpout facilities were expensive, difficult to use, and not very effective. I muddled through, and the next morning, with all systems go for launch, the crew joined aboard, stowed their stuff, and we set off back east.

The first day of the return trip was lovely. We tackled four locks, and a fairly leisurely 35 or so miles. The locks went smoothly, except for that one that I screwed up and got all sideways and frustrated, but the rest were like butter. The gang settled into their jobs very well, even though we hadn’t all worked a lock together since 1998.

We passed unscathed through the stretch Steve aptly dubbed ‘The Cape of No Hope,’ where we’d been bedeviled by weeds and stubborn plumbing on the westbound leg. We made it to Ilion marina on the first night, and had the entire wall to ourselves. We treated ourselves to some hot, sloppy goodness from Voss’ for dinner. We played Scrabble. I lost.

Day two of this most excellent adventure started with a quick splash of diesel, and a cheerful visit to the pumpout station, which thankfully involved very little splashing. A day that begins with that can only be a great one.

The rest of the day was an extremely pleasant blur of locks, excellent scenery, birds, good food, and high quality time with some of my very favorite people. We made it to lock 12 before the locks closed and we could go no further. We moored to the upper lock wall, which turned out to be our favorite overnight spot of the trip. The scenery was lovely, it was very quiet, very calm, and we had it all to ourselves for the night. Aside from some distant trains that occasionally passed, all we could hear was the water pouring over the floodgates. We played Clue, and I lost.

The goal for day three was to make it to Waterford. It was a lofty goal, but we got a fairly early start, and it seemed doable. After we tackled lock 12, mom and Alison constructed a monstrous feast of a breakfast, of which I ate far too much. The miles floated by, and the locks came and went. We were making good time, and all hands were in high spirits.

One of the lockmeisters along the way told us that the Waterford flight had been having troubles, and had closed for a time. It was open now, but was only running two trips in each direction per day. This meant that if we didn’t make it to the guard gate by three that afternoon, we’d have to wait until the following morning to transit. We might have been able to make it in time, but it would have been awfully close, so we decided not to rush, and settled on spending another night on the river.

Since we now had some extra time on our hands, and since we’d all been using Sylphide’s fresh water supply with reckless abandon for a few days, we decided to make a pit stop at one of the marinas along the way. I picked a marina out of a hat, but when we got there we found it so clogged up with duckweed, or some other sort of water lettuce, that I started having flashbacks to the great strainer incident of 2020.

We went to plan B, which was Crescent Boat Club. It being a private club, I wasn’t sure we’d be accepted, but we waded in to have a look anyway. The entrance was slightly confusing, and the whole place was really shallow. My depth-o-matic kept telling me I was an idiot, but we took it slow, and got in without any unintended dredging. There was a sign on the fuel dock that clearly stated that it’s services were for members only, but there were some locals there who kindly welcomed us in, even after we told them we only needed water and maybe some ice. They caught our lines, and made the awkward approach much easier. We had a nice chat while the tanks filled, Alison stalked some wildlife with her camera, and we did our best to stay cool in the blazing sun. This marina was also battling the influx of river cabbage, but they were having a much better time of it.

Once our tanks were brimmed, and we’d made a donation to the Crescent Club’s party fund, we let go the lines and started ambling down the river again. We soon arrived at the wall above the first guard gate, only to find it full of barges and tugs and bears, oh my. We tried to find a place to shoehorn Sylphide in, but there was none. There was a wall on the opposite side of the river, but it looked to be really shallow on my charts. I remembered seeing a large sailboat docked there the last time I passed through, and since there were no other options nearby, I decided to give it a shot.

We ever so slowly nosed up to the wall, and found there was actually plenty of water. There were not plenty of things to tie up to though, and we ended up making fast to a ladder, a piece of rebar, and a bollard that was set back about 20 feet from the wall. It was enough, and we were safe. The spot wasn’t really a great one. It was near an access road for a public boat launch, and was pretty busy with passing cars, and there were lots of folks fishing off the wall. There was also a lot of garbage strewn around on the grass. Some savages had clearly brought their gas station lunches down to the river, and just thrown their disposable containers on the ground when they were done. Alison and I decided to do our good deed for the day and cleaned some of it up, which made the place feel a lot more pleasant, and allowed us to feel smug and self righteous for a while.

We had a mildly frustrating time trying to order some food from a restaurant in Waterford, but they only accepted orders through an app which didn’t recognize our location. We never did get it to work. I called the restaurant to register my annoyance, but swallowed a fly as soon as I started bitching, and had to hang up after lapsing into a violent coughing fit. That’s what I get for being a Karen. Instead, Alison and mom whipped up some absolutely stellar hot roast beef sammiches, which were way gooder than what I was going to order anyhow. We played Clue again. I lost again.

Our final day dawned, and we got to take our time getting going. The eastbound convoy would be locked through at 1000 sharp, and we were already at the staging point. The convoy turned out to be just one other boat, so there was lots of room for everyone. The flight went smoothly, and before we knew it, we were passing Waterford.

From there, it was only a few more hours down the Hudson River to Coeymans Landing. There, we were greeted by a parade of local wildlife in the form of Hudson the swan, and Deacon Blue, my neighbor’s handsome and muscular dogbeast.

The crew helped me stand the ol’ lightning rod back up, and even took it upon themselves to spruce up the salo(o)n with some local greenery. We thoroughly enjoyed one more night together aboard Sylphide, which gave me the chance to absolutely kick everyone’s ass in one last game of Clue. It was Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead pipe.

When I set off on this adventure, one of the things I was most anxious about was that I would see less of my friends and family. I’m very pleased to report that while I might not see them as frequently as I did before, the quality of the time we’ve spent together has been more than enough to offset the smaller number of visits. I am a very lucky man.

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