Gananoque, Ontario – CANADA!!!

Before I write about our crossing into Canada, I want to share that Ben told me today we’ve been gone for 345 days!  Wow.  It has absolutely flown by.  Flown.  Impossible it’s been that long.  It truly feels like the blink of an eye and we are so grateful for the time and the adventures we still have ahead.  After all, we’ve made it to CANADA!!!

Friday morning we pulled up anchor and crossed into Canadian waters.  We anchored very close to the border so it was a pretty quick trip into Gananoque, Ontario.   After much discussion with many people we have determined Gananoque is pronounced G-an-a-knock-way.  The marina was full and we were on the waiting list but they had a Customs check in dock so we pulled up and waited for that to open up.  I jumped off and tied our lines and then got back on the boat.  Ben had to go call into Customs and all other passengers are required to remain on the boat until we are checked in.  Canadian customs are interesting.  You report in from a pay phone!  At this particular marina there was no actual office.  Just a payphone outside on the side of the marina office building.  Ben called in, gave them all our information and got our clearance number to display in the windows of our boat.  Quick and easy!  Some check in facilities use video phones instead of payphones.  And some have broken payphones and the dock master will let you use his/her cell phone.  We still haven’t gotten a clear answer on if we could have called in with our own phones.  We didn’t need to find out since Gananoque had two Customs check in facilities.

 

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One of our first Canadian markers!

 

The free day dock was also completely full so we pulled back out of the harbor.  Next door was the Boat Museum and another free town wall.  The water level was so high that it was at the top of the wall.  There were a couple of small boats and jet skis tied up there but that wasn’t an option either.  The marina office mentioned that the Boat Museum lets you tie up for the day for a pretty cheap rate.  They had a floating break wall as well as a dock that was up high enough that it wasn’t under water.  We wanted to go see town for a bit and then decide what to do.  They let us know that we could stay all night.  It was just a matter of paying more.  No power or water hookup but that’s ok.  There were severe storms moving in so having a safe place to be tied up vs. being anchored was a great choice.

We walked into town to find some lunch.  It was fun to finally be on Canadian soil!  The Canadian flags were everywhere.  Town Hall was adorable.  And our restaurant recommendation, The Socialist Pig, was a great choice.  We walked around a bit and found a used bookstore.  Always a favorite for the girls and me.  This one was run by a former school teacher and she had a HUGE kids’ section all broken out by grade level.  What a godsend for me!  She pointed Molly to her shelf and I sat down with Maddy and helped her make some selections.  Then I went over to Molly’s section and looked through all of those.  We came back to the boat with another big stack for the kids to read!

After dropping off the books we went to check out the boat museum.  It was a cute little museum made up of a handful of buildings.  One building contained a nice selection of old wooden boats downstairs and a sample cottage upstairs.  The whole second floor was set up to look like one of the cabins you can rent in the Thousand Islands Parks.  All of the furniture in the cabin was brought over from one of the nearby island cabins on a barge.  All but the wood burning stove which was too heavy for the barge.  A lot of what was in the display reminded me of my grandparents’ house up in Michigan when I was growing up.  The kids stopped for a few minutes and played with Lincoln Logs and a few other toys scattered around.

Next stop was the children’s activity house where the girls each got to build a boat!  They picked out which hull they wanted and went inside with their piece of wood to get started.  They both manned hammers.  Hmmm.  Madelyn did get a little bit of help.  First step was to hammer in the mast.  Second step was to hammer in nails and use twine to make the rail.  Then it was time to decorate.  Glitter glue and stickers and markers and ribbon and felt sails.  They had so much fun.  The upstairs of this building was set up like a pirate’s ship.  Another great display.  And for the past two days they have been creating fenders for their boats from corks and dinghies using popsicle sticks.  Ben has helped them with wood glue and getting it all together.  Tonight as they were playing “marina” it was fun to listen to them.  They use their Shopkins as the people on the boats and they call in on the radio for fuel and dockage for the night and give instructions on docking and such.  I love overhearing what all they’ve learned this year.

About a 2 minute walk away was a little stretch of beach along with a playground on the beach and a big splash park.  Molly and Madelyn begged to go.  We kept asking if they saw the sky.  Ben and I were watching the radar closely.  But they were hot and had been waiting all day so off we went.  They had until we saw lightning to play.  The thunder started rumbling.  The winds picked WAY up.  And they just kept dumping buckets of water on their heads in the splash park.  They were thrilled and didn’t care about the impending rain.  But once the big drops started to fall we ran at full speed back to the boat.  We got safely inside and watched the storm blow through.  The winds were fierce and we were very happy to be tied up to a dock.

Saturday morning I got up and took a long 3.25 mile walk.  I enjoyed seeing a lot of the big old houses that are now being used as Bed and Breakfasts as well as walking around the neighborhoods.  I also walked past the dam in town that was bursting at its seams!

We had no plans for the day.  The rain had stopped but it was windy and chilly and not inviting out on the water.  We decided to spend another night at the Boat Museum dock.  We had a lazy day.  Sometime after lunch we took a walk back into town.  There was a barber shop right next to a cute ice cream shop.  Ben went to the barber shop and the girls and I got our first taste of Kawartha Dairy ice cream.  We have been hearing about this ice cream for months.  Molly and I both had salted caramel which apparently is a fan favorite for our Looper friends.

Later that afternoon the girls and I went to church and then met Ben for dinner at a local pub.  We had a quiet night and were hoping for sunshine and calm waters the next morning for our trip to Kingston.

Heart Island, NY

Thursday morning we headed to Heart Island to finally see Boldt Castle!  Approaching from the water I snapped tons of pictures of the old stone structures.  I was excited to get off the boat and see what we were looking at.

Boldt Castle has a large dock space for personal watercraft next to their ferry dock.  We pulled in after asking multiple times about depth and being told it was fine because the water levels are so high.  We pulled in and of course immediately saw 3 feet under our boat which means 1 foot under our props.  No good.  We hung out for a few minutes, talked to one of the ferry drivers, and gave it another try.  Ben swung out a little wider and then came back into the dock.  The water there was so weedy and it’s possible that we were getting readings from the weeds, not the bottom.  We never touched bottom, so whatever the depth was, it was ok!

We bought our tickets and headed onto the castle grounds.  They are impressive.  We were excited to get inside and start exploring.  As I mentioned in my last blog, George Boldt was building Boldt Castle for his wife Louise.  He wanted it to be a summer dream house to look like a European castle.  He planned for 6 floors in the house and numerous exterior buildings on the grounds.  Louise died unexpectedly during construction and George halted construction on the house.  The house sat vacant and in disrepair for over 70 years.  Years later the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority bought the property and began restoring it to what George originally planned.  Many of the outbuildings and much of the main house had been vandalized and fallen victim to the harsh winters.  The TIBA has been slowly restoring the house one building or floor at a time.

We started in the main house.  We were able to walk through the entire first floor.  The dining room was impressive.  The kitchen made my mouth water.  It was beautiful.  There were also dining rooms both for the maids and the servants as well as a servants kitchen for quick serving and clearing to the dining room and rinsing of dishes.  The servants dining room was probably my favorite room on the first floor and yet I didn’t get a picture of it.  It was large and warm and inviting with lots of windows overlooking the Italian garden and plenty of natural light.

Also on the first floor was a large ballroom for dancing complete with an organ.  The main entryway opens up to views of an incredible stained glass ceiling over the grand staircase.

The second floor housed all of the bedrooms.  The bedroom suites were just recently completed.  George and Louise had separate bedroom suites as well as a very large suite for their daughter Clover.  The Boldts also had a son, but either he didn’t have a bedroom suite, or it wasn’t completed yet.

We kept climbing and climbing.  The third floor had exhibits of old photographs of the family as well as many of the blueprints and plans for the other floors of the building.  We were able to climb up to the fifth floor which was just the top of the building.  It would be fun to come back in a few years and see what more has been completed.  As we walked through the house we made sure to keep an eye out for the Boldt family crest – the heart with the B inside with a stag on top.  We found it in the stained glass ceiling and the floor at the bottom of the main staircase to name a couple.

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We walked around the grounds as well and learned what the stone buildings we boated past were.  My favorite building on the property was the power house.  Unfortunately the water levels have been so high that it was closed to the public.  It had this adorable stone footbridge to get to the door.  It just looked like a mini castle to me.  The girls liked the underground tunnel to the swimming pool.  And the Italian garden was beautiful.

The stone building that seemed to be crumbling the most was called the Children’s Playhouse.  The playhouse is the current project for the TIBA.  We were able to walk through and there were certain areas roped off as active construction sites.  We could see the beautiful ceiling that had just been built out.  The playhouse is right out on the waterfront.  It has two bowling lanes in the basement and space for many other rooms.  The bowling lanes have been under water this summer.  It’s sad to see how much the high water has affected everything in this area.  After spending so much time in the south where there was such an extreme drought causing every bit as many problems, it’s crazy to see the other end of the spectrum with the high water level.

We really hoped to be able to go across the bay to the Yacht House.  It’s another impressive structure that has been closed this summer due to water levels.  We saw some clips of it in a film about the property and were sad not to be able to go in.  It was supposed to open this weekend so hopefully others can see it now.

We all enjoyed our time on the castle grounds.  What a special place with a tragic story.  It’s pretty incredible to me that the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority is taking on this project and doing an amazing job.

After we left Heart Island we planned to head back south and cross into Canadian waters!  As we headed south we turned to head over to Canada and got sidetracked by the beautiful coves and bays we were passing.  We got to Picton Bay, very close to Canada and Gananoque (where we were heading).  There were a lot of boats anchored and we couldn’t resist.  We pulled in and joined them.  Everyone else was just there for the day.  The girls begged to get the lily pads down and it was such a beautiful afternoon we agreed.  They played in the water for hours.  Ben joined them.  It was a bit chilly for me but I enjoyed sitting on the swim platform reading with my legs dangling in the water.  Ben and the girls took a long swim towards shore and then back to the boat.  We grilled for dinner and had a quiet night.  One other sailboat pulled in and joined us just before dark.

 

Cape Vincent & Clayton, NY

Monday morning we traveled through Lock O8 and finished the Oswego Canal and headed into Lake Ontario.  After so many months it was crazy to be back in the Great Lakes.  We got a swift reminder of how the Great Lakes operate.  Lake Ontario was not all that nice to us at the start of our trip.  We had checked all the weather and knew it was going to be 2 ft. waves with a 3 second period.  We just hadn’t experienced that in awhile.  And yet there it was, tossing us all over the place.  The thing about the waves on the Great Lakes is that they seem to come from every direction.  We knew as we continued it would improve so despite Maddy asking us to turn around, we kept going.  Unfortunately the direction we were heading had all the waves on our side.  The Seakeeper worked HARD for awhile.  As predicted the water laid down as the morning went on and as we changed direction a bit and tucked behind some land.

We arrived in Cape Vincent and tied up on the free town dock.  The water levels have been so high that this dock was about level with the water a couple of weeks ago.  There is a second free dock but it had a lot of sailboats already tied to it and there wasn’t a great space for us to pull in.  We had the other dock all to ourselves until one other boat joined us late in the day.  The water level was still very high but we were able to tie up just fine.  This was the first time our swim platform (which tends to sit practically in the water) was above the dock!

We hopped off the boat and walked around the little town.  We knew there was a storm coming and wanted to stretch our legs and let the kids run around a bit first.  We saw the town, made a short list for the next morning and let the kids play in the square until the rain started.  We watched the storm from the boat as it hit Canada right on the other side of the lake.  I kept telling the girls to look outside – that’s Canada!  Right there!  The car ferry ran in and out of the dock next to us all night back and forth from Canada.  As the storm blew over the lake, it became beautifully calm and we had a lovely view.

The next morning we headed to a coffee shop for pastries.  We passed a breakfast place on the way that looked better to Ben and me so we got the kids a muffin and chocolate croissant and then went to the restaurant where they loaded up on pancakes and French toast!  We stopped in the post office.  A dreaded task in Chicago so I always put it off.  I’m reminded each time I stop in a post office elsewhere that I shouldn’t judge based on Chicago.  The folks in Cape Vincent were helpful and efficient and polite.

I was hoping to make it to see the lighthouse but it was about 3 miles away so we didn’t make it there.  Instead we headed towards Clayton, NY.  Clayton is home of the Antique Boat Museum and had been recommended by a few friends.  After a few nights on free walls we pulled into the marina to charge batteries and fill up on water.  Ben had two engine computer monitors that had stopped working and had read a few places about the only guy that can seem to fix them – Hines!  And where was he?  Clayton, NY of course.   The owner of the marina graciously gave us a ride over to the other marina/yard where Hines worked.  We dropped the monitors off and then walked over to the Antique Boat Museum.  It was indeed fabulous.  We first walked through a few boat houses of great antique wooden boats.

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Next we took a tour of La Duchesse.  La Duchesse is a 106 foot houseboat built in 1903 for George Boldt.  Next on our sight seeing list after Clayton was Boldt Castle.  George Boldt lived on La Duchesse while he was having Boldt Castle built.  George Boldt was proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel and spent summers and vacations in the Thousand Islands.  He was building Boldt Castle for his wife Louise.  Tragically, during construction Louise died unexpectedly.  George Boldt was so heartbroken that he stopped construction.  La Duchesse remained in the Boldt family until George died.  At that point, La Duchesse was sold to Edward Nobel, inventor of the Lifesaver candy.  Nobel owned the boat until it sunk in 1943 from a broken pipe filling the hull with water.  La Duchesse sunk in her slip and the entire first floor was under water by the time it settled on the bottom.  A few months later Nobel sold the boat to Andrew McNally, of Rand-McNally for $100.  McNally agreed to get the boat out of the slip as part of the sale.  The McNally family restored and repaired La Duchesse.  McNally left La Duchesse to the Antique Boat Museum after he died.  It was opened as a museum in 2005.

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La Duchesse was built without a motor.  It’s basically a house that floats and has to be moved by a tug.  The girls marveled at the flat bottom.  No propellers to hit on rocks!  We toured the first floor, seeing the servant quarters and kitchen and the large dining room.  The water in the first floor was all the way up to the ceiling and the restoration is quite impressive.  The fireplace in the dining room is original from 1903.  Down the hall were more bedrooms.  It was interesting to be on the tour with people who clearly don’t live on a boat.  One lady kept commenting on how small the rooms were.  Madelyn and I walked up and were in awe of the lovely twin room.  I commented how huge the room was compared to their bunk room!

Then we went upstairs to the master suite, office, salon and dancing room.  The salon had a beautiful piano in it.  We learned that many of the items in the boat were found in storage in the boat house.  The piano was one of those items.  Likely intended for the castle.  We also learned that every doorknob on the boat has the Boldt family seal.  A heart with the letter B inside and a stag on top.

The dancing lounge was immense and beautiful.  This level did not sink so the floors were original and heel marks from shoes could be seen in the pine planks.  The furniture was all easily moveable for dancing and the window at the far end of the deck opened so that the piano could be heard.

After La Duchesse, we headed over to the rowing center.  The girls were very excited to learn how to row a boat.  Ben had to go with since they needed an adult.  Molly rowed first and learned quickly that it’s hard work!  Ben helped her get going.  Then it was Madelyn’s turn.  Ben lounged in the boat while Molly helped Madelyn.  Eventually Ben took over because the girls weren’t strong enough to turn the boat against the waves.

After the museum we enjoyed the town of Clayton.  We happened upon River Rats Cheese company and fell in love with garlic cheese!  River Rats also had a ton of bulk candy packaged up in easy to grab bags.  My favorite were the chocolate peanut butter malt balls.  We spent a quick penny there on summer sausage, cheese and candy.  We walked through the rest of town and stopped for ice cream.  I appreciate a great waterfront presence in a town and Clayton didn’t disappoint.  The waterfront is spanned by free day docking for boats and a nice wide walkway and covered area for sitting.  People were hanging out.  Lots of teenagers were swimming off the town wall.  We had a pleasant stroll back to the boat and later headed back out for dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants.

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Wednesday morning we planned to head to Boldt Castle but then Ben heard from Hines that the engine monitors were fixed!  So, we spent a lot of time waiting around for one thing or another.  The first wait was for a ride to the other marina to pick them up.  Once back Ben tested them out and one worked great, the other wouldn’t turn on.  So, then we waited for Hines to come to our marina.  The girls and I walked back into town and headed to River Rats!  We had eaten (embarrassingly) a large portion of the garlic cheese and summer sausage and candy.  So, we went back and stocked up.  We skipped ice cream this time and instead stopped to look through a sidewalk sale of books.  Eventually around 2:45 PM we left the dock!  At this point it was too late in the day to head to the castle so we just cruised north under the Thousand Islands bridge and took in the sights.  The islands are unique and a lot of fun to look.  The houses are big and little, some have fancy boat houses, some little houses built on even littler islands.  We just motored around until we found a place to anchor. This took quite a few tries since many of the islands are close together with random rocks under water.  There is also quite a stiff current in the St. Lawrence.  After 5 or 6 options we finally settled on a spot.  The girls wanted to swim but the water temp had taken a dive.  Molly jumped in once or twice and Maddy part way and then they decided they were done!

Heart Island and Boldt Castle were first on the agenda for the next day!

 

Oswego, NY

The Oswego Canal consists of 7 locks.  They are numbered locks O1-O8.  The entire day on the Oswego I kept asking what happened to Lock O4????  There are no signs for it.  It’s not in our guide for the locks.  We didn’t pass a closed lock that was out of use.  Where is Lock O4???  So, I Googled it.  The canal was originally designed to be 8 locks.  A change in the design made it such that only 7 locks were needed.  Rather than renumber the blueprints, the engineers decided to skip lock number O4.

We went through 6 locks fairly quickly.  We stopped for the day between locks O7 and O8 on a huge free wall.  There is a ton of room for boats to tie up and take the pedestrian bridge across the canal into town.  The other side of Lock O8 opens right up into Lake Ontario.  There is wall space there as well that rocks and rolls from the lake flowing in AND you have to pay to use it.  We were thrilled with our spot.  It was behind the lock which meant no flowing water rocking us around.

We walked into town and headed for Oswego Harborfest.  This was their big summer festival and it was spread across three different parks.  We could hear the music and see the tents on the side we docked the boat on.  But I knew that the kids’ lineup was in one of the other parks.  We could hear music and see carnival rides ahead so we walked that way.  We found ourselves in the middle of an icky carnival setting – a few scary looking rides and a lot of junk.  Blech!  We got some tickets and let the kids do a few rides.  They did some bumper cars and a giant slide and a fun house maze type thing and then we got out of there.  I was looking for the stage because there was supposed to be a magician and a dog show and a few other things I thought they’d enjoy.  We happened upon a huge trampoline bungee cord jumping station.  Molly lit up.  We let them do the jumping and they had a BLAST!  Molly flipped and rolled and the guy stopped her at one point and put tighter cords on to make her go higher.  Maddy just jumped and jumped.  The guy working kept pulling her heels down and letting her go so she’d fly higher and higher.

I looked again at the map and realized that the family stage was actually in a different park!  Oops.  We could have avoided the carnival altogether had I figured that out first.  We found it and caught the last half of the dog show which was fun.  The dogs were all rescues and just the sweetest.  The girls loved getting pictures with them.  Then we moved onto the Children’s Museum tent and then found the magician and the snake man.  This park also had a playground so we stopped there a bit too before walking back to the boat.

The next morning we had plans to go through Lock O8 and out onto Lake Ontario!  Instead of taking the normal loop route and heading right to the Trent-Severn, our plans were to head to Cape Vincent in the start of the Thousand Islands.  Our plans change about every 10 minutes.  We had planned to take the St. Lawrence Seaway up to Montreal, and then take the Ottawa River to Ottawa and the Rideau Canal down to Kingston.  However flooding has closed the Rideau for days and despite the crazy high water levels in Canada, our boat draft is too deep for the Rideau.  It has a controlling depth of 5 feet and our props sit at 5 feet.  We decided that this trip we would just skip that but still go to Montreal.  A few days later we read up on the distances and locks to Montreal and again changed plans and decided we’d just do the Thousand Islands.  We’d start with the US side of the Thousand Islands and go where the wind and water took us and cross to Canada when we were ready.

The Erie Canal

After a great stay in Waterford, we woke up Wednesday morning bright and early, ready to tackle the Erie Canal.  First up was the Waterford Flight.  This is Locks E2-E6 all right in a row that lift you about 170 feet.  It is set up a lot like the stair step looking waterfall section of the old Erie Canal (the original flight locks).  This section takes about 2 hours to go about a mile and a half.

After Lock E3 there is a long dock for canal boats.  These boats are out working often and we saw them up and down the canal, but when they are not in use they are docked here.  Ben and I loved how cute all the NY State canal system boats and buildings were.  Everything on the Erie canal (except the one reddish boat) was painted a beautiful dark blue and yellow.  And the NYS canal system must spend crazy amounts of money on painting.  Everything we saw with the exception of one crumbling section of wall in one lock was painted impeccably.  I kept trying to get a good picture of one of the lock houses but since I was outside handling the lines I wasn’t able to get back in quickly enough and grab a picture.  After Lock E9 I ran upstairs and caught a picture as we were pulling out of the lock.

The countryside along the canal is just gorgeous.  We could have been in Ireland.  So much lush green everywhere.  Just beautiful.

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Many non-boaters have asked about locks and how they work.  They are all different and it’s a little hard to explain.  Last fall in all of the locks we did I would loop a line around a floating bollard in the lock and then cleat the line back on a cleat on our boat.  The bollard would rise or lower with us depending on which way the lock was going.  The line kept us attached to the lock wall.  Many people hold two lines….one in front and one in back.  One person grabs a line and then the person driving comes outside and holds the other line.  On our boat we choose not to do this because the person holding the line has very little control.  The boat is extremely heavy and blows easily.  Instead Ben stays at the helm and controls the boat by shifting us back and forth and using the bow and stern thrusters to hold us on the wall when necessary.  Granted, I’m sure someone stronger than me may be able to hold the boat better, but our arrangement works fine and we’ve never needed a second person to hold a line.  In the Erie and Oswego canals the locks all either have a cable we can wrap a line around and then hold (they told us not to cleat them off in these, just hold onto it), or a rope hanging down to grab.  The first few locks we did I wrapped a line around because all last fall we used our own lines.  I quickly decided this was a huge pain and it was simpler to throw on some gloves and just hold onto the slimy line hanging down on the lock wall.  These pictures are of our line wrapped behind the cable and held back around the cleat on our boat.

The locks are only operational from 7 AM to 5 PM so after Lock E10 we pulled off in Amsterdam, NY for the night.  We took a cab to Target to pick up a few things and then had dinner in the restaurant just above the town wall we were tied to.  When Ben and Molly checked in for the night the guy in the restaurant told Molly kids got free sundaes that night.  So, when it came time for dessert out came this ENORMOUS brownie fudge sundae with every topping you an imagine.

The next morning we had rain.  We saw a big storm coming on the radar so we wanted to wait until it reached us to see if it was going to break up at all.  I took the girls out on a scooter ride in the light drizzle.  Amsterdam has a beautiful waterfront path complete with a band shell, a playground and a pedestrian bridge with little plaques with history snippets.  They scootered and I walked and explored until the rain picked up enough it was annoying me.

Once it let up we headed on our way.  We left around 11 AM but only did 3 locks and stopped for the day in Canajoharie.  Canajoharie was my favorite stop on the Erie Canal.  It was just the cutest little town.  It had one little stoplight in the middle of this big intersection.  We found the old canal path and what we think must have been a train depot at one point.  We had already set food out for dinner on the boat, but we walked past numerous good looking restaurants in town.  There is also a fabulous art museum that our boating buddies went to check out.  And the icing on the cake for the girls, was a real horse and buggy!  There must be an Amish community here.  They came past us going up this incredibly steep hill.  They waved as they passed us and the poor horse slowed to a very slow walk trying to pull them up this hill!  The free dock (with free power!) is along this lovely waterfront park where the girls ran and scootered and swung and played for a long time.

Friday morning the sun was shining and we headed for Rome!  We passed some NYS canal boats working on off loading the immense amount of trees they had pulled out of the water.  There is just a ton of debris floating by.  Ben is constantly having to dodge what look like full sized trees.

 

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All of that came out of the canal!

 

We got to Rome after traveling through Lock E20.  We knew that the free town dock was a toss up for us.  A new floating dock had been installed that lots of boaters had left good reviews about.  We knew that one end was too shallow for us.  We got to the docks before our buddy boat and checked it out.  It was 90′ of dock but was one 50′ section and one 40′ section.  The 40′ section was too small and heading towards the shallow water.  The 50′ section we would have had to turn the boat around and hang our stern into the shallower water.  It just wasn’t going to work for us.  So they got tied up for the night and we moved to the other end of the free town dock that is used by the canal boats.  Seeing as it was 4:30 PM on a Friday and there were no boats there we assumed that meant no working canal boats would be coming in.  This was the craziest docking we’ve done yet.  The canal boats have larger fenders and are in worse shape than our boat so they don’t care what they tie up to – despite their pretty paint jobs.  We had to tie up to a series of wooden pilings.  There were horizontal pilings bolted to vertical pilings.  Some with broken wood chunks.  Some with large rusty bolts hanging out of them.  Ben found a spot that looked manageable and put the boat next to them.  He came down and a lady on shore watching us struggle grabbed a line for us and wrapped it around one of the big canal bollards.  It didn’t hold very well but I was able to loop a rope around one of the pilings and Ben scrambled off and got us all fixed up.  There were metal rings on the concrete sidewalk we could loop lines through and tie them off back on our boat.  The tricky part was that the vertical pilings were a foot or two from shore.  Ben is much better at all the unsafe climbing back and forth.  I’m intimidated by it and don’t like unsteady footing and wood that may crumble.  It was only about 4 feet down, so not a height issue, but it was really going to hurt a LOT if someone fell.

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Once finally settled we got the girls safely off the boat and we were in ROME!  Well, Rome, NY.  And Rome, NY was no Canajoharie.  But there were some good restaurants and we had to go for Italian.  We ended up in a great old classic Italian restaurant.  I had the hugest piece of lasagna I’ve ever seen and the best garlic bread ever.  Once we’d each eaten just half of our meals and could hardly walk we headed back.  We walked through a random Friday night car show in the parking lot across the street and then walked back to the boat.  Another beautiful free town dock (again with free power!) with lovely views of the canal.  Ducks and geese everywhere.  The girls made friends with a little duck that kept following them.  Clearly they are fed often by all the people fishing on the piers.

Saturday morning we pulled out to finish this portion of the Erie canal and cross Oneida Lake to Brewerton, NY.  We slowly boated past a couple of row boats out fishing.  After the horse and buggy we explained to the girls that some cultures do not use any modern technology.  This was another example.  We, on our boat with two engines, a generator, a stereo, a stabilizer, air conditioning, all the modern appliances, TVs, computers, etc. passed two little row boats.  No motor for their fishing.  One person fished, the other rowed.  Such a contrast.

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We made it quickly through Locks E21 and E22 and headed to Oneida Lake.  Oneida Lake is another body of water we had been told to be wary of.  It’s very shallow for a lake.  Much of the lake is less than 20 feet deep.  It’s about 20 miles across and has a marked channel across the whole lake.  We again lucked out and had a glassy calm day and an easy crossing.  We pulled into Brewerton, NY, currently famous for its marinas with cheap fuel!  We fueled up completely full so that we can go as long as possible in Canada before we have to pay for fuel.  The girls spent a couple of hours playing with the owners’ grandson and dog and then we used the courtesy car to run a few errands and go to church.

Sunday morning we passed through Lock E23.  This was our last lock on the Erie canal!  It’s hard to make out, but we came to another fork in the water.  Left takes you along the Erie Canal to Buffalo and right takes you into the Oswego Canal.  Right it was!

Waterford, NY

Many of the locks through the canals have free walls for boaters to spend the night along.  Some even have power hookups and water.  Waterford is free, but charges $10 for power and you are allowed to stay for two nights.  We’ll take it!  Waterford’s free wall is directly in front of Lock 2.  We knew Monday was going to be a rainy day.  That was fine with us.  We’d had three travel days in a row up the Hudson and were ok with having a lazy morning off.   We worked on the girls’ blog while waiting out the rain.  Since we officially started summer break from school it’s been hard to get them to journal.  I still try to remind/make them do it a couple of times a week and this was one of those times.  I sat with Maddy and got her whole DC journal done.  She hadn’t written a blog entry since Charleston!  Oops!

Once the rain cleared we hopped off the boat.  We stopped in the Waterford Visitor’s Center and chatted with the attendant for a few minutes.  We read that the local grocery stores will let you push your grocery cart back to the lock wall and they will come pick the carts up.  We confirmed this at the Visitor’s Center and sure enough saw a lineup of carts next to the building.  We walked into Waterford for lunch.  It’s a sleepy little downtown.  We stopped at a greasy spoon diner.  It did not disappoint.  Good food and cheap.  The local dive is almost always the best place to eat.  They advertised a $2 breakfast.  The girls are happy anytime they can order breakfast food.  Ben and I opted for huge sandwiches that were excellent.

After lunch we walked across the bridge to the grocery store.  We were out of everything fresh and needed to stock up.  The fact that we didn’t have to carry groceries back was a plus so we loaded up on some other heavy things as well.  We got a kick out of pushing the cart back to the lock wall.  Ben was less than amused that I made him stop for a picture twice.

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Once we got our groceries loaded on the boat we grabbed the girls’ scooters and headed back out.  We wanted to stop back inside the Visitor’s Center and pick up activity packets for the girls all about the Erie Canal as well as a Boater’s Resource packet and map.  The Boater’s Resource listed every lock in the Erie Canal and Oswego Canal systems along with a couple of other routes we were not taking.  It gave us the time in both mileage and time it should take based on the water speed limit between locks as well as the phone number for each lock along the route.  This is the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal so traveling through the locks along the canal is free this summer.

The Erie Canal is an amazing structure.  At many points along the way you can see the original canal alongside the current canal.  The locks have been made bigger and wider to accommodate boats under power.  When the canal was first dug no boats under power went through it.  Mules and horses would walk alongside the canal on either side pulling their loads floating on rafts in the canal.  The Erie canal’s first 19 locks (Locks 2-20 since Lock 1 isn’t technically on the Erie) raise you 420 feet above sea level before the locks start descending towards the junction with the Oswego Canal.  The Erie continues on to Buffalo, however our route is to turn at the Oswego Canal.

Lock 2 was right in front us at the Visitor’s Center.  The lock tenders are very friendly and you are allowed to walk up and over the footbridges to look at the lock.  Lock 2 also has the original lock directly next to it.  It now looks like a huge waterfall but within the waterfall you can see that originally this was probably 3-4 locks.  Each stair step was a separate lock.  Locks 2-6 are called the Waterford Flight and are one right after the next.  This stair step looking waterfall was the original Waterford Flight.

We were also able to poke into the lock tender’s house to see the controls they use to raise and lower the water and open and close the gates.  We were in a lot of locks last fall but they were all run by the Army Corps and were commercial waterways and there was no exploring or messing around.  There were a handful of Visitor’s Centers we should have visited last fall.  Lesson learned – we didn’t miss them this time.  It was fun to be able to walk wherever we wanted and look around at the locks we would be traveling through.

We finished out the afternoon with a long scooter ride along the old canal path and then into town and back to the lock wall.  We were all ready to go bright and early the next morning.  The locks are only open from 7 AM to 5 PM so we knew we had to get moving early to make decent progress.  It’s a bit frustrating when there is daylight long after 5 PM however we quickly decided it would be nice to have an end time for the day.  It would force us to make a plan and quit in the afternoon and get off the boat and explore all the towns the Erie Canal has to offer.

The Hudson River

We pulled out of NYC and past Lady Liberty herself and headed up the Hudson River.  This officially closed another chapter on our loop and started the next.  It’s hard to believe after so many months that we are done with salt water and tides and the ocean.  No more dolphins either.  We miss dolphins.  But alas, we headed up the Hudson against a VERY strong current slowing us WAY down.  The city stretches on for what feels like forever.  After quite awhile we got out of New York City and into the beautiful Hudson countryside.  We passed the famous Sing Sing prison and some gorgeous countryside along the trip.

 

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Sing Sing

 

We made our way about 55 miles up and anchored in Croton Bay in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.   The bay was full of boats anchored there for the day and lots of people were swimming.  Welcome back to fresh water!  No jellyfish or worries of anything else.  After some hot and steamy days in NYC the girls couldn’t jump in fast enough.  They quickly got back to their game of constant jumps off the side of the boat.  Swim to the ladder and climb out.  Repeat.  I was happy they were able to swim again.  After a slow day on the water they needed to burn a lot of energy off as well.

Sunday morning we continued up the Hudson.  We boated past Bear Mountain and West Point Academy.  After spending time in the big city, it was such a change to see huge cliffs and mountains, covered in lush green wilderness.  The bridges are a work of art across the Hudson connecting the sides of the mountains.  There are beautiful houses nestled up in the hilltops.  And West Point is impressive.  The history in those buildings is obvious just looking at them.  It was a relaxing and enjoyable cruise to Kingston, NY.

We made the turn into Rondout Creek at a lovely lighthouse.  We cruised up the creek past another maritime museum and past cute little downtown Kingston.  We chose to stay on the other side of the creek at a marina with a pool.  It had been a cooler morning but just as we tied up the sun came shining through and we made a beeline for the pool.  Even Ben got in the pool!  And the pool had sun shades!  The girls met a 9 year old girl in the pool that was also on her boat and hit it off.  They had so much fun playing together.

Ben’s Uncle Geff came to see us.  He lives in Clarksville, just outside of Albany.  He was in the area for a concert and drove over to join us for dinner.  We went across the bridge to a waterfront restaurant in town and had a good visit and a good dinner.  Geff was hoping to see us underway so we told him we’d keep in touch the next day on our schedule.

We woke up Monday morning to rain.  We had told the girls they could play with their new friend before we left.  As soon as it stopped POURING they ran over to her boat.  Then we invited her parents onto our boat to see it and the girls all came here for a bit as well.

We got a late start, leaving Kingston at 1 pm.  We planned to go all the way to Waterford, NY, finishing our time on the Hudson River.  We boated through downtown Albany (very industrial!) and on towards Troy.  And there was Geff!  He was standing on the side of the riverbank waving as we went past.  The first lock of our next few months was the Federal Lock or Lock 1 in Troy, NY.  We hadn’t done a lock in awhile so we asked the lock operator how the Erie canal locks are set up.  They are different from the western river locks we did last summer so I’m glad we asked.  Geff was hoping to see us lock through.  All of the locks on the Erie Canal have footbridges and public access to watch.  Unfortunately the Troy Federal Lock did not allow this so Geff wasn’t able to watch.  He drove the rest of the short way to Waterford and instead saw us pull in there.  We approached the sign where we had to make the decision to turn left or right.  Left for the Erie Canal or right to stay on the Hudson up to Lake Champlain.  We turned left!  And just like that we were off the Hudson River and starting yet another leg of this trip.

 

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We chose the Erie Canal!

 

 

New York City – Days 2 & 3

This was our day to get NYC done!  We had a very ambitious list and figured we’d cover what we had the energy for and come back Saturday morning for anything else.  Our first thought was that we should start with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, knowing this would take awhile and be very emotional.  We thought we could get that checked off the list and then move on to Times Square and Central Park.  It’s also very close to the ferry.  But, instead we decided to take the express bus (which takes an hour and a half) into the city and take it all the way north to Central Park.  The advantage being it was one mode of transportation that picked up 2 blocks from the marina and took us as far north as we were hoping to go in Manhattan.  Otherwise we’d do the train to the ferry again and be in Battery Park and have to take the subway up to Central Park.  So, we opted to start the day with the bus and head all the way north and work our way back south.  We took the bus across the pretty incredible Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  The view was amazing and we knew that when we left NYC we’d get to go under the same bridge on the boat.

We hopped off the bus at the southern edge of Central Park.  The girls LOVED it.  We try to take our time with everything on this trip, and yet there is never enough time.  It’s a constant Looper mantra.  We could have spent all day in Central Park with the girls.  But instead we just scraped the surface.  I assured them that we can go back to NYC for a weekend anytime they’d like.  But, for the time we did have they immediately asked if they could climb all the rocks.  Of course!  They were thrilled.  I’m terrified of heights so this of course made me crazy but I tried to just turn around and not watch.

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Molly was in awe of this huge park in the middle of this huge city.  Our next big win was a crepe cart for lunch in the park along with a Halal cart for Ben.  The girls and I inhaled our crepes and they went right back to rock climbing.  After awhile we told them it was time to move on.  We walked around the park for a bit and then headed out to the rest of the city (or at least our 2 day run through!)

We walked over to 5th Avenue and headed south.  We don’t go to Michigan Ave. often in Chicago but the girls have definitely seen it and the shopping.  But we wanted to show them 5th Avenue and all the shopping.  We took them into Tiffany and Co. just to walk around and look at the sparkly things.  Maddy of course loved them all.  We walked past a few more of the huge stores and I marveled at the gorgeous, historic churches nestled amongst the retail.  I got a picture of the outside of St. Thomas and the inside of St. Patrick (I believe – I may have them mixed up!).  Both were beautiful and such a respite nestled in all the shopping craziness.

We kept seeing the red bags go past us so we knew we were getting close to American Girl.  The girls kept spotting them as well.  We made the stop there with the caveat that we were not buying a thing.  Everyone agreed but then Madelyn of course had a mini fit about it once inside.  They’ve been to the Chicago store quite a few times, but this store was HUGE in comparison.  Every room brought new things to look at and new wishes added to the ever growing “list”.

Next up were Rockefeller Center and Times Square.  We walked over to Times Square and then realized that was directionally stupid so we back tracked to Rockefeller Center.  We showed them Radio City Music Hall, NBC Studios, and Rockefeller Center.  Madelyn had seen a picture of the ice skating rink and wanted to see where it is.  We told her it’s just a big restaurant in the summer!  But we saw it anyway.

Then we made our way back to Broadway and headed south through Times Square.  We stopped to enjoy a couple of the fun exhibits set up.  First up the girls jumped in these large benches in the shape of Xs that provide a rest spot for people walking around.  They hung there for a few in the midst of all the hustle and bustle and a lot of interesting sites.  There were a large group of women wearing very little and covered in body paint to look like an American flag.  I requested the girls NOT go into this line of employment when they get older.  There were also tons of people dressed up as super heroes and the Statue of Liberty.  Molly asked if we could stop for a picture if we passed another Statue of Liberty person but we never did.  Next time!  As we walked and their legs got tired (with the promise of ice cream ahead!) we passed another fun exhibit.  These chairs tip and roll but don’t fall over.  We played in an exhibit like this in Kansas City last summer at the science museum.  I almost fell over!  But the girls don’t.  They just rock and roll all around and love them.

We kept walking down to 34th St.  We had now walked around Central Park and then from 57th street south to 34th St. with a lot of east and west in between to go to 5th Avenue, and around Rockefeller Center and over to Broadway.  At this point we were rivaling Day 1 in DC step counts.  The girls were troopers.  But we weren’t done!  After an ice cream and t-shirt buying break, at 4:50 PM on a Friday we hopped on the subway and rode it south to the 9/11 Museum.  We walked off the train into the new transport center.  The entire complex amazed me.  It was not lost on us that it is huge, airy, and bright white everywhere.  It’s clean and feels hopeful and full of energy.  No matter how many people are in there it doesn’t feel crowded.  It feels safe and welcoming.

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We walked outside to the Memorial fountains and I immediately started crying.  I had warned the girls I was going to be a wreck in here.  The last time I was in NYC the fountains were just large holes in the ground.  We showed them the names on the wall and I couldn’t get a sentence out explaining the names without more tears.

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Next we got tickets and headed inside.  The whole place just took our breath away.  I don’t have enough words to describe the emotion we felt inside the museum.  We were so impressed at how well done it is.  Heading down the first main escalator are huge beams leftover from the buildings.  The girls were fascinated by the remaining structure and how the museum was built on top of it.  The museum provides a children’s guide.  This was so helpful since so many kids weren’t yet alive.  Molly read the guide cover to cover.  She studied each exhibit and explained it to Madelyn.  From the remaining staircase, to the last steel column that was removed from the site, to the fire engines and special exhibits that were given to NYC as gifts, all were touching and beautiful.

While Ben and Madelyn went to look at the last column and all who had signed it, Molly and I looked at a Statue of Liberty given to NYC covered in mementos and memories that showed how much the whole world cared about what happened here.  Then we rounded the corner and there was one of the fire engines.  I just stopped in my tracks and cried.  Again.

Much of the museum exhibits do not allow photography, understandably.  The two hardest rooms for me were the portrait gallery (no photography) and the historic exhibition room.  The portrait gallery is wall after wall after wall of pictures of every person that died in the attacks.  There are touch screen stations all around where you can type in a name and read about that person.  And in the middle there is a dark room that displays mini bios/obituaries for each person with some voice over.  The name is read, the blurb displayed and then 30-60 seconds of voice over from a friend or loved one telling an anecdote about that person.  There is a recording studio where you can leave a message or story for the museum if you have one to share.  The girls played with the touch screens while Ben and I just sat there and listened, reliving it all.  23 year olds sitting at their desks at work.  66 year olds retiring that fall.  People leaving for vacation with their family the next day.  The stories just kept going.

We saved the hardest for last.  The historical exhibition room (no photography) proved too much for Molly.  It was getting late.  We’d been there for a couple of hours already. We had walked all day long.  We were hungry and tired.  And this room had constant stimulation.  There was the feed from the Today show when the broadcast was interrupted with reports that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center.  There was footage of the second plane flying into the second building.  There were pictures of the people hanging out of windows (that I quickly turned the girls away from).  The exhibit was set up as a minute by minute timeline of the events going all the way to the last plane in Pennsylvania.   There were more emergency vehicles in this room and many, many, many photographs.  I showed and tried to explain the dust clouds when the buildings collapsed.  There’s just no explaining any of it.  Eventually Molly looked at me and said she was ready to go.  Of course she was.  We sped through the rest and got them out.  It was an incredible experience that I highly recommend to everyone.  It was beyond hard and an emotionally tough way to end the day.  We second guessed our north to south geographic plan, but at this point we’d done everything on our list and were exhausted.

We walked towards a pizza joint for dinner and passed the firehouse right next to the World Trade Center buildings.  So, the emotion kept on flowing.  Then as a mood lightening bonus, as we were walking towards a late dinner and the ferry we passed the bull and little girl statues!  Complete fluke…we were walking past and I saw all these people standing around the bull.  I had totally forgotten about taking the girls to see the empowered girl!  And there she was.

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After a quick look and photo op we headed to a hole in the wall pizza place and grabbed some slices for a quick and easy (and good!) dinner.  I glanced at my watch at 8:19 PM and realized that if we hurried we could catch the 8:30 PM Staten Island ferry.  So, our tired legs rushed and ran to the ferry station and we made it.  We collapsed onto the ferry, Maddy finished eating, and we pulled out of the harbor.  We were then treated to an incredible sunset with the gorgeous Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty in the backdrop.  What a beautiful end to a fun and emotional day.

After the ferry ride, a quiet and very somber Molly got on the train and sat down.  She was still taking it all in.  Hard to believe this was the same day that started with rock climbing and crepes.  She was overtired and trying to process a lot.  We should have started with the hard stuff.  She’s a tough kid though and a good night’s sleep helps everything.  She did ask me if she had to journal about the museum.  I said no, of course not.  Her journal is hers and if she doesn’t want to talk about that she doesn’t need to.  We fell into a Lyft back to the marina and got on the boat around 10 PM.  We were exhausted but we’d gotten to everything on my list and that meant we could head out on our boat the next day past the Statue of Liberty!

We took it easy Saturday morning and got a slow start.  The current in the Hudson is serious and you want to be pushed by it.  Unfortunately from 9:30 AM until 4:30 PM it was going to be flowing against us, so it didn’t really matter when we left.  We managed to touch base with other Loopers that were next door in Staten Island.  They were going to a marina right in Manhattan that day so they didn’t have to do all of the commuting we did.  I asked if we could leave at the same time and get pictures of each other’s boats in front of the Statue of Liberty.  We pulled out at around the same time and agreed to meet there.

First we went under the Verrazano-Narrows bridge.  Incredible!  I use that word a lot but there are just so many things that are indeed incredible.  The views were pretty amazing.  My friend Tina commented on a picture of the bridge that she took the ferry to Staten Island and then RAN across that bridge during the NYC marathon.  She said the water was a different view.  But what a view that would have been!  So special that we all can have a different perspective of the same place.

As we were on our way to the Statue of Liberty the Staten Island ferry passed us going to Staten Island.  It was fun to get a picture of it from our boat.  We enjoyed riding the ferry.  IMG_2715

And then, there she was!  What an amazing experience to be there on our boat, with our children, in front of the Statue of Liberty.  There are very few words to describe it!  And I took way too many pictures to post, as did Ben.  What memories!

After we got pictures of the kids with Lady Liberty and our Loop flag with Lady Liberty we met up with Odyssey and took their picture.  Then we traded places and they took ours.  Ben then pulled all the way up to the security zone so Molly could get a picture up close with her new polaroid camera.

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After awhile we decided we’d taken enough pictures and spent enough time hanging around and should get moving against the current.  We said goodbye to Odyssey, cruised past the Manhattan skyline one more time and headed up the mighty Hudson River!  As we kept going, the city kept going.  And going.  And going.  I asked Maddy if she still thought it looked smaller than Chicago.  Nope!

Thanks New York City!  See you next time.  Now onto the Hudson River and the Erie canal.

New York City – Day 1

We woke up Thursday ready to head into the city.  We were in Staten Island, so we had quite the commute.  But being from Chicago we aren’t phased by all of the transportation.  We are however phased by the HEAT!  Yikes!  John from our marina was nice enough to drop us off at the Metro stop.  So that saved us a mile+ walk or a Lyft.  Maddy chose Thursday to sleep late of course.   So, we left 15 minutes later than we planned, which meant we missed the 9:15 train, which meant we missed the 10 AM ferry.  Oh well, no schedule.  So, we waited 15 minutes for the next train.  The girls marveled that we haven’t been on a train since last summer before we left Chicago.  We rode the Metro a half hour through Staten Island to St. George and picked up the Staten Island Ferry there.  We caught the 10:30 AM ferry and were dropped off in Battery Park at 11 AM.  Ready to begin our day.  We didn’t exactly get an early start.

I was amazed to read about the ferry.  It’s 100% free to everyone, always.  When we got off the ferry we swiped our Metro card for our train ride and that was it.  The girls were free for the Metro too.  The Staten Island ferry transports 22 million people per year.  For free!  What a service!  This breaks down to 109 daily trips carrying 70,000 people per day on weekdays.  The ferry makes 88 trips Saturday and 82 trips Sunday adding up to about 37,180 trips per year.  Wow.  The ferry was also our first glimpse at the Statue of Liberty!!!  The girls were so excited to see Lady Liberty.  Next up was a view of the skyline as we pulled into Manhattan.  It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a big city skyline!

The ferry lets off next to Battery Park, which happens to be where the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island ferries are located.  So, we walked over there and stood in a very hot line in the sun to get tickets.  Before getting in the next line for a security screening we grabbed a couple of pretzels and a frozen lemonade from a street vendor.  Our morning of transportation left us hungry.  We hopped on the next ferry and headed to Liberty Island.  We picked up our audio headsets and began our tour.  We did not go up to the Pedestal or Crown (tickets sell out way in advance) but we really enjoyed the tour of the grounds.  The audio tour had a children’s setting.  It’s an added bonus when something with so much history is explained at their level.  I listened to that tour so I could hear what they were hearing.  Both girls enjoyed it, but Madelyn really loves audio tours.  She does NOT like guided tours where she has to listen to someone talk.  And it’s hard for her to try to read everything or have me explain everything.  But she really pays attention when she can listen to it herself.  Plus, the story of Lady Liberty was told from the perspective and voice of a bird so it was fun!  All of the questions they had been asking me were answered.  They learned when she was built, how she came to America, what she stands for, how her torch shines at night and everything else.  I say it over and over, but what a truly special experience it was to be there with the girls.

Next up was the quick ferry hop over to Ellis Island.  Keeping track, this is one train and 3 ferries so far today.  First stop on Ellis Island was lunch!  We ate in the café, which happens to be the same cafeteria that immigrants used so many years ago.

After lunch we grabbed our headsets for our next audio tour.  Madelyn was excited.  Ellis Island also had a children’s tour, this time narrated by a muskrat.  It started with a little bit of background about the immigrants that traveled through Ellis Island and the luggage they would bring.  There was a story that an older lady told about when she was a little girl.  Her mom had sheets with big bundles of whatever she could carry.  She wanted her own bundle so they made her a bundle of her own with some of her smaller clothes to carry.

Next we moved up into the main hall which was the registry room so many years ago.  There is so much history in this room.  It’s emotional and overwhelming to try to think about all of our ancestors who left everything behind and came with what they could carry with the hope of a new life here in America.  It’s hard to convey the enormity of that to the girls but we (and the muskrat) tried.

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While in the main hall the National Parks Foundation had a table set up with an activity.  There is a new exhibit coming out before too long where there will be a golden wall of messages written by visitors to Ellis Island.  The girls each wrote notes that will be hung on the wall.  The messages could be thoughts you have for someone new coming to our country, or a message to a family member who came here so long ago.

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The audio tour took us through many more rooms.  We learned about the medical clearance and how your coat was marked with a chalk letter indicating what may be wrong with you.  We learned about the rest of the long process these immigrants had to go through to be admitted to the country.

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We saw a room full of hospital artifacts and photos from the quarantined patients.  The museum has an excellent collection of items that people brought with them to look at as well.

We also spent quite awhile looking at the models of how Ellis Island’s buildings expanded over the years with the addition of extra hospital wings mostly.  These buildings are still on site but only accessible via a separate hard hat tour.  We also got to see a sample dormitory room.  Many did not have to stay on Ellis Island, however for those who did there were stories of having to run for blankets at night and to grab a bunk before they were all gone.  We are all so spoiled – it’s impossible to understand how hard life was for these immigrants.

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I was surprised at how much Madelyn enjoyed the tour.  She didn’t want to leave.  And she kept asking if we could go back the next day.  But alas, we boarded ferry #4 for the day back to Battery Park.  We decided that was probably enough for one day.  The ferries were extremely hot and crowded and we were worn out from the heat.  So, we got some ice cream and headed back to the Staten Island Ferry station to begin the trek home.  We rode the ferry back (#5 – because we actually don’t spend much time on the water you know…).  Then we hopped on the Metro again back to the Great Kills stop.  We walked about a mile to a cute little restaurant overlooking the harbor and collapsed into our chairs for some dinner.  After dinner we walked back to the boat, put the girls in some much needed showers and got them in bed.  We were ready to tackle NYC Day 2 on Friday.

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Atlantic City, NJ

Last Sunday we pulled out of our marina in Cape May and into another close by marina for fuel.  Fuel at the other marina was $0.45 cheaper per gallon than where we were staying!  The marina where we got fuel was right next door to Fishcakes so the girls begged me to go get more donuts.  I walked next door and got more donuts and lobster rolls!  Yum.  New Jersey is VERY shallow in the ICW so we had to pull right out into the ocean.  It was a gorgeous day.  I have no great love for the Atlantic Ocean and don’t like days we have to run outside but knew we had to do the run to Atlantic City and then the trip from Atlantic City up to Sandy Hook, NJ all out on the mighty Atlantic.  We pick our weather days and we had a really good clear forecast.  The water was beautiful but even with no waves the ocean still swells.  And it’s the swells that I don’t like.  But not much to be done about that.  We only had about 4 hours to Atlantic City and we knew this was one of our last chances for dolphins.  I don’t mind leaving the ocean swells but will so miss all that the salt water offers.

We pulled into Farley State Marina at the Golden Nugget Sunday late afternoon.  We try to avoid boating on the weekends however lately the forecast has taken precedence.  Ben isn’t bothered by the crazy weekend boaters and all of the traffic.  He’s very used to it from Chicago so it only stresses me out.  We pulled into the Golden Nugget and it felt familiar to be back in a huge and busy marina!  We love all of the little towns we travel through but we also enjoy the bigger cities and aren’t bothered by the crowds and people like some are.  We got off the boat to check in and there was a Bon Jovi cover band playing outside and people everywhere.  The band was great.  We saw a poster with the line up of cover bands for the rest of the night.  The Police.  The Eagles.  And then Bon Jovi again.  The girls got a bit of an education standing in line for the bathroom as to why drinking a lot may be a bad idea.  Ben and I grabbed a couple of drinks from the bar and went back to the boat to listen and enjoy the afternoon.  We listened until they were done playing.  It was a gorgeous night out.

Monday morning brought a nice quiet hotel and marina.  A lot of boats left.  The grounds were quiet.  The sun was shining.  Our friends Gabi and John from Crazy Love live just north of Atlantic City near the Barnegat Bay. It’s VERY shallow there so they came to us.  They showed up with a New Jersey breakfast – pork roll, egg and cheese bagels.  WOW.  I only managed half, but Ben and John managed to eat their entire bagels.  These were some really good NJ bagels.  The girls loaded up with bagels and cream cheese as well.  What a treat.

After we were done eating lots we headed to the beach and boardwalk.  The girls brought their boogie boards and were happy to see waves.  We hadn’t been to a beach since we were in North Carolina.  It’s been very hot and we’ve had some great pools but they  love playing in the waves.  The girls and Gabi got right in the water and started riding the waves.  Gabi was disappointed in the beach. It had a really strong smell – dead fish or something.  That happens on beaches sometimes.  What can you do?  The kids were having fun so we didn’t care.

We saw a horseshoe crab washed up on the beach. We hadn’t seen one of these before.  Maybe the source of the smell?

After awhile of playing we decided to go walk the boardwalk.  We wanted to at least see the famous Atlantic City boardwalk.  And apparently everyone knows that the Monopoly board is based on Atlantic City.  But I didn’t!  I love learning new things and it was fun to spot all the streets as we walked.  After a long walk Gabi and John had to head home.  They were nice enough to leave us a car so we could go grocery shopping.  We got some errands done and headed to the pool for a bit before meeting our Bahamas friends for dinner.

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What a jam packed day of catching up with friends!  We met Kerry, Dan and Helayna from Igloo for dinner.  They are not doing the loop but we met them in the Bahamas and crossed paths and hung out a few times while there.  Their 15 year old daughter is amazing and so good to our girls.  They adore her and we were so thrilled she joined us for dinner!  We had a great night catching up and reminiscing.   Hugs goodbye for the second time that day.  Both Gabi and John and Kerry, Dan and Helanya told us we should stay and come see where they live.  Weather had to make that decision.  At the time Tuesday was a much better day for our 90 mile run up to Sandy Hook.  But by Monday night the forecast for Wednesday had improved a ton so we had to think on it.  We know by now that if we have a good weather window we need to take it.  But the forecast for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday were ALL good.  So, we decided to stay!

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We are so glad we stayed. Tuesday was so much fun – start to finish.  Purely a play day.  Kerry, Dan and Helayna live in Brigantine, just over the bridge from Atlantic City, so we started there.  We quickly learned that as soon as we crossed that bridge the scenery changes…prettier, less gritty.  Dan had to work unfortunately so he was in Philly but we got to hang out with Kerry and Helayna and their sweet dog for a couple of hours.  Helayna made us all pancakes and then took the girls down to the water to play.  She tossed in a huge float and a surf board and the girls jumped and splashed and had a great time. I mentioned how wonderful she is with the girls?  Wish we could bring her with us!  We had such a nice visit with Kerry and hope to stay in touch as we continue to travel.

Next we headed north to Gabi and John’s house.  Their house was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy.  The rebuild is beautiful and they’ve turned it into two residences so they can rent half of it out.  We got the full tour and the girls quickly settled into the foosball table in the basement.  And they had another sweet dog to play with at this stop!  Gabi wanted to show us a good NJ beach.  She was still upset by the Atlantic City beach.  But before heading to the beach the girls got to set crab traps!  More crabbing!  This was our first time setting a trap.  Now they’ve gotten to crab off a line, scoop crab off a trot line, and pull in a crab trap.  Madelyn wanted to check it right away.  We told her it had to sit for a bit so off to the beach we go.

Gabi took us to Long Beach Island.  She gave me a little of the history of the area and which parts were most affected by the hurricane, where the water surge came in from, etc.  It’s just amazing the devastation that Mother Nature can cause.  Long Beach Island was gorgeous.  Beautiful white sand.  Clean beaches.  Just gorgeous.  It didn’t seem possible that this was just up the coast from where we were the day before.  We got to the beach around 3 pm so the afternoon tide was coming in and the waves were HUGE.  Gabi was so worried about the girls.  I kept trying to reassure her that this is what we LOVE!  She held onto Maddy and picked her up over a lot of the waves.  I assured her Molly was fine and I was in the water too.  There was a strong undertow current but we managed.  It was a fabulous time and eventually I think she believed me that the girls have a lot of experience in huge waves and love EVERY minute of it.

Eventually we pulled them off the beach and headed back to their house.  Next up was checking the traps and then kayaking!  Gabi is too good to them.  Spoiled girls!  The traps indeed had a few crabs.  Maddy got to throw one back in.  And then into the kayaks.   They were so excited to kayak.  Gabi hopped right in with them.  Again, spoiled!  They kayaked up their canal and back.

Once all water sports were done we moved onto dinner.  John smoked pork for pulled pork and it smelled divine.  Gabi made an amazing tomato, basil, mozzarella salad.  We were treated to a fabulous summer meal followed by ice cream for dessert.  The girls played some more foosball.  I folded some sheets and towels Gabi let me bring and wash.  And John gave Molly a little ukulele lesson.  Alas, after a late night the night before at dinner, it was getting late again and we had to drive back.  We had to say our goodbyes.  Gabi and John keep Crazy Love in FL so we’re hopeful we’ll see them this fall when we are down there.  Goodbyes are always hard and such a good reminder of the special people we meet on this trip.

Next up, New York City!