Art has been telling the crew that we'll be heralded as rock stars on this Grand Canal Journey. Turns out he's been proven right already!
On Tuesday, at the end of our second day, we spent a comfortable night on the wall just outside Champlain Canal Lock 12, despite high wind warnings and some spectacular lightning. We enjoyed hot showers at the Visitor's Center and lots of help and hospitality from our good friends in Whitehall. Tied up just ahead of us on the wall was the New York State Canal Corporation's beautifully restored tug, Urger, whose crew serenaded us with Bruce Springsteen's rendition of "Low Bridge."
Just after we set off Wednesday morning, we discovered an anonymous good-bye gift on the Churchill's wheelhouse roof just beside her two brass horns-a can of brass polish and a special polishing rag. So thank you, whoever you are!
The locks on the Champlain Canal welcomed us with green lights, manicured lawns, lots of flowers, bright blue and gold paint. At Lock C7, we entered the Hudson River, and many of us remembered the thrill of first encountering the Hudson two years ago on the schooner's original Grand Journey.
We squeezed under the railroad bridge at Mechanicville (15 feet 4 inch clearance to our 15-foot height with the rig stored on trestles on deck, and the slightly shortened funnel on the Churchill). A lockkeeper advised a waiting yacht that he had "commercial traffic" in the lock. That was US! We made the right turn off the river at Waterford, where the green and white highway-type sign said "Erie Canal" and were greeted at the dock by a group of young children, who unfurled a brightly-crayoned banner proclaiming "Welcome to Waterford, Lois McClure." That was a really moving moment for all of us. A few moments later, Lois, Churchill, and the Oocher entered Lock 2-the oddly designated first lock on the Erie.
We rose more than thirty feet to begin the five-lock flight of locks that reaches the highest elevation in the shortest distance in the world. We'd stop for the night outside Lock 2, but first we had some pretty tricky maneuvering to do.
To explain that, I'm turning the Log over to the Captain: We were to end up bow-out in a section of the old Champlain Canal that angles off from the Erie.
The maneuver to get there involved tying up to the right bank and shifting the Churchill from the port quarter to the starboard bow, in order to be able to push the schooner into the old Champlain cut, stern first. The trickiest part might be to wedge the Churchill in between the Lois's starboard bow and the canal wall where we were to tie up briefly. But the elements took charge, as usual, and, for once, turned a tricky maneuver into a simple one. As we came in for that temporary tie-up, an unexpected current caught the bow and swung it out. The starboard bow that we thought would be so inaccessible suddenly became very accessible indeed. Before the current could change its mind, we tied up, not to the wall, but to the corner of the old Champlain Canal cut. Our luck was certainly with us; just where we needed them were an old bollard and a perfect stump! So, we used them, shifted the tug, and pushed the schooner into the cut, tying her up for the night in a setting where many an old canal boat has moored. The setting even included a spillway, just ahead of the schooner's bow, and the sound of the water plashing down and over the sills of the flight of the old Waterford locks lulled us to sleep.
Okay, I'm back. The Captain didn't say that before that good night's sleep, the crew was treated to a delicious barbecue by the New York State Canal Corporation's John Callaghan (a.k.a. the schooner's Guardian Angel) and his wife, Jen. John has been an incredible help to the crew every step of the way. Thank you!