Westward ho!

by Art Cohn

Troy was a great stop. We were able to reconnect with our friends in this Mohawk-Hudson Industrial Gateway city with a history rich that provided so many connections to Lake Champlain. These days we often say our cargo is the discussion of history we carry aboard Lois. Troy provides a rich menu of topics connected by our study of shipwrecks. The schooner Troy of Westport, lost in a November gale in 1825 with five young men aboard; the Stove Wreck, a very early and later outlawed scow-like canal boat, with its cargo of Troy-made tea pots, kettles and kitchen woodstoves contained within; and the Burlington Horse Ferry (ca. 1830) with its John Langdon patented two-horse power design that was manufactured in Troy. We were treated to old-fashioned hospitality and very much enjoyed enjoyed our stay. I was particularly pleased by the nightly visits to the Snowman, which the crew unanimously declared produced the best ice cream on the planet!

But after the floods of June and the damage to the canal, the crew was really chomping at the bit to begin the travel westward.

The Grand Slambovians
The Grand Slambovians (photo: Tom Larsen)

With the NYS Canal Corporation crews working hard to restore the canal to operational status and with guidance from our friends at the Canal Corps, we began our westward leg with a stop at Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park. We were welcomed by Bob Kirkham, proprietor of the Riverlink Cafe, and the crew took full advantage of the showers and washing machines available to boaters. After a good day of hosting visitors, there was a concert in the amphitheater – the Grand Slambovians put on quite a show.

Roger presenting the Proclamation of Friendship to Sevim (photo: Tom Larsen)
Roger presenting the Proclamation of Friendship to Sevim (photo: Tom Larsen)

The next day we set off for Fort Plain, which had been so hard hit by recent flood waters. We were greeted by our close friend Savim Morawski who welcomed us with the warmth of returning family and accepted our “Proclamation of Friendship” read by our Captain Roger Taylor and presented by the our crew to the Fort Plain community. This proclamation speaks of the enduring friendship felt by our crew and the community of Fort Plain hopes for their speedy recovery and future opportunities for us to visit.

From Fort Plain we continued our westward movement to Little Falls, another canal community hard hit by recent floods. Once again the hospitality of the Rotary Park Canal Facility staff was so far above and beyond. They gave the crew rides to get ice and diesel fuel, and even brought us downtown to explore the famous antique mall before open hours began.

Due to our schedule changes, and our desire to see as many of the ports initially scheduled as possible, we have decided to provide afternoon stops at many of the communities along the canal. After a morning of travel, we arrive in the community and open the boat for a few hours. While this approach gives us less time in the community, we do get to see many more places. We have been consistently impressed with the response of visits like this in the past. Little Falls was the first of these afternoon stops this year and they didn’t disappoint.

Visitors brave the rain in Little Falls (photo: Tom Larsen)
Visitors brave the rain in Little Falls (photo: Tom Larsen)

We saw a steady stream of visitors during our open hours, including members of a hard-working Canal Corp dredging crew who were staying at the harbor while they worked long-hours to get the canal back into shape. All of this, despite the steady drip of rain! The next morning, the satisfied crew pulled out of the harbor for a long journey westward to Sylvan Beach at the eastern end of Oneida Lake. This was a forty-mile push which brought us through the beautiful Mohawk Valley and to the eastern end of Oneida Lake.

It is from here that I write this blog. We were to leave this morning at 6AM to cross the lake, but high wind caused Captain Roger to postpone the crossing until tomorrow when the wind is predicted decline. “That’s why we schedule weather days” was Canal Corp’s John Callahan’s seasoned response to being updated on our plans to stay put today. As I write this, the crew is occupying the time by talking with many passers by and working on the ever-present maintenance chores presented by our two large hard-working wooden boats.

If all goes well, we will cross Oneida Lake as planned tomorrow AM en route to our weekend program at the Inner Harbor in Syracuse. Stay tuned as we continue our travel westward as far as Buffalo and the shores of Lake Erie.

Art Cohn