A major milestone! Burlington, Vermont! Two days of magnificent weather – sunny, warm, little or no wind. Fabulous scenery! The weather has since turned rainy, so we decided to stay for a couple of days at the Burlington City Docks, in the downtown waterfront.
We were greeted in Schuylerville with water levels that were a foot and a half higher that when we left the boat and a current that had increased significantly – the river generally runs at about 7,000 cfs and was now running at double that. After an exciting maneuver to get us off the dock where we were pinned perpendicular to the current, off we went. A low bridge forced us to lower the radar tower and bimini while underway (with just Tom and me aboard), but the run through the Champlain Canal and 7 of the final 8 locks was wonderful. We again encountered a fair amount of dredging activity removing PCB’s from the riverbed. The more we learn about the controversy, the more intriguing the story. Apparently the dredging was supposed to be accomplished by sucking up the sediment from the bottom with a huge vacuum cleaner-like device, but instead they are using dredges to scoop out the sediment. Most local people feel this was a “bait and switch” tactic to sell the project, as dredging causes much more disturbance than a vacuum cleaner would. After the dredges go through, they then replace the removed soil with clean “topsoil”, then divers go down and replant seagrass, a few blades at a time. Most local people feel the project is a boondoggle that was steamrolled through by politicians who wanted to “do something” and create jobs, by contractors who saw dollar signs, and by environmental groups who likewise stood to gain funding dollars.
Going through the locks requires some technique, using fenders, dock lines, boat hooks, and muscle power when the water rushes into the larger locks. A boat hook in the wrong place can end up looking like the one below (which didn’t start out looking like that). We couldn’t think of just the right caption for the picture, so we decided to ask for suggestions – I’ll print the best caption in the next update –
A tale of two cities….
We tied up to a City-provided sea wall in Whitehall, NY on Tuesday night – it had a power station and was free. Whitehall is strategically located at the southern tip of Lake Champlain, which is the northern terminus of the Champlain Canal. The Canal was completed in 1823, and created a water route for timber, iron ore, agricultural products, and other goods to be shipped by barge to New York, Buffalo, and beyond. Whitehall quickly became a small but bustling town, where goods were offloaded from sailing vessels which came down the lake onto canal barges, which were towed through the canal by mules or horses. Later, sailing barges were built which sailed in the Hudson River and on Lake Champlain, but with masts that were hinged and lowered for transit through the canal. Sawmills and other support industries grew. However, as with most canal systems, the rise of railroads and later trucking made shipping on all but the largest canals (St. Lawrence, Panama, Suez, and the like) obsolete. Whitehall, like so many other canal towns, declined. Today, it suffers from a lack of jobs and a decline in population. Tourism helps in the summer, but it serves mostly transients passing through. The town heritage of the town has created beautiful, historic buildings along Main Street which fronts the canal, but unfortunately most of the storefronts are empty. Some have fake displays so they look occupied, but many are not. It’s a sad tale, but the architecture, the natural beauty of the area, and the strategic location combine to create great potential for the future if the local people can figure out how to bring in people and jobs. Some pictures of Whitehall:
Incidentally, there is a vacant marina across the river from Finch and Chubbs that is for sale, reportedly for around $250,00 – replacement cost is likely 4 times that, not counting the land. A real opportunity if you want to own a marina in Whitehall!
We transited Lock 12 into Lake Champlain early Wednesday morning – a sunny, cloudless, windless day. The lake is steeped in history, as it was a strategic military route during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. General Perry, Benedict Arnold, Fort Ticonderoga, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys all played pivitol roles in the history of the lake and our country. For us, however, it was a playground of natural beauty. Some pictures:
The second City in our Tale of Two Cities – Burlington, Vermont. A city that has its act together. A college town, active, vibrant, beautiful. It overlooks the lake and takes full advantage of the waterfront. The city owns and runs the City Docks, with a restaurant, dockage, bike trail. It runs a continuous trolley between the waterfront, the heart of downtown, and UVM. Twenty years ago, they closed the main street through town for 8 blocks to create a pedestrian mall, which has been wildly successful and is a gathering place with restaurants, pubs, outdoor seating, shops, street performers, etc., much like the Fanuil Hall Marketplace in Boston. Some pictures:
One more image – the “man-sized toilet” that we installed (also dubbed the “big-boy toilet”) generated a lot of interest. You’ll be happy to know that, when we unpacked it, there was an inspection notice included in the packing. It was a quality-control checklist/inspection report where all of the critical assembly details were listed and, fortunately, checked off. Even more comforting was the inspector who did the checking – the following picture is the signature that was identified at the bottom of the checklist as the person who carried out the inspection (sorry – I can’t figure out how to turn the picture right-side up):