We docked in Newark in the rain and I made hot bacon/chicken/cheese sandwiches using the BBQ chicken that Devon gave us and house smoked n cured bacon I bought from the William St Tavern in Lyons. Best. Sandwich. Ever. Dessert was Mennonite blueberry pie from the farmers market yesterday, also in Lyons. Walked to the nearby grocery store to restock, came back to the boat to read and watch YouTube videos about sailing. We both avoided the looming question about what the next move might be. Tomorrow, we would arrive at the decision point.
Sunday morning over coffee we faced the hard fact. The boat is too deep for the approaching 3 mile section of canal just 9 miles on, and the most optimistic timing for it to return to normal operation is two weeks, our choices are to 1) pause the trip again, find a marina and tie up, go home, and come back when that section is “really” open or 2)… well, there really isn’t a second option. The lock keeper says 5 feet max or you can plan on getting beached, and nobody really knows what’s down there.
But we did hear a rumor or two about boats getting towed through.
Boats heading east have zero options now due to high water from heavy recent rains closing the canal for at least another day or 2 in that direction. But we’re heading west where the canal is too low. It sounds wrong, but it’s complicated. The canal is sometimes part of the river and sometimes parallel to it. In those places where it’s parallel,the river feeds the canal and controls the water depth. In other places, guard gates prevent high river water from flooding the canal, but then the canal has to close until the river subsides because you can’t boat through a closed guard gate.
Option 2 just needed a minute to catch up with us over coffee. As we discussed the dilemma, I looked up and said “that looks like Bob.” Walking down the dock, heading our way was Bob. Remember Bob? From Lyons? He’s buddy’s with Tom, the keeper at 29 (who’s locally famous for playing air guitar at work), and they spoke last night.
Tom told Bob, and Bob told us, “you probably don’t want to spread this around, but the canal water is a bit higher now from all the rain, and that might make it easier for some of the bigger boats to get through.”
Then Bob said “I’m heading down that way now and you’re welcome to come along if you’d like to see for yourself.”
The tag line of this site is “Just Say Yes” Need I say more?
Bob is somewhat of a local historian and gave us a great local history lesson along the 15 mile drive. We saw some of the old shops, buildings, original canal ruins and ox trails from the canal heydays. The ox trail turned bike trail with “glamping” facilities on the rise.
Tom at 29 is an amicable man, who’s been at this a while. He came to work one morning in May and found his section of the canal empty after a hole eroded in the side of the canal allowing it to drain into the river. They’ve been working on it since then. So, while he empathized with our dilemma, it certainly wasn’t his. He’s been taking phone calls from all over the east from boaters like us. But those boaters don’t know Bob.
Tom showed us around the construction site and described exactly what happened. He was non-committal about our chances of getting through this section of canal, as he should be, but said he’d help us as best he could. I could read between part the lines of his message, but there’s only so much one can do in the face of the forces of nature.
Back in Newark, Gordon called the tow boat insurance company and signed up for the free towing package. They said they’d meet us at lock 29 around noon on Monday with a boat that could tow us through if we got stuck. Meanwhile, more notices to Mariners came through with additional high water lock closures that we hoped to pass through tomorrow! High water lock closures are on either side of us now, and boats seem to be stacking up here in Newark waiting to go one way or the other. Still no food truck to be found.
I’m pushing hard against the outside limits of time before I need to tend to my regularly scheduled programming back home. This started as a “planned” 7-10 journey for me, and it’s now day 16 with a couple more to go. I need this week to plan for next week’s journey, a trip to the Oshkosh air show with my son.
If you enjoy this, and you have younger readers in your life, please check out my book, “The Biggest Bear”, it’s a great story, and you can read or listen to the first chapter here.
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