Day 8: Ilion to St. Johnsville

Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Trains went by frequently during the night and during the morning, but they didnít bother us. The marina was very nice. I took a shower.

It started raining when we got up. I moved my chair to the stern of the steamboat, so we had an intimate breakfast of Cheerios in the rain.

We walked to town to see the museum at the Remington Arms Company and to take an interesting tour of the plant. The cars in the parking lot were mostly pickup trucks. The plant is huge, covering thirty-six acres. Much of the equipment in it is rather antiquated. The plant has been in business there for about 175 years, which, not coincidentally, is the same as the existence of the Erie Canal. They make about half a million guns a year.

We got the fire going and were our way about 10:35 a.m.
Flowers and the Aurora Borealis at the Ilion Village Marina.
The Remington plant.
At Lock 18 (lift 20.0 feet) near Jacksonburg, we had to wait for the lock to fill for a westbound boat, then took a while going down. The lines at the side of the lock were short and Al couldnít let go. The boiler got full of water and the engine did, too, so he had to blow down several times as we left the lock.

We were startled to see a sign informing us of construction work and warning us to be prepared to stop. Before us lay a floating bridge traversing the entire canal with trucks driving across it! What do we do? As we got closer, some of the floating bridge was moved to the side and we were able to get through.
Construction sign.
Truck driving across floating bridge.
The bridge closing behind us.
Closed again.
We were now definitely in the Mohawk River Valley, with hills surrounding us.

The Mohawk River valley.
Satisfied captain.

Checking out the aids to navigation (red on port; green on starboard)...and steering.

Entering Little Falls.
School boat.

Double guard gate above Lock 17 at Little Falls.
The type of hard rock that causes the falls to exist.
A big event of the day was visiting Lock 17 (lift 40.5 feet) at Little Falls, where we were to pick up our load of wood. Mark Rinkerman was on duty as lockmaster. He let us move into the lock. We loaded wood using a wheelbarrow, ending up with a very full boat. The sailboat La Vie Dansant, with which we had been leapfrogging for several days, entered the lock just as we were finishing loading the wood.
Note rock climbers on the hard rock.
Entering Lock 17.
Loading wood.
La Vie Dansant.
A boatfull of wood.
The gate in front of us.
Lock 17 used to be highest lift lock in the world. The advent of the St. Lawrence Seaway made it lose that distinction, but it is still one of the highest.

At any rate, itís a long way down! The huge lower counterbalanced gate rises and falls vertically. I tried to take pictures with one hand as I held onto the lock line with the other hand. Turn the camera on. Adjust the field of view. Try to hold the camera vertical and keep the lens cap out of the way. Find the shutter release button and try to shoot a picture. In the meantime, Al was calling for me to push the steamboat further away from the wall: there was a little leak in the lock wall that let loose a parabola of water which peed into the boat. Anyway, we survived.
The gate shut.
Starting to rise. See the curtain of water.

Rising furtherÖ.
Looking back upstream.
This was with no fire going (since it was going to take us so long), so we spent a while below the lock getting started again. Mark called to us on the VHF to make sure we were okay.

The Mohawk rejoined the canal here and our waterway became much wider.

Whistle, gauge, and stack.

We were perking right along when we passed the Herkimer Home on the south side of the river. There was a nice dock there and a pathway up from the river. I said I wanted to stop. We visited the museum, saw a slide show, and took a tour of the Herkimer Home. Nicholas Herkimer owned the portage around Little Falls. Since he charged tolls for the portage, he became the wealthiest of the Palatines settling in the Mohawk Valley. (At an earlier time, the Mohawks had controlled the portage arund the falls, giving them power in the Iroquois Confederacy.) Herkimer built his home in 1752. He had been a captain of the militia during the French and Indian wars and was a general in the Battle of Oriskany during the Revolutionary war. He died of a leg wound after having had his leg badly amputated.

About 100 feet north of the home was an old railroad bed and not very many feet from that was the site of the old and enlarged Erie Canal. (This was between our dock and the home).
The Herkimer Home.
The garden at the Herkimer Home.
A couple of miles upstream from Lock 16, we encountered a boat going upsteam. It radioed to the lockmaster that a steamboat would be there in about ten minutes.

Just before the lock are the remains of a lock from the Enlarged Erie Canal.

At Lock 16 (lift 20.5 feet) at St. Johnsville, the lockmaster asked if we had been having any trouble. He had been expecting us and when we didnít show up, he asked the boat that was going upstream to look for us. We explained that we had stopped at the Herkimer Home. We have appreciated the lockmastersí concern in watching out for us.

We docked at the St. Johnsville Marina. Since we wanted electricity for recharging batteries, we had to tie up to a high terminal wall. We docked near a ladder by the pumpout station so we could get out.

Aurora Borealis dwarfed by the wall.

A man from the marina drove us two miles to an inexpensive and good Italian-American restaurant named Merimerís and a person from the restaurant drove us back. That was a nice transportation service to enjoy. Al had haddock and I had ham, plus a salad bar and good bread. Back at the marina, Al enjoyed a shower.

Mosquitoes did little to keep us awake.

Number of locks: 3
Approximate distance for day: 22 miles

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