WPSU

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Oh, the Erie-i-ie is a 'Risin"

Look!  A giant floating box of animal crackers has invaded Manhattan!  (photo courtesy of Mark Winkler.)
I couldn't blog yesterday (Blogger was, again, inexplicably down) but I did post a photo album with some shots of Dragonfly "as you've never seen her before!"  If you haven't been to SlowBoat on Facebook recently, click HERE.

President Obama speaks from Ground Zero today.  We cruised past the site early Monday morning, watching construction cranes at work on the Freedom Tower.  We docked at 79th Street and spent two peaceful days just steps from Central Park. The city was dreamlike in its beauty--streets clean as if they'd been swept moments ago, buildings tall and elegant, flowering fruit trees making clouds of pale pink and frothy white against the fresh green of budding lindens and oaks. The chaos and horror of 9/11 seemed far away.

So many experiences on this trip have tied directly to the headlines.  We read the news that levees had been breached along the Mississippi--and remembered standing on our boat roof, back in September, trying to get high enough to look OVER the levees and see what lay beyond.

(No luck. SlowBoat is also LowBoat.)  But I've re-posted a few photos from the Mississippi stage of the trip, so you can see that stretch of the river at a more idyllic time.  Click HERE.  Notice another levee blast is planned TODAY.



Yesterday was March 4th--the day that is also a command to go forward. So we did.  In cold, streaming rain, we cruised under the George Washington Bridge and north up the Hudson.  The Palisades were cloaked in fog.

At times, this trip has seemed like a procession of navigation challenges.  How would we manage on our first offshore  voyage, five miles out on Lake Ontario?  Could we maneuver the narrow channels of Georgian Bay and avoid sharp rocks lurking just under the surface?  The waters of Lake Michigan are legendarily rough--would we make it through the choppy passage called "Death's Door?"  Would our boat be allowed through the electrified fish barrier on the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal?  And how in the world would SlowBoat make the nearly 100-mile-long traverse across the Gulf of Mexico?

Now, it seems, we face our greatest challenge yet.  We are within a hundred miles of the entrance to Erie Canal,  the site of our home port.  The Erie is famous for its ease of navigation.  Hey, it's narrow, it's straight, it's shallow, it's flat!

Indeed a famous folk song pokes tongue-in-cheek fun at the Erie's placid reputation, describing a "great storm" on the "raging canal," during which the canal boat springs a dangerous leak. The captain leaps heroically from the towpath to the boat . . . and stems the flood by stuffing his red flannel shirt in the crack.

Anyway, we were looking forward to a couple weeks of quiet loafing in our home waters.  But it turns out the Erie IS a ragin', just like the Mighty Mississippi.   It's closed--due to flooding.

What happens next? Well, early in this trip we adopted a popular boating motto:  "We  have a plan--and we're NOT sticking to it."  So, stay tuned!

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