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Getting it done, up the current..

June 13, 2011

June 6, 7, 8 The road to Coxsaksie

I left Beacon from the municipal pier after eating breakfast. I had to wait for the water to start flooding. The 32 miles to Norrie State Park were done with the wind directly in my face. It took me more time than expected and I got there a little after the beginning of the ebb; meaning with the current against me.

Unlike the paddle trail suggests, there is no stop dedicated to paddlers at Norrie State Park. It was also the first time that the rangers had ever heard of such a trail. They let me pitch my tent anyway.

The area is really nice. A monastery is straight in front of the Park.

In the morning of June 7, I left the Park a little too early. I was aiming for a campsite only 12 miles away. When I got there, a woman was already occupying the spot. Since the wind appeared favorable, I decided against better judgment to go another 20 miles to Coxsakie. I had 4 hours of favorable current ahead of me. I would be ok as long as I maintained a 5 mile per hour average I reasoned. Unfortunately, the wind died a mere one hour after heading for Coxsakie, it turned in my face, then the wind slowed to nothing. I pedaled like a mad man for three hours and made it before the current turned.

July 8 Coxsakie

I woke on my unchartered beach only a few hundred yards from the real campsites. The coordinates from the Hudson Paddling Trail website were all wrong. They led to a cliff; at least they pointed to the correct island.

I expected the current to be slack when I woke up but it was still going upstream pretty fast, so I packed my stuff in a hurry and got on the water. I wanted to reach a comfortable marina or some town dock so I could wait out the ebb tide.

I did not need to go very far. Only two miles away I encountered the Coxsakie municipal docks. The town has a very inviting park with gazebos, brand new docks and a ramp. Everything is well kept and clean.

The town itself is spotless even though it seems to have been hit by the habitual economic shift that left a lot of small towns with empty business spaces. In this case the entire waterfront historic buildings were unused.


The jewels of the town are its library, the Spaboro Deli and the pub called Blue Water. All life seems to gravitate around those points of socialisation. In the morning the Deli is full of locals, then the same locals move to the pub. Extraordinarily, both have excellent food. The Grilled cheese and cheese burgers from the Deli are worth making the detour from Highway 95 if you ever are close to the Junction. The Pub has real beer. I had double IPA with the owner and we talked about beloved beers from all over.

I was planning to leave the town in the evening as soon as the flood tide started but I learned that the tide would only flood by 6 pm and that the locks, some 25 miles away, closed at 9:30. I chose spend the day and the evening in town and to go to a campsite 3 miles away. The morning tide would easily bring me to Troy and I would not have to worry about night time navigation hazards.

The day was unusually hot. The heat brought electrical storms that foiled my camping plans. I was stuck at the Pub until 11 pm and finally camped right in the town’s park. Since I was leaving really early no one would bother me.

July 9, Troy

I rolled my tent in Coxsakie and headed to Albany. The current did not help me at all. I got to Albany and pushed on to Troy. Before I got to the lock an electrical storm forced me to stop at Troy’s the municipal dock.

I had some food at the waterfront restaurant next to my boat and got a room at the Best Western. It was only 3 pm but I really needed to clean myself, my clothing and my general state of tiredness was too crazy to not take advantages of the convenient setting I was offered in Troy.

June 10, Waterford

I got to the lock in about twenty minutes but I was not goint to get very far as my Mirage Drive broke while I was still in the lock. Without the Mirage Drive I was powerless against the north wind. The parts for the drive are very hard to come by and I was expecting to be stuck in Troy for a few days.

I inched myself to the dock next to the lock. It turned out to be the Army Corp of Engineers’ dock. The guys immediately offered to help; perhaps fix the mechanical parts, but the specialized parts that broke: a stainless bit of bicycle chain welded to a cable and a threaded rod, was not going to be reproducible locally. Fortunately, Blair, the owner of Hybrid Marine and my sponsor, found a store that had the part only 30 minutes away. The odds of having such a store so close were very small.

An engineer named Brian took me to the store and saved me a whole lot of trouble. I was suddenly very appreciative of the Corp of Engineers!

Back in the water, I was facing a sustained north wind and a contrary current. I was getting nowhere, so when I saw the lovely waterford settings I could not resist stopping there. The town has a lovely deli and the municipal dock is entirely populated by transients going up either the Erie Canal or the Champlain Canal. It’s a lovely place to stop. Too bad there are not more such places on the intracoastal.

June 12, Lake Champlain Lock 5

I left the Waterford dock with regret. I knew the first lock was close and I thought I would have the wind with me. It was raining hard so traveling appeared to be an intelligent alternative to brooding in a café while waiting for the weather to change.

To my surprise, the wind did not hold at all. As soon as I got about a quarter mile, the wind died and then changed from the east south east to a north west wind; exactly the opposite of what had been predicted.
I had expected the current on the way to the first State Lock. When I got out of that lock, to my surprise, the current was even stronger. I was barely going forward. My speed was reduced to something under 2 miles per hour. This situation continued from lock to lock.

When I got to lock 4, I was tired because of the current and the lack of wind that could have helped me. I had been pedaling full speed in order to inch myself from lock to lock. The challenge was that between lock 4 and 5 there were 14,3 miles! All the other locks had been separated by less than 4 miles. Since Waterford, I had only covered 9 miles and it was already 3:30. I had done 9 miles in 5 hours.

I decided to go for lock 5 anyway; knowing full well that I’d make it past 9:30 at the earliest and that I would suffer quite a bit.

I took my chore in stride. I gave myself short term objectives, listened to music, and generally went nuts under the rain.
When I did get to lock 5, it was night time but I got there 15 minutes before the lock would close for the night. I put my tent up in the pouring rain. My tent was already drenched from the night before. Thank God for the isolating qualities of artificial fabrics.

June 13, Lock 7 Schuylerville.

I woke up to the sound of a generator and the voices of the triathlon organizers. It was 5 am and the regional triathlon was starting from the exact spot where my boat was tied up. My tent was in the middle of the event’s different tents and by the time I got out of the tent I felt like I had landed in the middle of a county fair except everyone was wearing spandex and seemed strangely healthy.

I left the area after taking a few pictures. I strode into town to find the local breakfast hangout. I was not let down. The town had the Schuylerville version of the diner in Coxsakie. Well, the Coxsakie version was miles ahead in terms of food and ambiance but it was still very good.

My body was still aching from the 24 miles of torture from the day before. I gave myself for sole objective to get to lock 7. After lock 7 I would not have any current . It was only 10 miles away. No swet I thought.

Lock 6 was only 1.8 miles from lock 5. The current was ok and I made it in about an hour. Not fast but not discouraging. Unfortunately, between lock 6 and 7 there were 7.3 miles of disheartening current. At one point, I was doing 0.5 miles per hour even though I was going full on. It’s with swet in my eyes that I passed many of the narrow passages that sped up the current. It took me 4 hours to do the 7.3 miles. When I got to lock 7, I called it a day.

The lock people invited me to take a shower. I then went to town. Fort Edward happens to be another very significant town in the history of the war of independence. It also has a local diner where I got the 5$ daily special.

  1. paul witort permalink

    Amazing stamina Rene!
    Do you ever use pedaling *and* paddling at the same time ?… or is that too exhausting?
    Other than the gray AI boat that sailed with you earlier in the trip, have you seen many other Hobie drive powered kayaks? I’m wondering how much of a ‘West Coast’ thing these are.

    When you stay in a motel, how do you safely secure your kayak.

    • Thanks, I did the entire canal on pedals alone. No wind at all. I would have gone much, much faster without the outriggers and the sail. Now that I’m at the end of the canal, the wind is blowing rain at 25 miles per hour in my face: north.

      I keep the kayak on docks when i go to away. It’s been pretty safe. I find that the coast is entirely inhabited by rich or well to do people. Not many of them would steel anything.

  2. Alan Mapes permalink

    Hi Rene – sorry to miss you on your way through our area, but I’m sure you are itching to be home. Mike Cavanaugh and I met you near Jacksonville, FL in March. We’ve been enjoying the tale of your trip. Glad you found the Blue Water Bistro in Coxsackie – one of our favorites!

    Best, Alan Mapes
    Delmar, NY

    • It’s too bad, I tried and tried the phone number but it gave me a message saying that the connection could not be made… I really like your area. The towns are lively. I’m in Whitewall right now and it’s a ghost town. Nothing is open.

  3. steve permalink

    Wow, you’re smokin’

    Praying for south wind on the big lake champlain!


  4. Susan Ferguson permalink

    Rene, what a trouper you are.Lady Simcoe has ended the Chesapeake & are awaiting a weather window to go down the Delaware to Cape May.I know I couldnt have taken the tough seas you have endured but what a great story!!!!!
    Sue aboard Lady Simcoe in Chesapeake City(met in Beaufort)

  5. Hey Rene – I have been following your trip and enjoying your photos. Amazing to see how far you have gone since we met at my gallery on Chincoteague Island, Va. God Speed.


    • Thanks Ron! I’ve moved quite a bit since Chincoteague. I’m so close to home right now it’s painful.

  6. Chekika permalink

    You’re doing great, Rene! I always enjoy checking in on you occasionally. It has been quite a trip since we did the Chokoloskee-Flamingo run last Febuary. Good luck!


  7. steves permalink

    best line of the trip…

    My tent was in the middle of the event’s different tents and by the time I got out of the tent I felt like I had landed in the middle of a county fair except everyone was wearing spandex and seemed strangely healthy.

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