After a 2 day hiatus at a Board Retreat, we made it back to the boat with cousin Elena and her husband Jean in tow. Newbies to boating, we were hoping to give them a good ride. They brought good weather with them and we had a glorious ride up to Kingston where we stayed for 2 days due to high winds. The day on the water was momentous as it marked our LAST day in salt water.
(The Esopus Lighthouse marks the end of salt water)
Yippee! We made up for the time not on the water to continue our sightseeing in the Hudson Valley. We rambled around Kingston, which was settled by the Dutch in 1614 as a trading post and became New York’s first Capital in 1777. It was burned by the British the same year. Of note was a visit to the Hudson River Maritime Museum which details the New York Canal system.
The Champlain Canal, the Erie Canal and the Delaware and Hudson Canal all connected New York City through the Hudson River to enormous supplies of natural resources and enabled the settlement of millions of acres of newly accessible agricultural lands. In the decade from 1817 to 1827, the canal system connected the forests and iron mines of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains, the rich agricultural lands of the Midwest, and the coal fields of Pennsylvania to New York City and its rapidly growing population. In total, 85,000 men built 697 miles of canals over rugged, swampy, and largely unsettled terrain. They created a system of canals that climbed 1784 feet in total elevation change using 214 locks. The cost of shipping dropped tenfold and established New York City as the largest port in North America, the financial capital of the world, and transformed New York into the Empire State.
We will traverse 60 of these miles and go through 11 of the locks as we continue north toward Lake Champlain. The Champlain Canal was originally called the “Northern Canal” and was the first of the canals to be completed. The shortest of the canals at just 60 miles long, the Champlain Canal connects the southern end of Lake Champlain to the Hudson River at Fort Edward (north of Albany). It opened up many opportunities for shipments from Canada, Vermont and Northern New York to New York City and valuable salt and other important commodities made their way north to settlements along the shores of the Lake and beyond.
We were later to visit the Ogden Mills estate, another of the “country homes” from the Gilded Age. Designed by Stanford White in the elegant beaux-arts style, Staatsburgh is an elegant example of the great estates built on the Hudson River during this time (1876-1917). Darius Ogden Mills made his fortune in banking, railroads and metal mines. Ogden Mills (his son) made his money the old-fashioned way (he inherited it) but increased it through his own investments. When he died in 1929, his fortune was estimated at $50 million. He also married well, taking as his wife Ruth Livingston. Her marriage to Ogden united the Livingstons’ social prominence with the Mills’ enormous wealth.
Mrs. Mills was the 4th generation to inherit Staatsburgh, but it soon proved to be “too small” for her lavish entertaining style. So in 1895, she hired Mr. White and increased the size of the home from 25 to 79 rooms at a cost of $350,000.
We brought it full circle by then visiting the Livingston estate, Clermont. The Livingstons were one of the America’s most prominent founding families. Between 1728 and 1972, seven generations of the family made Clermont their home. It is the oldest of the great riverfront estates in the mid-Hudson Valley. Five hundred acres of fields, forests, formal landscapes and gardens comprise the estate. Probably the most famous Livingston was Robert R, known as the Chancellor, who was a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence (another Livingston signed it) and as the US minister to France negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. He also partnered with Robert Fulton to create the first commercially viable steamboat, the Clermont.
Turning our sights from architecture and history to art, we then visited the home of Thomas Cole, who, although English born, is said to the founder of the Hudson River School, an American art movement that flourished in the mid-19th century. His home and studio are preserved as he and his family left them.
Across the Rip Van Winkle bridge (not making that up) is Olana, the home of Frederick Church, another Hudson Valley School painter, built in an eclectic Persian style. Regrettably, we were only able to visit the outside of the house as all the tours had sold out. It was our first experience of being turned away from something that we wanted to see!
The next day we continued north to New Baltimore and came within a stone’s throw of Albany, the capital of New York. This day was remembered for its crisp blue sky and picturesque light houses. We said good-bye to Elena and Jean, hoping that they will revisit us somewhere else along the way.
After a good boat scouring to make sure we had gotten rid of the last vestiges of salt, we joined several other Loopers for docktails and an early evening.
Up and at ‘em early on Sunday to try to get to Waterford before all the dock space was taken up. We are now entering a period where we will be staying at municipal docks that are, for the most part, free, but as a consequence they are filled on a first come, first served basis. Waterford is the jumping off point for both the Erie Canal (you take a left) or the Champlain Canal (you take a right).
As there was no room at the dock when we arrived, we elected to continue on through “Champlain 1” where we had to wait through two opening cycles for the locks due to commercial traffic ahead of, and taking precedence over us. Of note today was that we are now at the end of tidal water. No more thinking about when the tide will be slack, ebb or flood! We think our next 2 weeks might be quite lonely as the lockmaster said we were the first Loopers he had seen this year!! We fueled up for the long "road" ahead and to make ourselves as heavy as possible so that we can get under 2 17 foot fixed bridges. We have to lower our radar mast in order to get that short, which we were able to do with the help of the dockmaster at the marina just past Lock 1. We will pass the second of the bridges on Tuesday so can put the mast back up. Hopefully we will be able to reprogram our Direct TV (which is attached to the radar mast) which we had to disconnect so as to not hear it continually try to search for a signal (which would be impossible to get since it is pointing at the ground). We have 24 ports of call between here and Kingston, Ontario (on the north shore of Lake Ontario), where we will again meet up with some other Loopers. Hopefully we will have some tales to tell about this next segment of the trip!