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Archive for the ‘bridges & boats’ Category

On our frequent drives up to Massachusetts we pass a sign on I-91 that says, “Connecticut River Ferry, April 1 to October 31,” and one of us always says, “We should check that out someday.” This past October, just a couple of weeks before the ferry closed for the season, we finally did it.

The ferry is the Rocky Hill–Glastonbury Ferry, and it’s the oldest continuously operating ferry in the United States. Vessels of various sorts have been providing service at this site since 1655. Today the towboat Cumberland pushes the Hollister III back and forth.

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The Cumberland controls the barge with just two lines that run from the towboat’s bow to two points along the side of the barge. In the picture above, the barge is being held against the Glastonbury bank waiting for another car to board.

Now the Cumberland has begun to pull the barge off the bank:

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In the next two pictures she’s turning around and preparing to push the barge across the river:

 

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Full speed ahead:

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Connecticut River Ferry

 

That’s Glastonbury up ahead:

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If you find yourself in this part of Connecticut, the chance to step (or drive) into history is totally worth the three-dollar fare to take your car on the ferry.

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This post is way overdue.

Last August, Karen, the kids, and I went to Great Britain. (Click here to read about our trip on the Regent’s Canal in London.) In Scotland we made sure to visit the Falkirk Wheel.

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This unusual device is essentially a canal lock. It’s used to move boats between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal. Boats enter at the top or bottom, and then the whole thing rotates 180 degrees.

Tour boats operate on the canals and give visitors the chance to experience the wheel firsthand, but unfortunately it took us longer to get out of Edinburgh than we expected, and we arrived too late to take a ride. We did get to see one of the boats come along the Forth and Clyde Canal

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and enter the lock that connects the canal with the basin at the bottom of the wheel:

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Construction on the Forth and Clyde Canal began in 1768. The canal was closed in 1963 and reopened in 2001. The Falkirk Wheel began operation in 2002 and replaced a series of eleven locks that used to connect the two canals.

Here’s a brief stop-motion video showing the wheel in motion:

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The Regent’s Canal in London provides a connection between the River Thames at Limehouse Basin and the Grand Union Canal.

We took a narrow-boat tour from Camden Town to Little Venice. This short portion of the canal passes through the London Zoo, Regent’s Park, and the 270-yard-long Maida Tunnel before arriving in Little Venice. A few companies offer tours on the Regent’s Canal, but we chose to go on the Jenny Wren so we could pass through a lock, lock number 1 at Hampstead Road:

The part of the canal we visited is the oldest, opened in 1816. To this day, locks on the canal are manually operated:

The narrow boats just fit:

Here’s the view from inside lock number 1, aboard the Jenny Wren:

The canal is home to many live-aboards, with their brightly colored and decorated boats:

Not necessarily the best scenery:

But it is waterfront property:

At Little Venice there was a waterborne market and a chance to buy ice cream from a canal boat:

It was the last day for the market, and the zebra-striped boat above was preparing to head home to Stratford-upon-Avon, a two-weeks’ voyage (if I remember correctly).

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On a recent trip to London, Karen, the kids, and I visited Tower Bridge. It took eight years, starting in 1886, to build this double-bascule bridge:

The two towers and the upper walkways contain an exhibit about the history and construction of the bridge. The walkways also provide great views of London:

The pointy building on the left is the Shard, Europe’s tallest building. The ship in the center is HMS Belfast.

From inside the south tower, a non-movable suspension portion of Tower Bridge is seen:

Here is a detail shot showing some of the original workings of the bridge:

And this is part of one of the old steam engines that used to open the bridge, the origin of steampunk perhaps?

Now the whole process of opening and closing the draws is computerized, and we were lucky to be in London on a day when the bridge was opened. First the Olympic rings were raised:

Then the roadway:

A vessel requiring an opening of the bridge must request it 24 hours in advance. In the picture above, the bow of a Thames sailing barge is just sneaking into the frame on the right. Tower Bridge opens about 1000 times per year.

Finally, the bridge is open and the barge passes through:

(For one more view of Tower Bridge, this time with the Paralympic logo, go here.)

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The Blynman Bridge in Gloucester, Massachusetts, is one of the busiest movable bridges in the world, averaging 10,000 openings per year. Here it is opening for a lone sailboat last week:

There’s not a lot of horizontal clearance between the leaves, but this boat breezed right through:

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Karen and I have just returned from a short visit to Paris (France, not Texas). I have been there twice before, but until Karen told me there was a canal that ran through the middle of the city, I was oblivious to its existence. Thanks to the internet we were able to rent an apartment just a couple of blocks from the Canal Saint-Martin.

Our plan was to hang out in the neighborhood and pretend we lived there. We would sit at cafes and drink coffee, and we would stroll along the canal, as these Parisians are doing:

The canal was constructed between 1802 and 1825, by order of Napoleon I, to bring fresh water to Paris and for the transport of goods. It runs 4.5 kilometers from the Bassin de la Villette to the Port de l’Arsenal just off the Seine River. Nine locks raise or lower boats a total of 27 meters.

This barge in the Bassin de la Villette flew the Dutch flag:

There are three movable bridges that cross the canal. Two are swing bridges, and one is a vertical lift bridge. This is part of the lifting mechanism:

Two companies run tours along the canal, and there was no way we were not going to take a canal-boat trip. Here is one of the boats that Paris Canal operates. This is the company we used.

This bridge is confused. It says, “Rise up!” but it doesn’t rise.

It swings!

Here is a boat from the other company, Canauxrama, with just a few tourists. (It was a cold, rainy day.)

As soon as the gate goes up, the waiting traffic takes off:

The canal is still used for commercial traffic. Here a barge passes through the Parc de la Villette (the starting point for our boat trip) and approaches the junction with the Canal Saint-Denis:

This sign is at the first lock on the Canal Saint-Martin: 4.5 kilometers to the Seine.

Despite the weather, Karen was very happy to be descending the canal:

Inside the first lock:

Eight of the nine locks on the canal are double locks where you pass directly from one lock into the next:

Just below the Bassin de la Villette the canal passes through a short tunnel. The “1825″ carved into the rock is the year the canal opened:

Here we both are, happy to be on a boat, in a lock, in Paris:

About half of the canal runs through a tunnel. Only this first section has artificial lighting. The rest of the tunnel is dark, except for openings every block or so to allow light and air in.

At the end of the two-kilometer-long tunnel we exited into the Port de l’Arsenal, just below the Bastille:

This marina is home to a variety of boats, one much more colorful than the others:

And there’s this Dutch canal boat:

At the end of the canal, two means of transportation cross. The Seine is visible just beyond the last lock:

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Three years ago Karen and I headed north up the Hudson River to check out the ice. This winter has been so mild, I doubt there’s much ice to look at on the Hudson. So to find ice we had to go farther—to Québec City and the St. Lawrence River.

The evening we arrived we climbed up to the Plains of Abraham for a big-picture view of the river. I don’t think you can see how cold it was, but you can see the wind on the water:

The next day we decided to get a close-up view of the ice, and we took the ferry across to Lévis. You can see the ferry at the bottom of the picture above. The ice was pretty thick, and the ferry had to push through the floes.

Some of them were big enough that the boat would shudder as it crashed into them:

Approaching Lévis:

Looking back toward Québec:

Looking at this view, I pretended I was on the deck of an Arctic icebreaker:

Québec and the Château Frontenac:

Back on the Québec side, we looked across to Lévis. Here you can see both ferries cutting paths through the ice:

A few miles to the east the St. Lawrence splits around the Île d’Orléans. The shipping channel runs to the south of the island, and the north side is allowed to ice over completely:

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It may not be an official designation, but November is Historic Bridge Awareness Month—at least it has been since 2006 when it was unofficially declared to be so by HistoricBridges.org. A visit to their site shows that they mostly document bridges in the United States and Canada. Here’s one more to add to their lists:

Karen and I visited this bridge on our honeymoon to Bermuda in October. This is the Somerset Bridge, and it’s generally believed to be the smallest drawbridge in the world. (Although this bridge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, seems to also claim that distinction.) The Somerset Bridge is opened by removing the plank that covers an 18-inch gap between the two halves of the bridge. Supposedly a sailboat’s mast can then pass through the bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge was not opened while we were there, so we did not get to see it in action.

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Last Saturday was the fourth annual City of Water Day, sponsored by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. Like last year, we took Puffin over to Liberty State Park. But unlike last year, we did not have to tie up to the seawall. This year we had a slip waiting for us in Liberty Landing Marina.

But first we had to get there. We got down to our marina around 8:30 a.m. All systems seemed “go,” except when we tried to start the engine, nothing happened. Well . . . not exactly nothing: There was a click, and then nothing. This swan came over to check us out and see if he could help:

It turns out boat batteries do not last forever, and the ones in Puffin may have been the original ones from when she was launched in 2004. Fortunately, Mike, the marina manager, had a couple of batteries in stock and got them installed for us in about fifteen minutes. With the new batteries, the engine started right up, and we were on our way.

It was a bumpy ride past Coney Island to the Narrows, straight into the wind and waves. New York Harbor was its usual hustle and bustle. I monitor VHF channel 13 when in the harbor so I can know what boats are going where. One of the ones we had to look out for was MSC Bruxelles, loaded with containers and bound for Baltimore:

Photo by Karen

 

I was my usual nervous self when traversing the harbor, but thanks to Karen keeping a sharp lookout we had an uneventful crossing from Bay Ridge over to the Statue of Liberty and the Morris Canal. Michelle, the dockmaster at Liberty Landing Marina, was very helpful directing us to our slip:

We missed the ferry over to Governors Island, so we decided to make the most of our time at Liberty State Park. We got some free ice cream, ate some lunch, and then went kayaking for an hour on the other side of the park (where we tied up last year). The views from Liberty State Park are pretty awesome. Here’s the New York skyline:

And here it looks like you can take a train from the old terminal in New Jersey straight to Manhattan:

We had a good time at our third City of Water Day. We got to spend some time in a part of the harbor that we usually just pass through and visit a new marina. But the highlight of the day was when we were getting ready to leave. A boat came into the marina, and the man at the bow looked over at us and asked — not “What kind of boat is that?” (which we’re used to hearing) — but, “Is that your Nimble?”

Turns out he’s the owner of Dunmaglass, a 1993 Nimble Nomad that he keeps in Alabama. We talked with him a bit, and he came aboard for a look around and pointed out where things are different on his boat. We would have liked to stay longer, but it was time for us to head home. After an exchange of emails, we slipped our lines and made for sea. Waves in the harbor were two to three feet, so we ducked around Governors Island and through the Buttermilk Channel. Once past the Narrows we were broadside to the waves, so we had to tack our way back to Jamaica Bay. About three hours after leaving Liberty Landing we docked back home at Sea Travelers Marina.

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Riding the ferry from Governors Island back to Manhattan yesterday I spotted a boat that I have not seen before in these waters: a black-hulled schooner flying the Danish flag. Turns out it’s the Opal. This wooden schooner was built in 1951 as a Baltic fishing schooner. Her crew seems to be a few twenty-somethings (of whom I am not at all jealous, nope, not me, not jealous even a tiny bit) who have recently arrived in New York from the Caribbean via Norfolk, Virginia.

Here are a few shots of them heading up the East River.

Click here for lots of pictures of the boat in exotic locales and shots from below deck. (If this site is to be believed, Opal is for sale.)

Here is the schooner Opal‘s own site in English (thanks, Google Translate) and in the original Danish.

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