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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:

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:

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.

This past Sunday Karen and I were married on Governors Island. After a week of wet weather we were pretty worried, but it turns out our fears were groundless: not a drop of rain. Here are some pictures courtesy of Karen’s cousin Steve (click here to visit his website).

The perfect spot for us to get married — the palm trees, the harbor, the skyline:

Lucky for the groom, the bride gave her approval:

Even the Staten Island ferry came by to check out the proceedings:

After the ceremony the bride and groom sat at their table for a festive meal:

City of Water Day 2011

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.

Governors Island opened for the 2011 season on Friday. Yesterday Karen and I biked to Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park to catch the free ferry over to the island. We were not the only ones who had this idea:

We had to wait about half an hour to get on a ferry, but the boarding process went pretty smoothly. There were three lines: one for bikes, one for people with strollers, and one for pedestrians.

Getting the bikes and people on the ferry is less chaotic than it looks:

Governors Island is only about two miles around, so a circumnavigation by bike does not take very long. It’s a great ride, though, cooled by breezes off the water. And there are lots of interesting things to look at, particularly the former U.S. Coast Guard buildings.

The southwestern tip of the island is now Picnic Point. There are food vendors, benches, hammocks, and great views of the harbor. That’s Jersey City behind the aid to navigation:

Lots of great brick and old, faded signs for those who like that sort of stuff:

And you can poke into all sorts of nooks and off-the-beaten-track places in old Fort Jay:

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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