Newport RI


Sue walking up to the entry of Marble House. It looks a bit like the White House.

We had all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to see some of the houses of Newport. We saw less than half of them.  The weather here has been on the hot side, so we picked the air conditioned houses to see in the afternoon. Boston was a bit hectic and crowded. Even our Holiday Inn Express there was unusually crowded at breakfast time. The staff said it’s always that way. Things were more laid back at our HIE (and way cheaper, after that music festival was over) in Newport.


Once again, the dining room is the most magnificent. It’s picture in Wikipedia is really red, but it’s more like this.

Income, property and inheritance taxes stopped people from keeping or building more of the great houses. Breakers, Marble House, Biltmore, as well as many other homes were built by the grandchildren of the person who originally made the fortune. Today’s inheritance tax still applies to more than 5 million, and building homes like these would be in the 100 million area. Only the original fortune maker could do it, and they’re often too busy making the money.


Marble House stairway in the entry hall.


I forget exactly what this room was. Think its the drawing room.


The lady of the house’s bedroom in Marble House.

Nearly all the museum houses are owned by non profits. Biltmore is still owned by the family. They do that by using the house privately only one day per year for a family get together. The other days its expenses are business deductions.


Chepstow was built in 1860 but reflects it’s later 1900’s owners furnishings and additions.

People argue over how blatant or excessive the Newport mansions were. I think Sue had it right when she said the builders were like Isabella Stewart Gardiner in Boston. Their original intentions were different, but they all used the houses for their own residences before passing them on for future generations. Besides, I thought it was cool to have four faucets for the tub. They didn’t forget the hot and cold running salt water.


We took an “avoid highways” route back and went through downtown Providence RI and Hartford CT. More like a cow trail sometimes, but always paved.

Newport still is a resort town, with many people using the beach. There’s a real touristy downtown with restaurants and resorts on the water. We didn’t see much of that part this time, but maybe we’ll come and stay in one of the resorts in the future. We see a lot of places we want to return to, and Newport is one of them.


Wretched Excess


Opening time at the gate. Breakers can get more crowded later. Only Breakers is pictured in this post.

We sure enjoy seeing it. This week we see the palaces of the US, the mansions built in the “gilded age” by the .001% in Newport RI. The weather here made it just the place for the rich and famous, but mainly rich, to spend their summers. Some of their “cottages” now belong to local historical societies and are open for tours.


Four stories and a basement. Third & fourth floors for servants. Fourth has the small windows under the eaves.


Can’t get much of the great hall into one picture.

We saw Rosecliff and the Elms yesterday, and Breakers and Kingscote today (Tuesday). Tomorrow is Marble Hall, Chepstow, and if time permits Hunter House. Marble Hall tomorrow promises to be spectacular and Biltmore, which we saw a few years back, was impressive, but we’re not sure either can compete with Breakers for over the top ornateness. It is more like a palace than any European palace we have visited.


The dining room. I think this is the grandest single room we have ever seen in any building.

We planned to come here a week earlier, but the visitor center advised us to wait until after a folk music festival the weekend of the 28thfollowed by a jazz festival the weekend of the 4th. When planning I did wonder how exclusive Newport was with all the lower priced hotels being over $400. After the 5ththey were under half that. Since we were ready to leave on our road trip on the 29thwe first diverted to Boston and had a great time there.


The music room.


The library. Still huge, but as cozy as it gets on the 1st floor.

I noticed that we could come here from NYC in 2 to 3 days by boat in protected waters between Connecticut and Long Island, but we decided to drive. Star Gazer stays at Rondout Marini in Kingston NY. Sue is starting to miss the boat so Thursday 9th we’ll return to Kingston via a non interstate route.


The kitchen is through the door right of center and down a hall. This is the only two story pantry we’ve ever seen.




One of the lions in the Boston Public Library stairwell. Some of the murals the “four great expressions of the human mind” (it takes 8 of them) in the background. Remember, you can click on any picture to magnify.

Our first day in Boston started in Trinity Church, where we learned a lot about stained glass window art in early America and saw windows from five different artists working just after the civil war.  One was John La Farge who was a major influence on Tiffany.


Sue in Trinity Church.

Next was the public library with its famous reading room and murals. We saw the ones illustrating the four great expressions of the human mind, as interpreted in a classical Greek setting, in the main stair hall. The ones about religion in the Sargent gallery caused a bit of a stir back in the day. Finally was the quest for the grail in the Abbey room. I did snap pictures of these, but you can see them better on the internet. My favorite room was the quest for the grail which is also here. We both really enjoyed the church and library.


Public library stairhall to the second floor, viewed just after coming in from the street.


The great reading room up on the second floor. Can you see Sue midway back, clear to the left?

I looked around in the Old South Church while Sue looked in some of the nearby shops, then we both walked to the Boston Gardens and Commons and spent some time there before calling hopping an Uber back to the hotel.


Abbey room, named after the painter of the murals. The Sir Galahad kneels before the golden tree in the one viewed straight on.

Our second day was spent in the huge Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), which was open 10 to 10 on Wednesday. There was certainly plenty to see, and our ticket was good for a second day. Our third day was at the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum. Isabella was a collector and set out to make her own museum in a house she designed like a Venice palace. Sue really liked it, while her collection did not do much for me. The fourth day was back to the MFA, again open from 10 to 10, where we used up most of that time. I think we’ve seen most of what we were interested in there, but will be ready for another visit by the time we get around to Boston again.


Could it have been like this? Moses, to left, calling down the plague of hail and fire on Pharaoh, to the right. I fear the buildings were really not that grand. The storm, on the other hand…

The MFA had a number of pictures about myths, old stories and events from history. Many of these things I’ve known about most of my life and imagined how they might appear. It’s really interesting to see how someone else from another place and time and often with a better imagination saw them.


In a more lighthearted vein, two paintings illustrated the dangers of travel. The other had a family in a cart crossing a raging stream on a high, collapsing bridge.

The last day in Boston, Saturday, was for house museums and old Boston history. We woke up to rain and a prediction of more all day. By the time we got out of the Uber car at the Otis house, our first one, it was really coming down. We got out at what we thought was the entrance, but it turned out to be over along the side near the back. We got a lot more rain than we bargained for. The Otis tour was just OK, and a call to the next house told us that visitors wait outside until the tour starts, so we called off further house tours.


The largest of four restaurants in the MFA. Tree to right made all from glass.

We gave up, asked where the big bad mall, the one with an Apple store (and enclosed of course), was located and off we went. Sue shopped about a little, and I saw a handy new electronic device for my car. Checking on the internet it is still not as easy to install and use as a toaster, but when that day comes I’ll get one. Sue found a place to get her nails done, so at least we accomplished something.


Drive to Boston


The great room in the Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox VT.

With the boat in Kingston we took off for Boston in our rental Chevrolet. Lenox MA was our first stop on the way. The Lenox area was considered the “second Newport RI” where the rich and famous vacationed. We traveled the Taconic Parkway, which was Google Maps second route choice after the interstates. It had small towns and nice country scenes as it wound through New York and western Massachusetts.


Sue looking at the glassware in Ventforth Hall.

On our first day we saw several historic homes, including Ventforth and Edith Wharton’s “Mount”. On the second day visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in nearby Stockbridge MA with still plenty of time for a slow scenic route to Boston. It’s handy that these New England states are so small.


Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge VT. This is the original 1773 Red Lion after which all other Red Lions are named.


Main St. in Stockbridge by Norman Rockwell. Red Lion Inn is on the right. Rockwell’s workshop was 4th building from the right, 2nd floor. There’s a Christmas tree in his workroom window.

It was great to see the “second Newport” area. After we spend some time in Boston we will go see the more famous old mansions in Newport RI.


Back on the Water

Approaching Albany Yacht club from the north, not far beyond the lock.

We left early on Thursday the 25th with on and off rain to finish locks E7 to E2. Since we were locking down, which causes little turbulence, and my crew did not want to get out in the rain to hold the ropes I just used the engines and thrusters to hold the boat. We went back through E7 for the third time and then 12 miles later joined a canal work boat to go through locks E6 to E2 in rapid sequence.

Leaving Schenectady at 7:00, at 11:00 we docked in Waterford where the canal meets the Hudson. We’ve been there before with Keith and Gayle as we started the loop and a year ago with Ethan and Aaron. The next morning we left at 8:00 and just made it to the still open Hudson lock across from Albany. We stopped at Albany Yacht club, just a small marina for the night, and left the next day for Rondout marina near Kingston NY which we reached at 2:00.


Bridge across the Hudson near Kingston. We normally cross on the one just north of this.

Home near the west bank of the Hudson below Kingston.

We rented a car for our upcoming Boston trip and drove around just south of Kingston to get a better feel for the area along the Hudson. We also stopped by what may be the largest outlet mall in the world in Woodbury. We didn’t stay too long there, too big and too many people for us.


Vermont Road Trip

Ft Ticonderoga looks out over Lake Champlain to the left.

Near the end of the western Erie canal and with one week before Paul and Sharon had to leave we all took off on a road trip to Vermont, where Sue and I had never been. Our first stop was still in New York. Ft. Ticonderoga was where the American battle performance convinced the French that with their help we could tie up British resources that would otherwise be set against them. We also drove to the top of Mt. Independence for a view of the fort and the area around it.

Our first night was in the Middle bury Inn in Middlebury VT.

We spent a full day at the Shelburne Museum a few miles south of Burlington VT and saw a bit of everything. My favorite was the old steamboat Ticonderoga. The museum bought it in the 50’s and tried to keep it in operation, but it was just too hard (I think I can sympathize a bit), so they finally took it out of service and transported it to where we saw it.

Ticonderoga is a side wheel walking beam steamboat.

Sharon in the passenger salon of the Ticonderoga.

Another high point was Robert Lincoln’s home. Robert was the only surviving son of Abraham Lincoln and became wealthy when he took over management of the Pullman rail car company. He had an Aeolian organ in his home like George Eastman did in Rochester. Lincoln’s had much fewer pipes but also sounded much clearer.

Robert Lincoln’s home was built for family, not parties or many visitors.

View of the large formal gardens out the back window.

They found and restored this pullman private car. It was rented to wealthy people and was always the last car in any train it was in.

There were a number of small towns, picturesque churches and great countryside. We visited the capital and walked the shopping street in the “big city” of Burlington.

We returned to Albany late on the 24th, dropped Paul and Sharon at the airport, returned our car and got back to Star Gazer for a good night’s sleep before going through the final 5 Erie canal locks the next day.

Dinner at Ye Olde Inn in Manchester on one of our last nights on the road in Vermont.



Here we leave our first lock, E13, past Canajoharie, only an 8 foot drop.

Entering lock E11. Pretty calm above the dam.

We passed through locks E13 to E8 and 50 miles of canal, a good day’s trip, to get to Schenectady. Not a lot to do here and Sharon and Paul just wanted to kick back and rest on the boat. Sue wanted to get out so the two of us got an Uber and went to Crossgates Mall, a reasonably upscale place, since it had an Apple Store. Sue got her nails fixed and I got my iPhone speaker fixed.


Leaving lock E7. The lockmaster just told us that E6 – E2 were closed for the day!

We went a bit further and decided to return through E7. Its dam is shown here.

This morning (17th) we set out to complete the western Erie Canal and get to the Hudson. As we exited lock E7 the lockmaster told us the “flight” locks E6 thru E2 were closed for the rest of the day. No marinas between locks 7 and 6 could handle our boat, but we could go forward and tie up on a wall before lock 6. We had scheduled a Vermont trip starting on the 18th, but could not leave Star Gazer for a week tied up to a lock wall, so we returned through lock 7 back to Schenectady Yacht club. We’ll leave the boat here and take off tomorrow.

Stairhalls are the most famous thing in the NY Statehouse.

A lot of NY state landscapes up on the third floor.

A different stairwell or a lower part of the one shown above, I can’t remember which.

Our short trip left us enough time, so we visited the New York State capital building, which we saw last year, and the state museum. The museum turned out larger and more interesting than we anticipated. A bit of art but a lot of interesting history and displays.

Tomorrow we leave with Paul and Sharon for a week road trip in Vermont.


Canajoharie II


Starting out on the short trip from Little Falls to Canajoharie.


A little later along the way to Canajoharie.

This morning we had only 20 miles to go to revisit Canajoharie. We also had 4 locks, starting with a 40 foot drop, then a 20 and two 8’s. Pretty smooth today with little delay. We’re old hands to locking now. It used to be a bit scary, and I would come in too fast, or get in the wrong position, or scrape something. Having Paul and Sharon along make it easier as well. As much as I’ve tried to get Sue to leap down from the boat to a dock or across to a lock wall to help tie us up she refuses to do it! I’ve been meaning to look into the laws about mutiny…

Paul does many of the pictures, like this one as we start out.

Again a calm day, cool enough for a light jacket in the morning with a slim possibility for some rain later on. We saw interesting rock formations as we left the Little River area. We just glided along an a beautiful tree lined waterway either like glass or with only the slightest ripple. No wind, current or other boats in the locks with us, so we just floated, not bothering with the ropes on the lock side. We sometimes needed no engine or thruster correction for the whole ride down.

Rock formations coming out of Little Falls.

Exiting Lock E17 after dropping 40.5 feet. Only vertically gated lock for us this season.

We walked two blocks from our boat into downtown Canajoharie, through a few shops, some with stuff not so good, but really old, and had lunch. Like Little River, it is old, mostly cute and pleasant, but the times have left it behind.

Lonely dockmaster on the left as we enter lock 14.

We’re staying another day for the art museum. Maybe Paul and I will hike up to the creek, falls and “boiling pot” like I did last year with our grandsons.


Little Falls II


About 600 cyclists had a rest stop at the Park where we landed. They went on to overnight in Canajoharie. 

With only 9 miles and one lock to our next stop we did not start early this morning. Since our one lock was just cycling someone up as we approached, we had our longest wait yet, but still arrived early at Little Falls’ Canal Harbor at Rotary Park, where we stayed last year also.


Here we’re approaching Rotary Park with its docking wall & building in the center of this view.


Looking back from our docking space.

By 11 AM 650 bicyclists had already arrived and were all over the place for a lunch and rest break. They were on a Buffalo to Albany trek and this morning had started out from Rome at 7. I think they had been there for awhile since the line for the restrooms was not too bad. Paul rides a lot and enjoyed exchanging information with everyone.


Me in the blue shirt in downtown Little Falls. We split off from the ladies who had a bit of shopping/resupply to do.

The harbormaster drove us across the canal to a downtown restaurant for lunch. Later Sharon and Sue looked at some shops and Paul and I looked around town. We visited the library, which started in a grand old home on a corner from which it pushed small new buildings out and up both streets. We also photo’d the “grand entrance” inside the old city hall. As the town shrank this also came to house the police and fire departments. When a policeman approached me I found it also had a courtroom. It’s against the law to photograph inside a courtroom, which was up the stairs across the landing and through a door. We finally agreed he would close the door and I could continue. He was a little aggressive first until he saw that I was a tourist (Paul says it’s the hat).


Inside the Catholic church in downtown Little Falls.

We stopped by the Catholic church where the caretaker told us all about it and town. Like most people we met he was originally from the area. Catholic churches are great because they’re usually open and have nice windows. These windows were easy to read since all referred to events in the Bible. I did have to stop and think about two for awhile. Much easier than in eastern Europe a few months ago.


Canal through Little Falls. Mohawk River & falls to the left.

The town museum/visitor center had a small exhibit showing how an old urban renewal project was pretty good at tearing down a lot of the old buildings in town, but never was able to do much of the new building part of the plan. Too bad about that, but if all the old buildings remained, I suppose they’d have been empty for the last 70 years, so maybe they would have just fallen down anyway. Hate to see history go like that.


Gates on the canal just past where we docked. Used for flood control. There’s just barely 20′ under them.




Approaching Ilion.

After hooking up the power in Ilion Sue told me the air con was dead. I’ll spare you the details, but this led to several phone calls to Greg Auckerman, our NC boat repair tech who installed the system 2 years ago, and some “experiments”, heroically performed in an engine room very hot after a 60 mile run. After these it looked hopeless without an expert repairman, possibly in Albany. There was one more test I’d do next morning that might give the repairman more information.


On the wall in Ilion

The weather has been cooling off nicely in the evening, so we spent a comfortable night, and started worrying less about no aircon until Albany. Next morning we did that last test, and fixed everything completely! So Sue thinks Greg and I are heroes. With some of the hot weather we’ve seen up here this year, only the boat sinking is more important to Sue than the aircon not working.


Part of the Remington Arms factory. Closed this week.


The lobby of the Stanley theater in Utica. Unfortunately we could not see the auditorium part.

You can imagine that if I fixed it the fix must have been pretty simple. In our post crisis discussion the only possible cause Greg could come up involved the boat running unusually fast.* Then I told him that yesterday morning I had reached the awesome speed of 15.3 mph while “blowing out” the engines on Lake Oneida, a new Star Gazer record. I think it was the new bottom paint that smoothed things out down there. With so many ways things can break down on a boat, who would have expected that one?

*Greg mentioned the Venturi effect possibly sucking the water out of zircon cooling intake, air locking the centrifugal pump supplying cooling water to all aircon units. When in the morning I disconnected the pump to verify it was not pumping, trapped air was released (the pump is below the waterline) and it started pumping normally.