Tuesday, July 18, 2023

July 17, 2023 – A Magnificent Waterfall, Storming the Spirit of Rochester, and Line Tossing

As I’m sitting in the cockpit eating a bowl of cereal and peanut butter toast I think to myself, it’s our last day in Rochester, need to make this one count. As if on queue, I hear this chugging noise and a gigantic freighter appears in the channel, practically blocking out all light. I call Mom up from the cabin so she can see it, and she’s shocked and thrilled at the size of it.

Today, we decide to split up, Scooby-Doo style. And I present Stella with a choice.

“What’s it going to be my dear, boring shopping with the ladies or awesome adventure with the dudes?” I ask her, trying to represent each option fairly.

“Hmmmm, I don’t know. Let me think about,” she says.

“Well we’re leaving in five minutes so you better make it fast.”

30 minutes later I find her in her cabin lying on her side with her phone attached to her face.

“Hey, what the hell? Are you coming?”

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“We’re leaving. And you don’t want to do boring shopping.”

She sits up, looks at me and says, “I have decided I will go with the boys.”


Stella and I take off in our dinghy and Daryl leaves in his as the ladies wander off to explore the nearby shops. We ignore the no wake signs and take off at full speed up the channel, beneath the lift bridge, past Hillbilly Harbor, and up to the abandoned Spirit of Rochester vessel which, as you may remember from last year, Daryl had partially infiltrated but our crusading party was held back by the sensibilities of the ladyfolk and the limitation that a member of the party was one year old and unable to walk. We had a quick look at the ship and decided we’d get back to that mission later. The immediate goal was to see how far up the Genessee River we could go with the dinghies.

The ride is exhilarating as we speed up the river, with high forested banks on both sides, punctuated intermittently by cliffs of shale rock. We see a pair of herons, pass beneath several industrial revolution era iron bridges, find a concrete spillway with water streaming down, and yet do not see a single other person. We travel for several miles then notice a fine mist in the distance. Rapids maybe?

We find a small beach and park the dinghies there, tying them to rocks, then scramble up the hill and find a rough path through the woods. We follow this for a short ways and it leads us back to the river, from where we can now see the source of the mist – a huge waterfall! Beside it, high up, is an old power station, or perhaps it’s still in operation as there are a few white work trucks parked beside it. We walk carefully across the rocks to get a close look, and the closer we get, the more slippery are the rocks, until we are finally as far as we can go and we stop to take in the remarkable scene. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but certainly not this. The mist is soaking our hair, our faces, and our clothes as we taken in the scenery. The waterfall is surrounded by a circular canyon and part of this canyon breaks down into a giant cave. We climb the rocks and walk into the cave which is damp, dark, and foreboding. We walk to the end and find a giant circular hole in the cavern roof where water is spilling down and pooling. Stella seems to be as impressed as Daryl and I and asks me to take three hundred pictures of her, which I obediently do.

We return to the dinghies, crack open a cold drink, and take a little rest before continuing back. Soon, we reach the Spirit of Rochester, and this time we mean business.

We tie the dinghies up just beneath the “Private Property – Entrance Forbidden” sign and Daryl and I penetrate the ship. Stella chooses to stay back, but soon she reconsiders and climbs the ship to join us, as she’s a rebel at heart.

The ship is creepy as hell. It used to be a cruising, party boat but has been abandoned for at least 20 years and is a ghost ship, haunted by its glorious past, now just a shell of a boat. There is junk lying everywhere – paper files, flotation devices, hunks of steel, blankets, oil containers, bus bins, racks, chunks of ceiling tile, and terrifying graffiti spray painted on the walls. We explore the first level, dodging flying birds that have made this their home. One of the cabins has a bare wooden table with the word “RAPE” spray painted above it. The graffiti on the galley refrigerator reads, “TODAY IS A NEW START TO LIFE” then beyond that images of skulls and hearts on the walls. We climb the stairs to the second level, sealed by a door. The door does not open easily and a rope hangs from the knob on the other side. Is it booby trapped? We push it and it opens, no explosion and no poison darts shot our way. Moldy life jackets, busted up chairs, and broken glass litter the floor. We go up one more level and find the helm, with pieces of radar equipment and electronics still there. The wheel is gone, as is the compass, but a telephone directory from 1998 lies on the desk.

Returning to the first level, Daryl finds a door that opens to a staircase leading downward. The engine room. Stella doesn’t want us to go, but how can we not? She knows the basement is where most people get axed in horror movies. It is surprisingly untouched. The diesel engines remain and even an inventory of spare parts. There is no graffiti or garbage here. Just abandoned. Forever.

We leave the ship, careful not to be seen by the pontoon boat that passes by. Back on the dinghies, we untie and take off. Mission accomplished.

The ladies are back at the boats and they proudly display their purchases. They’ve had a good morning but we are ready for the beach as it’s a hot and sunny day (I realized earlier why the weather is so perfect today…it’s a back to work Monday! But at least for these two weeks we are cheating the system.) We dinghy over to Ontario Beach Park and take Mom for a ride on the beautifully renovate carousel located there, then wander down to the beach and get our towels laid out. Stella and I approach the water for a swim but find five feet of thick green algae lapping at the shoreline and she immediately backs away. I walk down the beach a bit further and see no algae so walk into the water which is extremely shallow and smells bad. So bad that I just quickly dip my body in but keep my head and face dry so as not to infect my eyeballs.

Daryl has brought along his metal detector, on Ana’s request, and she takes up some beach scavenging with great joy. Finding valuable beach treasures by way of metal detecting is the cornerstone of Ana’s retirement plan, despite her never having used a metal detector before, so I am really hoping this works out. She returns after half an hour with a diamond studded miniature gun, a scrap of aluminum, a steel nut, and some metallic rocks. An excellent start, but she has some way to go in achieve massive passive cashflow from her new hobby.

We ditch the working class beach and retire to the exclusive yacht club pool which we have to ourselves since nobody goes to the yacht club on Mondays. We take advantage of this and plunder the pool noodle inventory which provides each of us with 12 noodles each and full floatation.

After a lovely dinner of Lydia’s fresh squash pasta and Mom’s shepherd’s pie, we move onto Boater Olympics, focusing on the line throwing event. This is where we get out a bunch of rope and practice coiling it then launching it at an imaginary dock hand. Many boaters don’t have a clue how to toss a line and they will come into dock and hurl a big twisted and messy rats nest of a rope to the dockhand standing two feet away but it will just drop straight into the water then get sucked into the prop and whamo, there’s another four thousand dollar repair job.

Everybody does well with the drill and before long the lines are being flung out 30 feet, straight and true. We also practice lassoing dock cleats, as this is sometimes necessary when there is no dock hand and you’re not able to get from your boat to the dock to cleat down the line. We try two different techniques for this with some success.

The rest of the evening is consumed by laundry, a pump out, boat cleanup, and preparation for tomorrow’s early morning departure for Little Sodus Bay.

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