My guest trekker today is the Grandma Moses of Mystery, and an adventurous woman in her own right, Norma Huss. Norma is one of my fellow contributors to the new anthology, 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror: 52 Authors Look Back, a collection of funny, poignant, uplifting essays about the pasts of either the authors or their characters. Norma’s visit to Girls Trek Too is part of a blog tour to introduce the 52 contributors to readers. I hope you find Norma as engaging as I do!
by Norma Huss
Weather is a big deal when you’re on a small boat. My husband and I knew that, for we had sailed on the Intracoastal Waterway and into the Pacific Ocean. Storms can come up suddenly. We had weathered wicked storms in shallow lakes and rivers. We knew that there would be times when we battened down the hatches the summer we headed north from Chesapeake Bay all the way to Canada’s Trent-Severn Waterway System.
Weather is a big deal when you’re on a small boat.
Sunset Cloud, our 32-foot, red-hulled American tug, was our summer home. If it rained, we’d just pull over to the side, tie up, and settle in. We headed out with our companions, another couple and their son, who followed in their own vessel, a blue-hulled American Tug called Carole H.
Our first week took us out into the Atlantic Ocean, past the Statue of Liberty.
Our first week took us out into the Atlantic Ocean, past the Statue of Liberty, through New York harbor, up the Hudson River, and into the Erie Canal. Then it rained. It dripped. It poured. We stepped out from under our roof to grab lines in the locks as water flowed in to raise us to the next level. It rained continually until we cleared Lock Eleven. As we continued through ever-bigger locks, then into Lake Ontario and Canadian waters, we heard reports of trouble behind us. All that rainwater rushing down Mohawk River and the canal had closed Lock Ten.
We stepped out from under our roof to grab lines in the locks as water flowed in to raise us to the next level.
We thanked our lucky stars that we had already gotten through that lock and figured it would open before we returned. Still, thinking about all that water made me take a harder look at the homes and businesses hugging the river and canal sides. Wouldn’t take much to flood any one of them.
I took a harder look at the homes and businesses hugging the river and canal sides. Wouldn’t take much to flood any one of them.
We continued, taking turns at the wheel, stopping early in the afternoon for touring and checking out the local ice creameries — a priority for our friends’ son. My preference was snapping pictures of birds, the locks, and shore-side views. We took a lay day (boat-ese for a non-sailing day) to join the Canada Day festivities on July third and looked at one of the amazing Canadian locks.
Some of the locks were operated by hand-labor, requiring the operator to turn a V-shaped bar.
The Canadian locks were of much greater variety than those on the Erie. While some of the locks were automatic marvels, others were operated by hand-labor, requiring the operator to turn a V-shaped bar to open or close the gates. One lifted us together with a giant concrete pan of water. Another “lock” even strapped us to a platform, then took us completely out of the water, up over a road, over a bit of land, then down to the next waterway, which was far below our previous height. In another spot, an entire bridge lifted itself straight up and out of our way. The locks were truly marvels of ingenuity.
The locks were truly marvels of ingenuity.
Besides nature and man-made sights, we saw and learned history. We had a glimpse of one of the original Erie Canal locks. We toured museums and attended an international celebration of foods. We watched a parade, drank Canadian beer, and ate local delicacies like Chelsey buns (similar to our Pennsylvania sticky buns) and beaver tails (more like flat donuts).
We ate local delicacies like beaver tails (more like flat donuts).
One highlight of our time in Canada was our stop at Kincardine. There we heard the story of a boat lost in a storm and the ship’s captain who decided to play his bagpipes as he went to his death. However, a piper at Kincardine heard and answered his pipes, and led him to safety. Now, every night at sunset a piper climbs to the top of the lighthouse and plays his (or her) bagpipes. We stayed there an extra day, taking sunset pictures of the waterfront from a high position in town while we listened to the bagpipes.
Now, every night at sunset a piper climbs to the top of the lighthouse and plays his (or her) bagpipes.
Finally it was time to return. As we cruised into Lake Erie, another storm hit. We holed up at a marina, then left the next day, only to learn that other marinas had been flooded out. Our friends saw an entire dock, with boat tied to it, floating in the middle of the lake.
As we cruised into Lake Erie, another storm hit.
Once we arrived back in The States, we stopped at Put-In-Bay with its history of battles in the War of 1812. Another stop at Cedar Point, Ohio, was “historic” mainly because of its fifteen roller coasters – third-most in the world – and a must for our friends’ son.
Cedar Point, Ohio, was “historic” mainly because of its fifteen roller coasters – third-most in the world.
But we discovered that Lock Ten on the Erie Canal still had not recovered from those heavy rains two months earlier, in June. We had to leave our boat behind, go home, then return for it a couple of weeks later. When we did pass through the repaired lock, we saw a semi-capsized building, a lot of gravel being bulldozed away, and jubilant lock-tenders happy to lock through the first boats they’d seen in two months. We realized that if we’d left home a week later in June, we would not have been able to take that trip. Or, we might have been one of the two or three boats that were destroyed in the flash flood. It’s hard to realize how destructive too much rain can be.
The vacationers who didn’t make it were not the only casualties. As we headed south on Erie Canal in August, we saw marinas and town docks surrounded by orange barriers warning of dangerous conditions. Even two months after the flooding, we saw huge logs floating down the Hudson River and assorted trash from damaged sites piled along the shore. I’m sure many tourist businesses along the way were hurting for customers as well.
We hear about tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, and the like causing damage one can hardly believe. But this was just several days of heavy rain.
At 82, Norma Huss calls herself the Grandma Moses of Mystery. A small press published her first mystery, Yesterday’s Body, just before her eightieth birthday. She went DIY with her second, Death of a Hot Chick. Both were inspired by her love of boating. She also co-authored her father’s memoir: A Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska.