If you meet up with Ralph and Linda Azersky, you are in for a real treat. Ralph is a born leader and echoes the tenacity of Mazel Tug’s Jack Russell Terrier, Chewy, when it comes to following a mission to its completion or when running a chipmunk to ground.
Mazel Tug was one of the thirteen or so captive boats at Lock 24 on the Erie Canal in late June. Most of us arrived at the municipal wall on the day that the Canal Corp closed the central portion to navigation. After a day or two when it became apparent that our length of stay was going to last beyond our plans, Ralph went to work. He arranged for a bus to take the stranded cruisers to the grocery store, hardware store and pharmacy. He convinced the mayor of Baldwinsville to declare our stay on the wall free of charge for water and electricity. He worked daily with the lock keepers to keep apprised of the status of the canal levels and closure. Most importantly, he managed to finagle a set of keys to the public restrooms so that we could access the facilities after dark and finally convinced the town to leave them open overnight. The cruisers elected Ralph as our mayor.
Arranging holding tank pump-outs, however, was a horse of a different color. High water rendered the pump-out equipment inoperable at the marina just upstream of the wall. Finding another marina was out of the question given the canal closing.
Ralph conferred with the lock keepers and discovered that there was a service that pumped out the porta-potties in the region. There were several attempts to contact the service but it proved difficult to get return phone calls. By this time Ralph was calling state agencies and the Governor of the New York. Everyone agreed that we were up to our knees in a problem, and that substantive action must be taken.
It was a quarter-mile walk across the lock gates to Paper Mill Island and the public facilities. Despite our best efforts to forgo the on-board heads, holding tanks were rising to dangerous levels.
An eventual call back to the lock keepers from the pump-out service owner resulted in a negative response because he did not have the proper fitting for boats. The lock keepers located a fitting at a nearby town for the cost of $75. On Thursday, the pump-out man agreed to come the next day to perform the service.
But on Friday, there was no pump-out man. On Saturday some cruisers left the area since no one thought that he would show up on a weekend. But lo and behold, he did appear. But without the needed marine fitting. Ralph jury-rigged a method of attaching the pump-out hose to Mazel Tug’s deck fitting. I’m pretty certain that duct tape was involved.
Please take note that the amount of suction of land-based equipment is greater than that of its marine cousins. It is a delicate procedure.
The pumping of black water on Mazel Tug was a success. Now it was on to the next boat in line. The captain was conveniently at the grocery store, and Ralph offered to help Morag, a wonderful Canadian woman who originally hailed from Scotland, take care of pumping out their trawler, Run to You. The pumping started with a whoosh and suddenly the service owner moved his part of the equipment as Ralph held the hose. Something slipped and a vertical fountain spewed forth, falling predictably on the man holding the hose, Ralph.
He immediately grabbed the fresh water hose that was nearby, and began washing his hair. After a cursory shower he ran to his boat, ditching his clothes along the way. Two showers later, Ralph emerged on the wall again, smiling and joining the laughter. What else could anyone do?
The night before we were set free from Lock 24, the cruisers met to party in the park alongside of the wall. There we honored Ralph and Linda and said our goodbyes.
We presented Ralph with an appropriate plaque.
When encountering Mazel Tug at some distant port or anchorage, be sure to give her crew a shout and count yourself among the happy cruisers that enjoyed the opportunity to meet the Azerskys. You can always depend on Ralph and Linda to go that extra mile.