Category Archives: Erie Canal

We gave Sal the slip and left her in our wake

Catskill, NY
Position: 42 12.7N, 73 51.6W
Posted by Bill

Whew, what a long day! We tried to start early because we knew we had a tough day ahead of us. We had 2 locks in addition to the final flight of 5 (5 locks one right after the other that drop you 150 feet). Then we had 35 miles to traverse in the Hudson River to get to the marina that is putting the mast back up. We awake at 6 to fog…

This was before it got really bad
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So we wait until it lifts and get off to an 8:00 start instead of 7:00. Then we had to lock through with some moron power boat the entire way out. Idiot!

We needed to make it to our destination by 5 to get a dock and we had just enough time. Only problem is tidal current. The Hudson River has a 3 to 3 1/2 foot tidal range and we are motoring into a flow cycle (tide coming in). The current was 1-1 1/2 knot current and we had it against us until the last hour of the trip. We ended up getting to the marina at 6:15. Fortunately, the people at Riverview Marine gave me a slip to get into after hours. So we made it.

Glad that we did the canal, but also glad that we don’t have any more locks to deal with. I am also anxious to get the mast back on and be a sailboat again.

Here are some pics of the trip today:

This was a cool arch next to where we docked in St Johnsville.
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Another view of the Mohawk River from early this morning. Loved this section of the canal for it’s beauty.
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This is a guard gate in the canal.
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They are spaced throughout the canal to close the waterway in case of flooding or major debris from storms. All but one was open and you just cruise through. For the closed one you had to call the next lock to have it raised.

If you are locking down, this is the view of entering a lock. On most of the locks you see the tops of the trees when you enter and the bottoms when you exit.
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This is what it looks like exiting lock 4. This was a pretty good drop.
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This is lock 4 with the boat in the picture to lend some perspective.
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This is looking back on the Federal Lock at Troy NY, our last lock.
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Several of the locks looked this way at the bottom. You can see the lock on the right and a dam on the left.

The whole lock system was really amazing and the people running it do a great job.

Now in the Hudson River, this is a view of downtown Troy, NY.
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Red Neck Yacht Club on the Hudson.
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Cool bridge and view on the Hudson.
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This is a light house in the middle of the Hudson River.
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View of the Catskill Mountains from the Hudson River.
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Another view of the Hudson.
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It’s all relative

Schenectady Yacht Club, NY
Position: 42 51.0N, 73 53.2W
Posted by Bill

Long day of transit. Started out cold and ended up nice. Left St Johnsville and motored to Schenectady Yacht Club. This is a nice place. Better than the last 2, but it’s all relative. Still not as nice as the places we stayed in the western part of the canal, but much better than the last 2 nights. The only restaurants or bars are more than 4 miles away so we ordered a pizza to be delivered.

Did 8 locks today. It has been rough with the wind affecting the position of the boat. Not as windy today, but still a challenge for 2 people and a very heavy boat. Tomorrow will be our last day in the canal and we will make it to Catskill to put the mast back up at Riverview Marina.

From there it looks like a stop in Newburgh and then overnight to Cape May NJ. So far the weather looks perfect for the run around NJ. Let’s hope it holds.

Today’s pictures….

Leaving another lock.
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Very nice view. This part of the canal is in the Mohawk River and is the most picturesque so far.
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Beautiful sunrise with sparse fog on the water. Really pretty.
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So some people say that cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations. Thus far into our trip the heat/air conditioning, bilge pump, hand held marine radio all went kaput. We have backup functionality for those but they are going to need to be repaired

General thoughts on the canal passage


For someone who is researching a canal passage, I offer the following as information that would have been helpful for me in my planning stage.

1. Get the canal cruising guide from the NY state canal web site. It was helpful but it also had a few errors. All of the mileage stated is in statue miles, but it doesn’t say that.
2. Keep in mind that after Sept 11 the lock and bridge hours are shortened to 7 AM to 5 PM. This put an unexpected restriction on the miles we could cover in a day.
3. Expect that the lock and bridge operators will make you wait for slower boats before they will let you proceed.
4. The planning method that worked best for us was to look at the nautical miles between locks first. Figure a 50 mile day maximum and plan on 20 minutes per lock that you are going to have to go through. Then look at where you can stay in the area that you end up based on the calculations.
5. The eastern half of the canal doesn’t have near the accommodations and charm of the cities as the western half.
6. The marinas that are in the cruising guide between lock 25 and 24 are not deep or large enough to accommodate a sailboat or powerboat over… say… 30 feet. If you can’t make lock 24 before it closes or dark, stay tied to lock 25 for the night.
7. If you are going to build your own mast support, bring the lumber with you. The yards run out of stuff that people left, and you cannot get to a store that sells what you need unless you rent a car. You can always opt to have the yard build it for you, and then they have to get the wood.
8. You could probably anchor in Cross Lake or Oneida, but otherwise anchoring is not an option.

Long cold day

St Johnsville, NY
Position: 42 59.7N, 74 40.7W
Posted by Bill

Most of the day today we had cold rain and really strong winds (15-20 MPH). Fortunately the wind was mostly behind us so we did not feel the full brunt of the wind chill, and it gave us a .5 knot boost of speed. The lock operators were slow today and cost us at least an hour of time. Most of our locks are descending when you travel east and they have to fill the lock before they let you in. The larger the drop, the longer it takes to fill the lock. Most of the operators up to this point have had the locks ready, but today we had to wait several times. The time is not the worst factor…I had to hold the boat in a steady position for 10-15 minutes in a river/canal 100 feet wide, with a .5-1 knot current, 15-20 MPH winds, and various floating obstacles (logs, stumps, branches). We have a single propeller and no bow thruster, so it was not a fun time. The winds were also blowing us around in the locks really bad and it took a lot of muscle to control the boat.

So we did 50 miles and 7 locks, landing in St Johnsville, NY. Not much here, and the only place open on Monday and Tuesday was a bar called Cosmos, so that’s where we went. I am wearing my OSU sweatshirt and the owner yells O-H when we come in. I yell I – O. He says he is a big fan. The place is a little scary but the owner is nice and he ended up cooking some damn good food. He liked us and gave us a huge serving of fries. A good stop after all.

Exiting a lock.
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Looking back at lock 16. This was one of the prettier lock areas.
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Docked at St Johnsville Municipal Marina.
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The big boat in front of us pulled in shortly after we did. I helped with the dock lines as he docked and commented on how nice it would be if our boat went sideways like his (with the bow thruster and twin engines). He told me how easy it was and I said “this is my boat here…it doesn’t go sideways unless the wind blows it there.” He then proceeded to tell me how he had several sailboats too, even one he bought from Jimmy Buffett. I call him Sal…what an ass.

I can hear the banjos…

Sylvan Beach, NY; Position: 43 11.825N, 75 43.310W
Posted by Bill

We put in a long day today. Leaving our terminal wall in Weedsport at 7:10 we set course for Sylvan Beach, NY; on the east side of Oneida Lake. We motored through a nature preserve and a really remote area of the canal. At one point I could here the banjos playing Deliverance.

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Kudos to my wife. She cooked an amazing breakfast as I piloted the boat through Deliverance country. You just don’t know how wonderful it smells and tastes when you are hungry in the morning and driving the boat. She is the bomb. As we entered Brewerton we stopped for diesel fuel and a pump out. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the pump out, it is the process of sucking out the piss and crap that was pumped into the holding tank through regular use. Not the pretty side of boating. On a normal live-aboard boat you need to do this weekly. We stopped at Ess-Kay marina to complete this task. Amazingly the lady who owns it went to Ohio Wesleyan college in Delaware Ohio, just north of Powell where we lived for 18 years. Also, our eldest daughter went to school there. I was amazed.

After that we crossed Oneida Lake. Oneida can be very rough when winds have a west component and it takes 2 1/2 hours to get across in a sailboat. When we started out the weather was pretty good but it deteriorated rapidly. Thunderstorms and rain, like cats and dogs, for the last 1/2 of the trip. We got back into the canal before the west wind kicked in and started raising the waves. We stopped at Holms marina which had pretty good ratings on Active Captain. Again, I hear the banjos.

Rain and more rain, so Tricia is cooking vs. us going out. Lucky me!

I am guessing 3 more days in the canal. We are at least 2/3rds of the way through.

Sunrise today.

Tug boat passing.
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Leaving lock 24.
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Hanging in Weedsport

Weedsport, NY; Position:43 04.2N, 76 33.4W
Posted by Bill

We motored over 50 miles today to Weedsport NY. We went through a very scenic portion of the canal, and 7 locks today. We are getting pretty good at the locks. And guess what…the flotilla of idiots turned in their rental boats and went home…thank goodness. We tied up to a terminal wall in the middle of nowhere on the canal. Didn’t have many options today. There was a pretty good restaurant and bar right where we docked though, so that was cool. We also saw a spider as big as my fist on the terminal wall. I hosed the hell out of the wall with bug spray. We don’t want those spiders on board.

Damn big spider:
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Tricia did some major acrobatics jumping from the boat onto the terminal wall to help get us docked. This is not the type of thing you really want your boat tied to, but alas we have limited choices in this remote area. I am thinking we have another 4 days in the canal and then we will be in the Hudson River.

The scenic canal:
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Leaving lock 27.
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What an ass…..

Fairport, NY; Position: 43 06.1N 77 26.5W
Posted by Bill

We awoke to sunshine (yea!) but temps in the low 40s (booo!). I thought we were trying to escape this crap! We departed Brockport and motored to Fairport. It warmed up in the afternoon and the trip was delightful. The canal is very scenic along this stretch, especially after passing the Genesee River around Rochester. We navigated through 2 locks today with a flotilla of idiots. There were these rental boats, a group of about 4 of them, and many of them were clueless. As we entered the locks they moved out of position and almost ran me up on shore. Once in the locks, the one behind us had some lady holding a line around the lock cable at the bow. Every 30 seconds she yelled “BOW!” I finally looked back to see what her deal was and realized the bow was drifting away from the wall and she wanted the helmsmen to goose the bow thruster to re-position the bow. I’m thinking “what?!”, you are holding a line wrapped around the lock wire, in a boat that is less than 1/3 the weight of ours…just pull the bow in with the line that’s in your hand! Idiot! That’s what we are doing, with just 2 people and a heavy as hell boat. So I blasted past them out of the lock to get away. Morons and my boat don’t mix!

Weirder yet…one of the clueless boats radios me and says he has a friend that has an Island Packet like ours with the same boat name, and asks, “did you buy your boat from Doug Jackson?”. I say “why yes”. Turns out the guy is from Powell, Ohio and knows the guy we bought the boat from. Idiot!

Part of the flotilla of idiots:
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We were trying to make Newark, NY today but after distance calculations and the experience of missing the bridge in Rockport, we opted to make a short day and check out Fairport. It is a pretty cool little town. We have been pushing ourselves hard and decided to spend a little time at port. Wouldn’t you know it…the flotilla of idiots ended up docking across the canal from us. So now we get to navigate with them tomorrow too…can’t wait.

While walking around Fairport, we saw Sal again. She must be following us. What an ass…
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We saw the USS Voodoo at the dock today. Another WTF moment. Not sure if this is a cruise boat or someone that doesn’t get many passengers, but I still like it.
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Fairport at the canal. See Island Bound almost to the end on the left.
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Boat name of the day


We see many interesting boat names and I thought I would follow the lead of one of our favorite blogs that we follow and do an occasional boat name of the day. Today the name is Dictanic…not sure exactly what they were thinking, but that is one cruise we don’t want to go on. (WTF…who names a boat something like that anyway???)

We found Sal…on the Erie Canal

Brockport, NY; Location: 43 12.9N, 77 56.4W
Posted by Bill

Today was the first full day on the Erie Canal. We got started around 8:30 with decent weather, but it deteriorated rapidly into rain and drizzle with 15 knot winds and 52 degree temps…booshit! Fortunately, several years ago we purchased quality Gill foul weather gear, complete with pants, coats and West Marine boots. It was a miserable day to hand steer the boat for 8 hours. We were trying to make it to the “award winning welcome center” at Brockport, NY to enjoy nice facilities and the town of Brockport.

After several hours of motoring, we came to our first set of locks. Each took us down approximately 25 feet. The Erie Canal system has a total of 34 locks, runs 338 miles and drops a total of 572 feet from Lake Erie to sea level. The lock process goes like this: When you get a green light, motor in to the lock and grab the lines on the lock wall. One person grabs at the bow (front of the boat) and the other grabs at the stern (back of the boat). Some locks have fixed lines or cables that you wrap your lines around, and most of them have dangling lines that you just grab on to. Then the water goes up or down depending on which direction you are headed.

Descending in the lock.
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Doors opening…get the HELL OUT!
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Then we encountered a series of lift bridges. You have to contact the lift operator on the marine radio and request a lift. Then they stop traffic, lift the bridge and you can go under. If you don’t wait until the bridge is completely up and a green light comes on, you get yelled at…don’t ask how I know.

Lift bridge.
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Look…we made it to the big apple!!!
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After we made it to the big apple we saw apple orchards for at least 15 miles along the canal. Wish I could have picked some.

After 8.5 hours of motoring, we made it to Brockport. Unfortunately, this time of year the lift bridges close at 5 PM. Because the bridges made us wait for a slower power boat at each bridge (can you believe a power boat slowing down a sail boat…for the love of god…what is the world coming to?), we didn’t make the bridge at Brockport; and instead of luxury accommodations with electric and restrooms, we are tied to a rough concrete wall with no amenities…Booooo, Hisssss! Ahhhh, but no dock fees.

And look…we found Sal (the mule from the Erie Canal song – Google it if you are too young to know what I am talking about, people)
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We are now a motor boat.

Erie Canal, Tonawanda NY, Latitude/Longitude: 43 01.3N, 78 52.3W
Posted by Bill

Yesterday after we landed at Rich Marine we had to get ready to have the mast taken down so we could transit the Erie Canal. The lowest bridge heights are 13 feet and we have a 54 foot mast. So we busted ass and took down the sails (not an easy task for a boat our size). We finished up around 8 PM and went to find a place to eat. Now Rich Marine is not in a very good part of town, and we walked around for at least an hour trying to find a place to eat. Plenty of places…none open. WTF? The best place in the area was open but closed at 7:30. Again…WTF? So we go back to the boat and Tricia makes a home made pizza…yum! Of course I made cocktails. And a good time was had by all.

This morning we moved the boat over to the crane area and the yard crew took the mast down and built a support structure to hold it while we transit to the Hudson River. The crew was really good and a very colorful lot, which I always appreciate.

Here is them taking the mast off with a crane.

Here is the final result.
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We are officially a motor boat.

We left Rich a little after 4 PM and motored down the Niagara River. We had a downstream current between 2.5 to 3.5 knots, which is pretty strong. At one point the boat’s speed transducer said we were moving 5.5 knots and the GPS on the chart plotter showed Course Over Ground of 8.7! When we hit Tonawanda Creek we made a right and went into the Erie Canal. It was really cool. The Niagra had some really varied scenery, from interstate 90 running along side, to factories, to riverside homes with sprawling lawns and boat docks.

Tonawanda and North Tonawanda are really nice towns. We stopped there for the night and walked into both towns which are on opposite sides of the Canal. We stopped at JP Dwyers Irish pub and had some downright awesome wings. Then walked over to the other side of the canal and went to Smoke on the Water, and had awesome pork bar-b-que. Highly recommend both places if you ever get this way.

We saw some weird shit walking around as well. There was some guy parked along the canal in his car with the trunk lid open. Inside the trunk he had a small AV system and he was facing the trunk singing into a mic. He had a nice voice but no audience. He was literally singing into the trunk of his car with no one around. An hour later we passed him again…same deal…singing away. We also saw this car/grill/oven contraption. If the food it makes is even close to Smoke on the Water, I am good with it.
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Island Bound docked in the Erie Canal at Tonawanda
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