“Low bridge everybody down, Low bridge for we’re com-in to a town, And you always know your neighbor, You’ll always know your pal, If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal.”
The Erie Canal is rich in history, and the famous song written by Thomas Allen in 1905, and re-done throughout modern times by many musicians (including Bruce Springsteen) was in my head for days as we made our way through the Erie Canal.
On Wednesday, June 11th, in intermittent rain, we went past the towns of Hudson and Albany, the capital of NY, and went through our first lock since Virginia. We said goodbye to the Hudson River at the big blue sign in Troy, turning west into the Erie Canal. A short way up the Canal is the town of Waterford, where we pulled up to the wall and got secured in the rain. Many other Loopers were there, and volunteers at the Visitor Center gave us information on the Erie Canal and what lay ahead.
We had docktails aboard “Errante'”, and reconnected with several other Loopers. I took a walk to see nearby original Erie Canal structures, some of which are now used as spillways.
The next morning after breakfast in town and showers, we untied and headed west, locking through the “flight of five” with “Estrellita” and “Young at Heart”. The “flight of five” is a very close set of 5 locks, which rapidly lifted us in elevation. You’d come out of one, and almost immediately enter another. We locked through Lock 7 together in the drizzle, and made our way to the Schenectady Yacht Club in the town of Rexford. After tying up to the rickety floating docks, we settled in, had dinner aboard, and watched a movie on Netflix. I was hoping for blue skies, as the gray days were getting a little old.
We woke to more rain, and someone pounding on our boat. Jim got up to help secure boats to the docks and docks to the shore. The water had risen precariously during the night, about 7 feet, and debris, trees, and logs sped past in the swift current of the Mohawk River.
That day they closed down the Erie Canal, and none of the locks were operational. We watched the river rise, the clearance under the nearby bridge shrink, and the buoys disappear under the surface.
We ended up spending 5 nights at the Schenectady Yacht Club, which turned out to be a nice place to be stranded. The locals were very friendly, and a neighboring live-aboard drove us to town for re-provisioning. We had happy hours with the other Loopers, grilled dinner together one night, and even enjoyed a campfire with the locals and swapped boating stories amid the swirling smoke, as the wind couldn’t decide which direction it wanted to blow.
One day we walked to the nearby convenience store for ice cream cones, and got a guided tour of the club house, with explanations of all the historic pictures of the nearby Erie Canal and old aqueduct. Once the rain quit, we scrubbed, polished and dusted the boat, inside and out. I caught up on laundry, and walked through the old village of Rexford.
The muddy water receded as fast as it rose, and soon the current was manageable and the Canal was re-opened for public use. The New York State Canal System manages the Canal, and they were busy clearing logs and debris, and re-positioning misplaced buoys in their bright blue and orange boats.
Finally, on Tuesday the 17th of June our section of the Erie Canal re-opened, and we were able to continue. It was an absolutely perfect cruising day, sunny in the upper 80’s, and the scenery was interesting as we motored along. We locked through #8 through #13, still rising. The Adirondacks rose in the distance, and the Mohawk narrowed as we climbed in elevation. We did a 49-mile cruise that day, and stopped at a free wall along the canal, in the town of Canajoharie.
Eventually many other Loopers pulled in, and the wall soon filled up. A Canadian sailboat ended up ‘rafting up’ with “Estrellita”. The evening was humid, and we walked into town with Burke, Stel, Glenn and Brenda, and had a great Italian meal at Gino’s. Burke didn’t know how to pronounce the town’s name, calling it “Calamari”. So we had to share some calamari as an appetizer and had a few good laughs about it.
Back at the boat, lightning could be seen flashing across the sky. Soon the wind kicked up, and the downpour ensued. Overnight we ended up with water coming in over the desk where all of our electronics (computer, iPad, phones, remote, and TV) were housed. Luckily, nothing was damaged once we dried out.
Wednesday we had a short day, only going through Locks 14 thru 17 to Little Falls, a very picturesque town, with water seeming to run everywhere. The weather was cooler after the previous night’s storm. We stayed at the marina, again on a canal wall. We walked into town, Brenda got a hair cut and Stel & I meandered through some of the antique shops. Jim also got a haircut, and the guys went to the local hardware store.
Thursday we waited for the other boats to leave, as we needed access to the pump-out station. We did 5 locks that day, reaching the summit at Lock 21, where we started descending in the locks. At that point the water suddenly turned from muddy to crystal clear. There were many side dams and spillways along the way, and the NYS Canal workers were out in force on dredgers and tugs. We no longer traveled in the Mohawk River, but rather in a straight and narrow man-made channel, which was what I expected the Erie Canal to be like.
It was a beautiful clear but breezy day, and we saw many Canada geese with their fluffy youngsters in tow. We pulled into the town of Sylvan Beach on the shores of Lake Oneida late, but other Loopers had saved us a spot along the free wall, which we managed to squeeze into. We had a whole crew to help us with our lines, and it turned into another spot where many of the Loopers converged.
It was a fun evening with docktails on the fly bridge of another Looper boat, an antique car show along the beachfront of Lake Oneida, and dinner at a crowded nearby restaurant. The old cars brought back some memories of our childhoods, our first cars, and how we would pack everybody in without seatbelts.
We got up early on Friday the 20th, and shoved off from the tight spot on the wall with the help of Burke, Brenda & Glenn. It was a cool but sunny morning as we traveled the 23-mile length of Lake Oneida. After the lake, the channel narrowed back down, dotted with summer cabins and homes along the shores on both sides. Going was slow with the locks to go through and the many no-wake zones because of all the private docks.
One of the locks had gasoline floating all over the surface of the water, and you could smell and see it along the slimy walls as we descended. We passed many sheriff boats, and found out later that they had found and pulled out a car with the remains of a woman inside who had strangely disappeared 18 years ago.
We locked through #23 on the Erie, and came to the junction of the Oswego Canal where we turned north. On the Oswego we went through 6 of the 7 locks (there is no number 4). Some of them were a little challenging in the wind which had become stronger as the day progressed. Current from the adjacent dams as you entered and departed some of the locks was also a little disconcerting.
We arrived in the town of Oswego about 5:00 p.m. and tied on the east wall between Locks 7 and 8. We hosted “sundowners”, the Bahama name for happy hour, on the back deck of A-RIVER-DERCI with a couple from Georgian Bay Ontario, and Glenn and Brenda on “Young at Heart”.
The town was getting ready for a big kayak event through all the Oswego Canal locks. Tents and picnic tables were set out, a band stand was put in place along with food vendor wagons – all right next to the wall where our boat was moored.
We awoke to another beautiful day. People were milling about, and the live music started at noon. Soon a horde of kayaks appeared, paddling past our boat toward Lock #8. We met and talked with a local resident who has lived his entire life of 63 years in Oswego. He pedaled off on his bicycle, but soon returned with an 8×10 picture of our boat he had just taken from across the canal. What a great gift! I’m forever amazed at the kindness of strangers we meet along the way!
Jim walked across the bridge to a nearby grocery store for a few items while I worked on the blog. The whole town seemed to be out, celebrating the first day of summer and the kayak festival.
About 4:00 we said goodbye to Brenda and Glenn, and locked through Oswego #8, our last of the New York locks. Lake Ontario looming ahead, we made our way to the fuel dock at the Oswego Marina, filled up and pumped out. We both showered and I did two loads of laundry. Tomorrow we cross Lake Ontario and continue our adventure in Canadian waters.
The evening ended with fireworks to celebrate the beginning of summer. They were blown off right across the canal from us, and we sat up top to get the best view possible. It makes me wonder where we’ll be on the 4th of July. If we’re still in Canada, we’ll have to enjoy the fireworks on July 1st, Canada Day, instead of on the 4th.
We’re prepping the boat and charting our course for the big crossing of Lake Ontario tomorrow. Our intention is to make it to Trenton, where we will go through customs. Jim is putting the Canadian flag atop our US flag, which is a requirement while there.
While we are in Canada we will have very limited ability to text or take phone calls. Email will be our best way of communication. We’re excited to be on our way in the morning, with low winds and sunshine predicted. Happy trails to you all! A-RIVER-DERCI