New Baltimore, NY to Tonawanda, NY – The Erie Canal

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had a number of friends comment on how they have enjoyed this blog. I regret not keeping up with it. So, now I’ve decided to jump back into the writing. Ok; not really jumping back in so much. Maybe just sneaking back in the back door slowly. This post is nearly two years past due but with the detailed log we keep aboard and Jane’s personal journal along with digital photos that have a time and place stamp I’m able to recap with accuracy far exceeding my memory. Enjoy this trip along the Erie Canal from 2021 and I’ll try to bring it all up to date over the next however long it takes erstwhile plugging in some of the recent escapades of Sabbatical.

We stayed at Shady Harbor on the Hudson River until the 16th of June.  We had a great time while we were there and I was able to take care of all the maintenance items on my list.  Within an hour of slack tide we pushed off the dock amid sunny skies and a forecast high of 75 degrees.  With the wind against us but the current pushing we were making 10 mph and entered the Troy Lock at 1425.  By 1502 we were tied safely to the wall at Waterford ready to enter the Erie Canal the following morning. 

Sabbatical on the wall at Waterford

We had a fun dinner at McGreivey’s Irish Pub and then a long walk over the bridge and through historic Peobles Island State Park.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

63 degrees and a cloudless sky made for a great morning to navigate the locks on the eastern end of the Erie Canal.  We fell in with the second group of boats at 0900 and were getting lifted up with Sweet Haven and Dawg Haus III in Lock 2.  (There is no Lock #1.)  By 1348 we were out of Lock 7.  The other boats called it a day at Scotia, and we continued on through Locks 8, 9 and 10 before docking on the wall at Riverlink Park in Amsterdam.  Other Loopers were there as well and we met the crews of Irrational Exuberance, Last Laugh, and Kay Dee.  We were soon joined by an eastbound boat by the name of Vega.  We figured out that they were across the dock from us for months back at Ortega Landing Marina in Jacksonville.  It’s a small world.  Another Looper, Field Trip, also came in to tie on the wall.  We had a large group for dinner on the patio at Astoria Landing with all the Loopers.

The next day we did some planning and got to walk about a bit crossing the amazing and beautiful foot bridge.  We toured the Amsterdam Castle which is a hotel now and has been restored and maintained to the highest degree. 

We met another couple, Laurie and Karl, from the boat SP and Me that had come in during the afternoon and agreed to walk with them over to Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant for dinner.  It was prom night in Amsterdam and the kids were getting introduced on the foot bridge as we walked over in the middle of it.  It was fun getting to know Laurie and Karl and we ended up back on SP and Me for after dinner drinks while we watched the prom in progress right there at the park.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

We slipped off the wall at 0954 and by 1020 we were through Lock 11 and headed on west.  We made it through four more locks that day and just on the other side of Lock 15 we pulled into a boat slip with 30 amp power.  It was next to the park adjacent to the lock and we were glad to have the power since the weather had warmed up some and we were ready for some air conditioning.  We got there early enough to take a nap and much to our delight, we found excellent TV reception to watch the US Open.

Free dock with free electricity is always good.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

It was Father’s Day and Jane made blueberry pancakes to get the day started off right.  As we were prepping to leave, I noticed this guy come walking around the boat and checking it out.  When I got out disposing of some trash, he approached and low and behold, it was John Muccio whom we had met when we stayed at Harbor Cay Club during January in Marathon.  Another small world connection!  Turned out that he has a home there in Fort Plain and had just coincidentally come down to the lock that morning.   We talked for a while and then bid adieu.  We shoved off at 1100 and went up 20 feet in Lock 16 and then 40 feet in Lock 17 at Little Falls.  Lock 17 is interesting in that it has a guillotine gate so the boats enter by going under the lock gate.  We docked at the Little Falls Harbor wall which was inexpensive and nice.  Jane was having trouble having endured a couple of injuries to her toe and began treating with antibiotics that she had on board.  She’s a trooper and doesn’t complain too much.

Monday, June 21, 2021

It was an up and down kind of day going up in Locks 18, 19, and 20 a total of 57 feet to the highest water elevation in the Erie Canal at 420 feet above sea level.  We then went back down in Locks 21 and 22, each letting us down 25 feet.  We docked on the wall at Sylvan Beach with help from our friends, Mark and Karen from Kay Dee and Dave and Kim from Sweet Haven.  The six of us walked up to Eddies for dinner.  The company was great, food not so much. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

We set out for Winter Harbor Marina at noon to cross over Oneida Lake.  The lake is long east to west and the wind was coming out of the west.  It didn’t take us long to abort that plan and we were retied to the wall in half an hour.  The small boat Red Swan arrived on the wall and we got to know them better after meeting them in a couple of locks back.  Their boat is a bass boat that the guy converted into a homemade houseboat.  There are two couples (Tom and Lynn and Nate and Janis, all from New Hampshire) traveling on it, but they switch off with two people riding bikes along the trail while the other two cruise in the boat.  They expand their sleeping quarters by setting up a tent along the way.  They are the outdoorsy type and enjoy this adventure.  It was a little rough with the waves coming in from the lake and since the wall was high, we loaned them a fender.  Later, we all walked over to Harpoon Eddies for dinner and had a great time getting to know them.

The converted bass boat Red Swan comes in to tie up.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

We waited for Red Swan to get gas so they could follow us across the lake.  It wasn’t as rough as yesterday, but since their boat is so small, I suggested that they could just stay right behind us in our wake.  The marina gas dock didn’t open on time, but we were in no hurry and once they finally got gassed up we set off out through the jetty and into the lake with them right on our tail.  I was going very slowly, but it was still too much for them and they turned back after just a short way.  I bid them farewell over the radio and said that it was probably the right decision.  We got back up to cruising speed and arrived at Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton by 1130.  We took on 94 gallons of fuel there at the agreeable price of $2.99 per gallon.  It is a wonderful marina and everything is clean and tidy.  We borrowed the courtesy car and went to the wrong Wegman’s Grocery Store, but still had time to go by the Tractor Supply store for oil and turned the car in on time.  After that, Jane did a couple loads of laundry while I re-caulked the forward windows.  Her foot is still giving her a hard time (painful and swollen), but maybe it won’t fall off.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

We left Winter Harbor early with a sunny day coming.  We were the first customer in the lock right at 0700.  We were headed for Lake Cayuga and had reservations at Allen Treman State Marine Park down at the south end at Ithaca.  We were looking forward to seeing our friends, Harry and Sandy Seichepin.  Just about 0800 we passed the junction with the Oswego Canal and from there it would be all new territory for us as we made our way along the western half of the Erie Canal.  At 1350 we turned south into the Cayuga-Seneca Canal and tied to the wall just before the CS-1 lock.  The wind was blowing at 20 miles per hour out of the south and I checked the weather for Friday which appeared to be more of the same.  Cayuga Lake runs north and south and about 40 miles long, so that led to the unhappy decision to abort the plan to visit Ithaca.  We called Harry and Sandy and made plans for them to drive up and meet us in Lyons Friday evening.  I was very disappointed in not getting to boat in the finger lake, but at least we will still get to see our friends.

Friday, June 25, 2021

We lollygagged around in the morning and finally shoved off at 1021.  At 1100 we waited for Meander to catch up and lock through with us at Lock 25.  They locked through with us in 26 as well.  As we came out of the lock, I heard Meander calling us over the radio.  “Sabbatical, this is Meander.” 

“Let’s go to channel 17, Meander.”

“Roger, channel 17.”  I switched up to 17.

“Sabbatical, this is Meander on 17.”

“Go ahead, Meander.”

“Yeah, my wife says you might be the same Sabbatical that brought us the bread from the grocery in Cape May when we were anchored and I still owe you five dollars.”

“Roger, that’s correct.  We did bring you the bread and cookies there.”

“Well, how do I know that it’s really you and not some impostor?”

  “I can prove that I’m not an impostor because how else would I know that you really wanted ginger cookies, but the store was out.”

“Well, ok.  I guess I’ve got the right man.  We’ll try to get you that fiver at the next dock.”

“We’ll be stopping at Lyons just ahead, so if you’re stopping there, great.  If not, I’ll catch you later, but just remember that we charge interest rates higher than pawn shops.”

Well, they didn’t stop at Lyons and we haven’t see Meander since, but I’m sure we will again.  Like lots of the towns along the canal, Lyons is wonderful little stop that is free to dock and offers electricity and restrooms with showers.  In Lyons, the restrooms and showers are in the fire station which was right there where we docked.  The Chief and firemen were like a comedy team and kept us entertained for a while.

That night we had a great dinner with the Seichepins at a nice Thai restaurant in Geneva.  Later, Jane and I enjoyed our private time up on the fly bridge.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

We left Lyons and proceeded through the scenic western Erie Canal going up a total of 44 feet in Locks 27, 28A and 28B.  We arrived at Newark after lunch.  There was a free laundry setup at the dock house and Jane took advantage of that.  I walked across the bridge to the grocery store for ice and some provisions.  We enjoyed docktails with Kay Dee and Sweet Haven at the picnic bench by the dock.

On the wall at Newark

Sunday, June 27, 2021

We eased away from the dock at Newark at 0705 with Sweet Haven and Kay Dee just ahead.  It was soon obvious that summer was catching us as the temperature rose.  At 0845 we were in the Lock 29 for the lift up 16 feet.  Normally, that would be about a 20 lift, but the Canal Authority had the pool lowered, so the transit between 29 and 30 was shallow but we all made it through without running aground.  We had to wait for a while at Lock 30, but we just hovered about in the canal waiting for the repair to be completed. 

By the time we arrived in Fairport, the temp had hit 97 and we were ready for some A/C.  We tied up on the port side at the east end of the Fairport wall and Fran from the houseboat Synergistic came out to help us tie up.  He proved to be a great neighbor over the next few days while we were there.  He and his wife, Sue, live in Del Ray Beach in the winter and spend their summers on the houseboat up here in Fairport.  The next day he drove us to the wine store and to Wegmans Supermarket so we got stocked up on all the necessities.  We also spent Monday getting things organized for our good friend, Steve Walker, to come aboard for a few days and travel with us.  He would be flying into Rochester to join us here in Fairport.  We were glad to be in Fairport early so we wouldn’t have to worry or hurry.  Steve arrived on that Tuesday afternoon and we were glad to have him aboard.  We felt that he would love the trip after having lost his dear wife, Cissy, two weeks before.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

We left Fairport at 0900 and arrived at Pittsford Lock 32 at 1015.  We waited for 10 minutes for a couple of boats to join us in the lock for the 25 foot lift up.   The operation was repeated again a half hour later at lock 33 for another 25 increase in elevation to 513 feet above sea level.  It was nice to have Walker’s help with the lines in the locks.  We had a tight squeeze passing the dredge operation at the Genessee River.

The dredge operation

 By 1300 we were tied at the wall at Spencerport and we all retired for naps.  That evening we hiked around the block to a BBQ joint for dinner.  Hanging out on the fly bridge after dinner seemed to relax us all and I felt that Walker found it therapeutic.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

It was 65 degrees early in the morning, but rain was on the forecast.  We shoved off early at 0655.  We had a couple of other boats traveling with us: Betty Gail (Loopers) and Full Count (a couple of fishermen from Michigan).  By 0800, Jane (the ship’s foodservice director) served a large hot breakfast on the fly bridge.

Even Steve Walker enjoys a hot vegan breakfast

There were about a half dozen antique lift bridges that we had to have raised.  Usually, the operators manage two bridges each and shuffle between them to let the boats through.  Since the weather was nice, we abandoned our plan to stop at Middleport and decided to go on to Tonawanda which is the western end of the Erie Canal and just before the Niagara River.  We got to Lockport and went up another 50 feet with Dawg Haus III and Gypsea Soul which put us at the level of Lake Erie, 564 feet above sea level. 

We arrived at Tonawanda and docked on the south side at 1715.  After a glass of wine aboard, the three of us moseyed on over across the bridge to the Dockside Bar and Grill for a good meal.

We relaxed on Friday and on Saturday the third we picked up a rental car for the dual purpose of visiting Niagara Falls and then getting Steve Walker to the airport on July 4th.  Note to self:  Never visit Niagara Falls on the Saturday of July 4th weekend!  What a zoo!  Traffic control and crowd control were both sorely lacking.  We wanted to go on the Maid of the Mist sightseeing boat, but the line was too long to deal with, so we just walked about and saw the falls (a first time for all three of us).  The falls are impressive to say the least.  We turned in early after another great meal at the Dockside Bar and Grill.

The next morning we were up early at 0430 to get Steve to the airport so he could fly out to visit a couple of his old school buddies at a lake in Wisconsin.  We loved having his company and hoped it was helpful for him to get away.  While we had the car, we scored on another visit to Wegmans.  We enjoyed a large docktails that evening with the crews from Kay Dee, Ginger Gale, Nothing to Plunder, Baboo, Sweet Haven, and Dawg Haus III.

The western half of the Erie Canal was new to us, but it supplied some quite delightful cruising with attractive and friendly towns to visit.

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