On to the Oswego and Erie Canals! Let me give you just a bit of information so maybe it will be easier to understand as I write about these locks. The Trent/Severn canals were quite picturesque and nice, and the locks were relatively small and more narrow (although we didn’t really know it at the time). They could maybe fit a 41 foot boat like ours and another power boat in front of it, and then the same on the other side of the lock. They had nice cables to wrap our lines around to slide up or down, depending on which way the lock was going, and the walls were relatively clean and not so slimey.
Before and after the locks in the Trent/Severn you could tie up to what they call the mooring wall and stay overnight if you’d like, and they charge $0.90 a foot. They typically have cleats and/or bollards to tie up to and are long enough for anywhere between 3 boats and 8. We only tied up to a mooring wall once when we ran stuck as we would also anchor somewhere along the way as there were plenty of places to anchor as the Waterway is a connection of rivers and small lakes.
The Owsego and Erie Canals are much larger and industrial looking. They look like they can hold up to maybe 5 boats of our length, at least, on each side and they are a lot wider. They usually have lines with weights on the end to grab onto when going into the lock, and they are quite slimey and slippery. The walls are much slimier and have more gunk stuck to them. But they were intended more for passage of larger vessels and not really recreational, as they are used today, so it makes sense they are quite different than the Trent/Severn.
They also all seem to have longer mooring walls before and after the locks to tie up to, and they are typically free to tie up to overnight. The walls can be a bit crumblier and older, but they work. We wonder if they are longer as there really are very few places to anchor on the Erie Canal so they have to have more availability. We’re not really sure, but it’s nice when we can tie up and not have to pay for the mooring wall. We’ll see how it goes as we proceed east.
Thursday, Aug. 9 we left our spot under the overpass in Oswego and headed south. Even though the Oswego locks are numbered through #8, there is no lock #4 so we did 7 locks before we reached the Erie Canal at 1:22 pm! We turned east into the canal, which also was the Seneca River at that point, and on we went. The first lock on the Erie Canal we came to was lock #23 and we went through with no problem. Only 22 more locks and we’ll be done with locks! Yay! (After we are done with the Erie Canal we will have gone through 73 locks altogether since starting the Trent/Severn!)
We pulled into a marina in Brewerton, NY, after lock #23 as there was some mechanical issues I wanted to check out on the boat. I won’t go into it here, but I learned a whole lot more about our shaft seal and fiberglass shaft tube. I wondered if our cutlass bearing was giving us issues and causing a small leak in our shaft seal, but I don’t think that was an issue. I even talked with a fellow Beneteau 411 owner in Virginia, and spent more time looking at the area where I was seeing a bit of water and determined it was not something to worry about. I had even considered getting the boat hauled out, but decided this was not necessary at this point.
So on Friday, Aug. 10, we left the marina and headed east across Oneida Lake. I figure if I wasn’t correct about the water not being an issue then we would hopefully either turn around or find a marina on the other side to help. Since we had no issues we tied off to the mooring wall at the channel at Sylvan Beach on the south side. It was a pretty little town complete with an amusement park on the north side and we even treated ourselves later that evening to ice cream!
Saturday, Aug. 11, saw us entering the last long stretch of the Erie Canal. We did well with the locks – they were definitely larger and more industrial looking than the Trent/Severn! We made it as far as Lock 18 and tied up there (for free!) for the night. Unfortunately they only had large bollards a bit back from the wall to tie to so it was interesting to tie up well. There was also a lot of goose poop! Had to be careful where we walked and in trying to not get any on the boat. It also felt very isolated from anywhere as there were no towns or anywhere really to walk, but it was free. We were excited, in tallying up our mileage, to see that today we passed the 1000 mile mark on the trip! Woo Hoo!
On Sunday, Aug. 12, we continued down the canal and after 36 miles we tied up at Lock #12. Went through a number of interesting locks, one of them dropped us 41 feet and instead of the ends opening up at the bottom, the end gate lifted up so we could pass under it. We also went along Highway 90 a number of times which is the highway we have taken a few times to Boston and back. Strange to see the highway we were in vehicles on from our boat!
8:15 am on Monday, Aug. 13, we left Lock #12 and proceeded to Lock #7. The canal continued to be well marked with navigational aids, but each bend we came around sort of looked like the last. But we were making headway. Lock #7 was again very desolate and removed, but it worked. Because the next day was supposed to be rainy and stormy we decided to stay here two nights. Of course we saw only a few minutes of rain, but we could see that west of us was getting a good soaking. We were actually close to the Albany International Airport so could hear planes throughout the day. Sharon and Max took a long walk, 6.3 miles round trip, as we were desperately short on coffee!
After two nights at Lock #7 we were ready to leave and leave all the never-ending goose poop behind! So on Wednesday, Aug. 15, we tossed the lines, went through Lock 7 and headed to the Waterford Flight of Locks 6 – 2 that ended in Waterford, New York. This is where we would connect with the Hudson River, do Lock 1 and head south. But remember when they talk about all the best laid plans are always subject to change? We got to Guard Gate #2, just above the Waterford Flight, and after hailing them on the VHF we were reprimanded for not reading the Notice to Mariners Report which said the Flight would be out of commission for the morning. We were there already at 10 am and they didn’t open it until 3:40 pm in the afternoon. We were thankfully tied up at a wall just prior to the Guard Gate, which is like a huge gate they lower to totally shut off the water below the Gate, and there was actually Guard Gate #1 just a short distance on the other side of Gate #2, but when they opened those gates it was a huge torrent of water and debris that headed downstream. Because of the rains the previous day there was a huge amount of branches, sticks, logs and milfoil – plants that grow in huge podss along the canal edge. They had us wait until the water stabilized and calmed down and we headed in the Wateford Flight, which went sort of well until they ended in Wateford, New York right before the Hudson River. (We had an issue grabbing the lines in two of the locks which made for some hectic moments, but we finally got them!) Because it was late in the day, about 5:30 pm, we tied up at the free wall in the lovely town of Wateford, New York. Nice!
Just before I end this one, and obviously I can’t write shorter posts yet, I want to mention we ended up waiting before the Waterford Flight with two other sailboats with masts down. Emerald Fire was a Canadian boat with a young couple, Sean and Ava and their two dogs, who saved up enough to take off on their boat for two years. They had just started on the journey, like us, and were excited about traveling to the Bahamas and eventually the Panama Canal. They went with us down the Flight to Waterford. Steve and Pat were on a Tartan 37 and come to find out they will be on the same Sail to the Sun Rally along with us! They stayed at the wall to go down the Flight then next day.
Stay tuned to hear about our exciting, scarey, nightmarish entry in the Hudson River on Thursday, Aug. 16, that almost ended in disaster! That will be in next week’s post! (Don’t you hate that when people do that and leave you in suspense?!) Oh, as of the afternoon of Aug. 16 as I’m finishing this, we’re still in Waterford, New York. Maybe for a while!