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Great Lakes Adventure, Week 1, Entry 3

By BeeWeems - Published July 17, 2008 - Viewed 2984 times

Much has happened in one week.  We have cruised a total of 484 miles from Annapolis to Rome, NY.  In one week we have endured  one boat breakdown and one trip to the Emergency Room. We have transited 20 locks, and 4 unique bodies of water.  We have had spectacular weather the entire time, so we have no weather related stories to tell. 

The first day of our journey didn't end as nicely as it started.  We had an exhaust hose malfunction while out on the Delaware Bay about 15 miles from Cape May.   We were able to limp into Cape May just after nightfall and  had to lay over a day for repairs.  Our third day found us at Liberty Landing Marina in New York Harbor and then on the 4th day we began our journey in earnest into unknown territory north up the Hudson River. 
I must back track a bit to explain our general cruising plan.  Peter and I plan to spend two months cruising the northern portions of the Great Lakes; specifically Georgian Bay and North Channel which are the northern parts of Lake Huron and then, Lake Superior. Our ultimate goal is to take the boat as far west as possible by water (Duluth, Minnesota) and then truck her to Anacortes, Washington in the Fall where she will stay until next Summer when we will spend our 2009 cruising season traveling to Alaska. 
The best way to access these upper lakes is to transit the eastern portion of the Erie canal and then branch off to the Oswego canal and head up to Lake Ontario from there.   At this point we're so close to  the St. Lawrence Seaway we will detour briefly to visit  the spectacular 1000 Islands. Then back into Lake  Ontario  to the Trent-Severn Canal System which will take us into Georgian Bay.  We will then negotiate the locks at Sioux St. Marie and head into Lake Superior.
The only night we spent on the Hudson River was at the Newburgh town dock not quite midway between New York City and Troy where the cut off to the Erie Canal begins.  The Hudson River is a spectacular waterway.  Pete and I were both very touched with the natural beauty, and the historic towns and homes along the way.  It reminded me of a European River such as the Danube winding along gracefully among the mountains and valleys. 
Our fifth day we completed the final leg of the 150 miles of the Hudson River.  We transited our first lock in Troy, New York  and we positioned ourselves on the wall at the Waterford Visitor Center which is the start of the Eastern portion of the Erie Canal.  Here is where the second hiccup of the trip occurred.  I did something that every boater knows not to do but does (at least once) anyway.  I jumped off the bow of the boat with a line while docking, mistepped and landed full force on my chin - hence a trip to the Emergency Room in Troy. Four hours, one tetanus shot and a glue job on my chin later I was almost as good as new.  Needless to say, we decided to lay low our 6th day.  Peter took a 40 mile bike ride on his fancy folding Bike Friday and I laid low and provisioned at the local grocery store. 
On day seven, we felt renewed and I was eager to get back on the horse, so to speak.  We departed early Thursday morning and passed through the first "flight" of 5 locks without incident.  As a matter of fact, we were the only boat in the locks. It was extremely easy to negotiate the locks.  All the locks monitor channel 13 on the VHF radio.  If the gate is closed the lock exhibits a red light at the entrance. The light turns green when its clear to enter the lock. We hale the lock master on the radio to let him know we're approaching and he lets us know how long we will need to wait.  He usually offers to let the next lock master know we're coming so the gate is open by the time we show up.  Pete and I developed a system that worked well.  He manipulated the boat to the lock wall while I grabbed one of the many lines that dangle from the wall and hold on as the water fills into the lock. I was glad for the gloves I wore because the lines are dirty and slimy.  We have large round fenders on the starboard side of the boat to protect the boat in the locks. No need for any on the port side because we didn't encounter any other boats in the locks. It was almost uncanny how few boats we encountered on the canal. Is this normal or are fuel prices keeping people off their boats this summer?  We originally thought we'd stop for the day in Amsterdam, NY after going through 9 locks, but we didn't like the looks of the canal wall there so we continued on to Carnejaharie which meant we transited 12 locks in an 8 hour day and only shared the locks with one other boat, once!  We did have to keep a sharp look out for driftwood in the canal, but other than that the journey was simple.  Many parts of the canal remind me of the Intercoastal Waterway. Long stretches of serene green vegetation on either side of the canal with ample waterfowl interspersed with an occasional marina or village. One of the most pleasant surprises, however, that distinguishes the Erie Canal from the ICW is that docking is free along the Erie canal walls in most places. 

On Friday, we spent the morning visiting the Arkell Art Museum in Carnejaharie, a little gem of a fine art museum founded by the first president of the Beechnut Factory which is across the street from the museum.  Arkell collected American Art and  the museum has a large collection of Windsor Homer originals.   We departed at about noon and finished up the day transiting 8 more locks and stopping for the night at the free dock adjacent to the town of Rome, NY.


All 20 locks we have transited so far have been rising locks. The highest elevation in one lock was 40 feet.  We have risen over 420 feet  and traveled 114 miles on the Erie Canal.   We've stopped twice for fuel and water.





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Comment by KeyportTrawler | Posted on Friday, August 15, 2008 at 5:55:31 PM


Hello Beeweems,

I have been following your travels  with great interest as I hope to travel this route myself  in several years . My interest also extends to your vessel as I am devoted fan of the Zimmerman 36. I believe in the philosophy and design of the Spencer Lincon as commissioned by Zimmerman Marine. I enjoy reading the techincal articles of Steve D'Antonio and the mission statement behind ZM appeals to me. So keep writing as I'm sure many others are inspired as well with your rhetoric to further investigate the history of the area and someday follow  your course.

Pleasant Voyages,


David Evans


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