Thursday, September 6, 2018

First Few Days on the Erie Canal, first days of September

Going up the Hudson, there is a sign that directs you to the left for the Erie Canal, so we took it!  Just before that, in Troy, we went through Lock #1 – a pretty big lift, our first experience with the muddy, slimy walls of the boat elevators!  But, we were prepared, put out lots of fenders, and wore rubber gloves.  This first lock had recessed spaces in the cement walls where there was a cable with a hearty plastic coating on it.  You run one of your lines around the cable and back to the boat.  I tied it off on one of our cleats.  The gates closed behind us, and the water rushes in.  It is amazing how quickly the water fills and lifts our boat, from where we started  (looking at those walls) until we were above the walls.  Easy peasy!  I had been a little nervous, but it was really not difficult at all.

canal boat

approaching lock

approaching lock

this lock had recess poles - just run line around and hold!

making good use of a fender!

leaving the lock
Next, as we turned left to enter the Erie Canal proper, we came to the cute little town of Waterford – we didn’t stop, because we were anxious to clear the first ‘flight’ of locks.  The flight consists of 5 locks, located close together – you no sooner get out of one than the next one presents itself.  

sign at start of the Erie Canal!

1st lock in Waterford

part of the 'flight' of 5 locks


By now, we consider ourselves to be professional lock passers!  For our first day, we decided to do one more lock, number 7, and stop for the night at the Schenectady Yacht Club.  The locking through wasn’t difficult, but it was a bit stressful and we were tired!  This little Yacht Club was small, not located near any restaurants or shopping.  The people there were mostly families with children and were friendly. 
The next day, our second on the Erie Canal, brought us beside some nice homes and lovely scenery, with the Adirondack Mountains in the distance.  Some of the canal reminds us of the Dismal Swamp canal.  We are loving it!  Every lock we’ve been through to this point, we were the only boat.  

We got through Lock 12 – as we were going through, the lock tender mentioned that there is a county fair about 5 miles up from there.  Even though it was a scorching hot day, we did decide to stop there.  The wall where we tied up had big bollards, for much bigger boats to use.  We waded through a grassy field, across the road, and into the Fonda County Park.  Dan and I got in free, because he is a veteran!  We enjoyed the fair, pretty typical for those types of events.  We walked through, looking at the exhibits and doing some interesting people watching (do the same people go from fair to fair?!).  We munched on some pizza, watched a cow and her newly born calf, talked to an owner of a dairy farm.  We spent some time in the cow barn – Dan’s kids were members of Future Farmers of America (FFA) in California, and he has fond memories of their animals and their relationship with them.  My favorite sight in the fair was a young girl (about 12), lying with her head propped on her heifer.  She smiled and nodded yes that I could take her picture.

coming into a lock

lock is about to open 

We will tie up here to go to the fair

the dam next to a lock

canal maintenance facility

the fair was in the town of Fonda

sand sculpture

sweet young girl and her calf

farm equipment at the Fair

items for sale at the fair

talented sand sculptor at the Fair

After we had enough of the fair, we got back to the boat and were underway again.  We reached Lock 13 about 5:30 p.m., well before what we thought was closing time (9:00 p.m.).  However, we got no answer on the radio.  Well, nothing else to do but tie up for the night and wait for the morning opening.  There was a very nice roadside welcome center on the adjacent property.  The folks there didn’t know anything about an early closing.  No matter, we are self contained with water, batteries to run essential equipment, and a generator if we must have air conditioning.  
We had a peaceful night, regardless of the trains that came by regularly throughout the night.

we wait for Lock 13 to open!

One note about the canal – most of the way, there has been a busy train track running on the north side of the canal and one highway or another on the left side.  Interesting, with three types of transportation all within 100 yards of each other!
As we went through the lock the next morning, the tender explained that they are experiencing budget issues and so had started closing the locks at 5:00.  Some lock employees have been laid off.  We may have missed a Notice to Mariners about the change.  Now we know!  We don’t normally want to travel after about 4 or 5 o’clock, anyway.
Our third day on the canal had some of the prettiest and less occupied sections of the canal so far.  It was so peaceful and lovely, just chugging along.  Ironically, that day we had at least one, sometimes two other boats going through the locks with us!
The tender at number 14 told us that there is a good grocery store in Palentine, at that lock.  We were able to tie up after locking through. I got out my trusty red wagon, walked through another field, on down the road. As we left the boat, there was a sign that indicated there was a NAPA store in the opposite direction of the store.  So, Dan walked to NAPA, and I went to the grocery store.  It was a blistering hot day in the sun, and the grocery store wasn’t that far (probably a mile) – but, oh my, I was a pile of sweaty clothes when I got there.  I took as much time as I could in the air conditioned store, was careful not to get more than I could comfortably pull in the wagon.  There was no fix for it – I started the trek back to the boat. I noticed when I left the store that there was a NAPA store right across the street!  We never imagined there would be two NAPA stores so close together.  I was really glad to see Dan coming to meet me.  I could let him haul the groceries the rest of the way!  Alas, that was not to be – there USED to be a NAPA store in the direction he walked, where the sign said it was.  It had moved some time ago to the location across from the grocery store.  So, Dan trudged off to the right location to get what he needed.  After I gathered myself, I walked back to the boat, not saying anything nice about the people who zoomed by this old lady pulling a wagon on a very hot day. I thought I was going to have a heat stroke.  As soon as I got back, put the groceries away, I jumped into the shower and wasted some water to get cooled down.
Having recovered from our hot walk, we continued on through locks 15, 16, 17, and 18.  Lock 17 was the highest lock in the system, at 40-1/2 feet!  When it was installed, it was the highest lock in the world.  It replaced 5 locks on the old Erie Canal.  That was pretty amazing!  After lock 18, we stopped at the Iliom Village Marina.  It was one of the cheapest stops in recent weeks, at $1 per foot and no extra charge for electricity.  Dan visited the nearby Remington Museum, while I did some work and some reading at the boat.  We stayed in for the night, and took advantage of the on-site café, which had ice cream and hamburgers!  This marina is also a campground, with some nice people staying there and several dogs.  We were able to get our ‘dog fix’.  Wow, do we miss our Max! 
Our fourth day on the Canal, we went through locks 19 through 22, which took us to the eastern shore of Lake Oneida.  We were able to tie up at the Sylvan Beach wall (free!).  It was another really hot day, and by the time we were tied up and secure, I was so hot and miserable that I thought seriously about just jumping in the water, clothes and all.  I had hoped to go swimming at the beach, but the beach was some distance away and I just had no energy left to get there.  Instead, we headed to the restaurant just a few yards away.  I didn’t even care if I ate at that point – I just wanted some of their air conditioning!  We did have some wine and a nice dinner, and then turned in for the night.  Even though it had been really hot in the day, it did get cool enough to sleep – especially with my little 12 volt fan pointed right at me.  Dan doesn’t get as hot as I do, and he doesn’t like a fan blowing on him – so, I just hogged all that nice air to myself!
The next part of the journey took us across the 20 mile long Lake Oneida.  We had read that the lake could get rough, especially on the east end with west winds prevailing.  Luckily, the wind when we started was from the south, and we had a delightful cruise across the lake to the Brewerton Boat Yard.  We will be here for 3 to 4 days while Dan gets some maintenance done and I attempt to get all my pictures posted to the blog!

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