Embracing the Erie Canal Ep. 70

Above, we transit the Erie Canal as it narrows to pass under a railroad bridge (complete with passing train!) and then right into a lock!

We have been in the Erie canal for five full days now and in the 152 miles we have traveled in the canal, we’ve experienced 22 locks for a total lift of 419 feet and a drop of 51 feet. The first 20 locks were all up-locks … we experienced our first down-locking at locks 21 and 22 to drop us down to the height of Oneida Lake. The highest lift in a single lock was 40 feet and this lock (lock E-17) had so much water flowing into it that the boats were only allowed to secure themselves against the southern wall. The water flow from north to south as the chamber fills is so significant that boats are not able to hold themselves against the north wall.

Here are a couple time-lapse videos of our transiting the locks. The first is the ‘Waterford Flight’ – the series of five locks that lift you a total of 159 feet as you travel a distance of only 1.5 miles. The second is from ‘Lock 21’ – the first lock where we started with the chamber full of water and, after the door closed behind us, the water drained out. This is called ‘down-locking’ and though it is MUCH more smooth, it is certainly freaky! All the sudden your boat starts going down into a big boxed-in space.

We are almost half way through the canal if we go to the end in Buffalo. We have learned more with each lock and with the ever-changing conditions. Tom recorded a ‘Tips to Locking’ video that we will soon be posting as a resource for fellow boaters.

On the wildlife front, we have seen two bald eagles in flight and in pursuit of prey – amazing. We have seen other great bird life – the blue cranes are a favorite! We have seen deer along the shores and I, unfortunately, also saw a dead fawn floating down the river – likely killed by getting into a lock and not being able to escape.

We celebrated Tom’s birthday in Scotia, NY and were treated to a water ski show! Turns out Scotia is home for the US Waterski Show Team and Tuesdays during the summer is their evening practice where they give townspeople a peak at the maneuvers they are working to perfect. Our boat was docked in the same waterfront park that their dock was located so we had a front-row seat.

With the weather cooling some, we thought it was about time to get our bikes out and explore the local trails. While biking near Scotia and Schenectady NY, we came upon the site of the old Barge Canal ‘Lock 23‘ which was much more narrow than the present-day system and mostly used by non-motorized barge traffic pulled along a tow path by mule or even by human power.

Today we had a couple surprises:

Number 1 – When I first awoke, I noticed a bunch of bugs that sort of looked like dragon flies outside on the (closed) hatch above my head. When I mentioned it to Tom he said, you ought to see the cockpit of our boat. Last night must have been hatching time for this particular insect. Every boat on the dock was covered with these things!! Even though it was raining, the hose was the best way to get rid of these critters!

… yes, all of those small black things are BUGS!

Number 2 – We ran [ever so gently] aground. We were approaching a section where both the southern and middle parts of the canal width were 3 to 6 feet deep and our boat draws 7 feet! As luck would have it, there was a road maintenance crew working under a bridge (and over the water) – RIGHT where we needed to be. We tried to skirt around them and meet both their needs and ours but, alas, we lost! Since we were moving very slowly, nothing really happened … we backed up, begged them to let us use the only deep water passage and made it through on our second attempt. We knew it would happen at some point … there are many reported shallow areas and this spring had record rainfall totals which caused small creeks to have heavier-than-normal flows that ultimately dropped lots of sediment into the creek/stream/canal/river confluence areas! We have to stay ultra-focused to avoid shallow water, debris, downed trees and stray limbs as well as the typical navigational details!  We find we are exhausted after a day underway and we long for open (and deep) waters.

After lock 21, the Erie Canal passed through the beautiful Sylvan Beach area and into and across Oneida Lake. It was wonderful to be in open water! We just wished we could put our sails up! Here are some shots of Sylvan Beach and the lake …

We spent a couple days at home to attend the parent portion of our son’s college orientation. It was great to see him and our dog, Journey. Back to the boat tomorrow and on to experiencing the rest of the Erie Canal!

2 Replies to “Embracing the Erie Canal Ep. 70”

  1. Happy Birthday Tom! What a great way to spend your special day,
    Five days of walls, no wonder you are excited about seeing the open waters. Continue having a safe and enjoyable time sailing.
    Thanks for sharing!

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