How lucky are we that we are traveling during the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal! It took 8 years to build and it took us 8 days to traverse. There are 2 routes and due to our height we had to take the eastern route which would put us in Lake Ontario. The other route comes out around Buffalo on Lake Erie. What this means to all boaters on the Erie Canal this year is that all costs are free so we saved close to $200 in fees. Additionally, many towns are planning Canal Days celebrations.
Travel on the Erie Canal is slow due to speed limits and the amount of locks. We did 30 locks and a typical day was comprised of about 6 locks. This is “small town America”, for sure. There are no big marinas and the appeal is really having “no plan” and just stopping when you feel like it. Each town around the locks have walls with the ability to tie up your boat. Some of the walls have electric and water and others have none. Loopers love this part of the trip because not only are we not burning much fuel, we are not incurring marina charges. Some towns will have a payment system that could be something like $30 to cover the electric. Not only is it an enjoyable trip it is less costly!
What we enjoyed about the Erie Canal is that wherever we stopped we had instant friends because other Loopers were either already on the wall or they arrived after we got there. One day we were around Lock 14 and the town of Canajoharie (where?) and we tied up at the last place along the wall. Before we knew it other boats also were stopping there so we double rafted everyone up. A funny thing that happened is that the Lock Master for Lock 14 actually walked down to all of us to ask why no one was coming through his lock. Our answer was “We’re done for the day!”. Additionally, the local people commented that they had never seen so many boats there at one time and wanted to know what was going on. It was just “Docktails, of course”!
Some highlights of our trip: We started at Waterford and I read that we could go to the grocery store with our dinghy…..so we did! Then we put Jazzy in the dinghy and rode around for more fun on a beautiful day. At another stop we had a waterski show practicing right in front of us. You just never know! Another place that we stopped we toured the Remington Gun Museum which was really interesting. We almost got ourselves locked in, too! Additionally, there are bike trails all along the canal and we did take the time to explore with our bikes when we could.
Steve and I have actually done a lot of trips with locks, but the ones on the Erie were quite challenging. Nearly all are “locking up”. This means that the lock will fill with water and our boat rises. Sometimes the rush of water is quite turbulent. We were surprised how hard it was for us to control the catamaran. It is almost like working two boats due to both hulls. The water would rush under one and come back and hit the other one. We were caught off guard at first, but did get the hang of it as we progressed. Locking is not for the faint of heart and is more physical than you would think. As the boat rises you must pull the lines in. One moment you are under control and everything is fine and the next you are fighting with the lines and the boat! We watched our friends turn sideways as they were entering the lock. Another time they were descending and their line got locked around the cleat and she had to run for a knife to cut off the line. Their boat was raising up out of the water and this allowed them to be free. It was a scary situation and a reminder that anything can happen. It was definitely worthy of a shot at the end of the day!
We really enjoyed our travels on the Erie Canal. The scenery is beautiful and there is always a gem to find in the stops along the way. The journey can be done faster, but taking it slow allowed us to enjoy our time on this part of the Loop.
Our next leg of our journey will be done mostly alone without the other Loopers. Nearly everyone will be taking the Trent-Severn Waterway through Canada into Georgian Bay. We would love to do this, but Gypsies Palace is too wide. The maximum beam for their locks is 23 feet and we are 25 feet. So, we have to fondly wave good bye to our Looper friends until we join them in Georgian Bay from Lake Huron.
All of the faces and all of the places,wonderin’ where they all disappeared………Jimmy Buffett