Some 350 miles, 35 locks and 15 lift bridges later, we finally made it across New York State to reach Lake Erie. The historic Erie Canal that was quite the feat over 100 years ago when it was built does make for a few interesting stops along the way. But when you are eager to get home, it is a long, long haul at 6 knots.Our first day ended at the town of Amsterdam, that has a short wall to tie up to, but the city layout clearly dates back to the days when the canal and adjacent railway were critical for the economy, so they have a rather limited access to the town from the waterfront park. However, we were lucky to pull in on a night with a live band playing 80’s hits. As the band was setting up, they kept blowing the electrical circuits, so they wandered over to our boat to ask if I had an adapter that they could use to connect to the 30 amp shore power pedestal close to the stage. I found mine, and 10 minutes later I returned from the shower to find out the band had brought Chrissy and I beer for helping them out and were already starting to play.
If I were to do the canal again, I would be sure to stop here again primarily for Dan’s Backyard BBQ restaurant. In our mind this was far better quality and value than a popular ‘American Style’ restaurant in Manhattan. Plus, Dan recognized us as the ones who had provided the adapter to get the band up and running, so we got a free round of drinks.
A couple more days on the canal brought us to Sylvan Beach at the eastern end of Lake Oneida. A popular beach town in the summer. The day we arrived here was the day we decided it made little sense to push on 10 hours a day and slowed our progress to a slightly more enjoyable pace.
Our 45′ foot powerboat tied up at Sylvan Beach….
A couple days later we met another cruising couple on a Catalina and enjoyed drinks and appetizers at the Lock 24 pub and continued socializing later into the evening on their boat. He has an electrical engineering job and is able to work several hours a day on the boat. Very cool.
The award for the best arrival reception clearly goes to the town of Lyons. A retired teacher, Bob, gave us a fantastic welcome. Little did we know when we decided to stop that this was once the peppermint growing capital of the world, and that their annual festival was just starting. With Bob’s directions we found a band playing in the park, and enjoyed sausages from the fire departments fundraiser bbq.
The next morning I set off for a walk with Magnus and ran into Bob, who gave me a crash course in the town history, showed me where the museum was and the route of the canal that preceded the current one. He even took my photo at one of the murals in town that depicts part of the canal history and emailed it to us later on!
And another of us clearing through the lock a couple hours later after we had done some grocery shopping. With Bob welcoming cruisers, Lyons is likely going to continue to see its annual boater visits increase.
Further along, a large part of the canal is actually above the surrounding land. It makes for interesting perspectives in places, but unfortunately it is hard to find a good spot to take a photo to really demonstrate.
Fairport is a popular stop on the canal, and we ended up staying two nights as we had been on the go for 10 days since we left Manhattan and really needed a day off. It is a quaint town on the outskirts of Rochester and also draws a lot of visitors by land.
Medina, is a small town that we passed through where the canal is actually a few stories above the land to the north as you come around the bend.
The Erie canal, lots of low rail bridges and of course locks.
Finally, on our 11th day since we started the Erie canal we were in the final locks in Lockport. The only double pair on the canal. I think we both felt the same way.
The original locks in Lockport (on the left) have actually been preserved as part of the history. The earlier canal used 5 locks to make the climb, compared to the current pair.
We stopped in Tonawanda to crane the mast back up and the process went well and I had the rig tuned, and all the mast lights and electronics rewired and tested a few hours later. The next morning, we put the sails on and got the boat reorganized to leave, but unfortunately not soon enough.
When we cruise through the US, we have a cruising permit and we have to phone in to the local authorities when we change areas. In some places, like Maryland or North Carolina you just report in when you arrive in the state, which is reasonable. Even when we were in Manhattan, the agent indicated we were all set until we reached a certain town at which point we were in a different jurisdiction. However, in upstate New York, we were instructed to phone in every time we moved. So much for being part of the Nexus, trusted traveller program. Anyhow, we complied even though on multiple occasions the agent often hadn’t heard of the towns along the canal that we stopped in.
The frustrating case, was when the customs/immigration pulled along side in their boat the morning we were preparing to leave. I expect the occasional stop like this as we are in a Canadian vessel (inspections are part of boating in a foreign country), but the arrogance and rudeness of one of the agents was completely uncalled for. Not to mention they didn’t even have adequate fenders to protect our hull, so we had to quickly move one of ours to prevent them from scratching our boat.
We politely answered their questions, and when asked I retrieved our papers. I have all our passports, registration, radio license, clearances and dog papers in one zip-loc, so I asked which ones he wanted to which he snapped back that he would find what he needed. Moments later, I was informed I hadn’t provided the clearance into the US and partly implied we might be illegally in the country. The paper he was looking for was actually the 2nd in the stack I provided, right behind our cruising permit and in front of Altera’s registration. Peculiar how one can be so arrogant yet not recognize one of the main standard forms that is part of his job. No doubt a Trump supporter. Anyway, one of the other agents was quite pleasant and Chrissy had a nice conversation with him while I bit my tongue and kept on being pleasant and patient with the clown.
Unfortunate to end our stay in the US on such a negative note, considering how many other great Americans and officials we had met over the past month, in Puerto Rico and boaters in the Caribbean.
The final bridge on the Niagara river before reaching Lake Erie.
So, yes, our arrival in Canada that evening in Port Colborne couldn’t have come at a better time.