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Old 05-15-2019, 06:47 AM   #1
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Erie Canal conundrum

I have a problem to deal with and am trying to consider all my options. I'd appreciate any input.


My wife and I bought a 44 foot boat in MI that is being delivered by a paid Captain to Erie, PA on this Saturday, May 18. We need to get it from Erie to Hampton, NH where we have a slip for it. We were hoping to take the Erie Canal east to the Hudson River and then cruise south around NYC and up LI sound etc. to get it home. Most of this trip would be new cruising area to us and it's the shortest/fastest route home.



The Erie Canal is opening on May 17, but sections of it in the middle, the Oswego Canal, and the Champlain Canal will remain closed indefinitely due to flooding.



Option 1. Just head east on the Erie Canal and hope for the best:


We can make it as far east as lock 28A in Newark, NY (about 1/3 of the way) before we would hit the closed section. There are many options for free dockage west of lock 28A so we figure we could wait out the postponed opening on a free wall somewhere. We have a genset so power while nice, is not a necessity.


Option 2. Take Welland to Lake Ontario and hope the Oswego Canal and the Erie Canal east of it open up soon.



We could wait out the opening either on a free wall or at some anchorage.



Option 3. Take Welland to Lake Ontario to St Lawrence River to Chambly Canal to Lake Champlain and hope Champlain Canal opens.



We don't speak French, don't have a good mobile data plan in Canada, and are not sure the Chambly will be open when we get there. Big portions of this route would be repeats for us and we were hoping to cruise somewhere new on this trip...



Option 4. Leave boat in a slip in Erie, PA until we know we can take the Erie Canal the whole way to the Hudson River.



This would likely cost quite a bit and would not be any fun.


We are leaning toward option 1, but are worried that there will be no place to dock due to lots of other folks doing the same thing. We have no idea how crowded the Erie Canal will be this time of year.



Any advice? We don't have a hard time constraint, but would prefer to have the boat home by June 6 for convenience, so the shortest/fastest route would be ideal.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:00 AM   #2
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You will have no problem with dockage west of Lyons where the canal is currently closed. Most boats on the canal this time of year will be heading west, not east, and most of the bigger boats have to jump off at the Oswego canal due to height restrictions. Newark is a great port with free dockage, electric, wifi and even free laundry. Before Newark you have Pittsford, Fairport, and Palmyra as options, all great stops with services. You should have no problem waiting out the closure.
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Old 05-15-2019, 07:01 AM   #3
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You should not worry too much about not being bilingual, a lot of people speak English up here.

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Old 05-15-2019, 07:09 AM   #4
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The first question I would ask is will your boat fit under the fixed bridges on the western Erie canal?
I think they are 15 foot clearance and if the water is high after it opens it would be less.
And there is a 17 foot bridge on the Champlain that I cleared by 2 inches several years ago (2013) when t was flooded but open.
Oswego and eastern Erie are 19 ft.

I'm sure you thought of this but just asking the question that might limit options.

If it were me I think I'd go for the Oswego/eastern Erie route and hope the canals would be open.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:43 AM   #5
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The first question I would ask is will your boat fit under the fixed bridges on the western Erie canal?
I think they are 15 foot clearance and if the water is high after it opens it would be less.
And there is a 17 foot bridge on the Champlain that I cleared by 2 inches several years ago (2013) when t was flooded but open.
Oswego and eastern Erie are 19 ft.

I'm sure you thought of this but just asking the question that might limit options.

If it were me I think I'd go for the Oswego/eastern Erie route and hope the canals would be open.

Thanks for the info. The boat has already done the entire Erie Canal so I know it fits. It supposedly has 14'9" of air draft. If I need to remove the radar antenna, radar arch, and the bimini to get under a low (due to high water) bridge, I can do that as there's a comprehensive set of tools on board. I think the radar antenna alone would improve clearance by nearly a foot.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:48 AM   #6
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You should not worry too much about not being bilingual, a lot of people speak English up here.

L

We've never had a problem in Quebec before, but If we get stuck there for days, not speaking French will add to our stress level...



FWIW, We do plan to learn French and Spanish once we are cruising full time so that cruising in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean will be more fun.
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Old 05-15-2019, 08:50 AM   #7
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You will have no problem with dockage west of Lyons where the canal is currently closed. Most boats on the canal this time of year will be heading west, not east, and most of the bigger boats have to jump off at the Oswego canal due to height restrictions. Newark is a great port with free dockage, electric, wifi and even free laundry. Before Newark you have Pittsford, Fairport, and Palmyra as options, all great stops with services. You should have no problem waiting out the closure.

This is excellent information and exactly what I was hoping to read. I had a feeling we'd be going against the flow of cruisers, but was not sure. Thanks!
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:16 AM   #8
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Old 05-15-2019, 09:25 AM   #9
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Look into trucking around the closed section.
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:33 AM   #10
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If it were me I would start E on the Erie and come as far as possible. Newark is a great stop and you should be able to check availability ahead ht calling chamber of commerce. Their volunteers handle the docking and are generally very helpful. They have all the services you need there.
I have been stranded a couple times and the worst section is Lk 24 to 25 thru Montezuma. When the closure has been lengthy they have done "escorted" trips thru that section to make sure no wake is observed. If Newark is full on the power (N) side they have a good wall on the S side but no power. If you call ahead and they are full (not likely this time of year) you have other good options a little W of there at Fairport and Pittsford.., both w power and good services.
If you do consider trucking I can provide a very good trucked in the area that I have used and has great reviews.
My Bacchus website has link to Erie Lock phone # list and some cruising notes for the Erie.
Lastly if you need any / more specific info or need a hand for anything PM me and I can provide contact info. I'm not that far away and can provide info or assist.
Lk Ont isn't a great alternative in my mind as they are experiencing hi water levels and some marinas may be experiencing issues.
Best of luck... keep us posted w your decision and progress.
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Old 05-15-2019, 11:00 AM   #11
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We have had a lot of snow and rain this year, but it eventually goes down. I would stick to the Erie, up to you if you want to hang out and wait or leave it at its current location until it fully opens. Be patient and it will be a GREAT trip, wish you all the best.
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Old 05-15-2019, 11:33 AM   #12
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I was watching the local (Fairport NY) news last night. They are saying the peak Lake O level will occur in early June. Many waterfront homes have been sandbagged. We are 1/2 foot less than the very significant 2017 flood level right now.
A North wind will be highly unwelcome for the next 3 weeks.

If you need food and water, I'll be living just 200 yards from the canal.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:55 PM   #13
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Dave
If it were me I would start E on the Erie and come as far as possible. Newark is a great stop and you should be able to check availability ahead ht calling chamber of commerce. Their volunteers handle the docking and are generally very helpful. They have all the services you need there.
I have been stranded a couple times and the worst section is Lk 24 to 25 thru Montezuma. When the closure has been lengthy they have done "escorted" trips thru that section to make sure no wake is observed. If Newark is full on the power (N) side they have a good wall on the S side but no power. If you call ahead and they are full (not likely this time of year) you have other good options a little W of there at Fairport and Pittsford.., both w power and good services.
If you do consider trucking I can provide a very good trucked in the area that I have used and has great reviews.
My Bacchus website has link to Erie Lock phone # list and some cruising notes for the Erie.
Lastly if you need any / more specific info or need a hand for anything PM me and I can provide contact info. I'm not that far away and can provide info or assist.
Lk Ont isn't a great alternative in my mind as they are experiencing hi water levels and some marinas may be experiencing issues.
Best of luck... keep us posted w your decision and progress.

Great info, thanks!
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Old 05-15-2019, 01:43 PM   #14
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Advice:

1-Call the Canal Corporation and discuss including what you might or might not be allowed to do. In reading the latest, it appears while some sections may not officially open, they may let you go on through just with little expectation of marinas or services. The term "open" does not always mean that there is zero traffic allowed in the other areas.

2-You MUST know your air draft with the current setup and with equipment removed. Do not start this trip without measuring and knowing. The time to figure it out is not as you sit near a bridge and then trying to remove equipment there. Get under the level needed before actually entering the canal. Keep in mind too that the high water levels will reduce the clearance significantly.

3-The Welland/Oswego route only makes sense if you want to see Lake Ontario or if your air draft is too much. If your air draft is excessive, then that's your only choice.

4-When the Canal opens you can call lockmasters and get very good information.

5-Once knowing my air draft and the current state of affairs, I'd head toward the Canal. You can at least get to Buffalo and beyond and some nice marinas at the western end of the canal which you could then reach and make more decisions by getting the latest information. Worst case you stay docked there a while instead of Erie. More likely case you start making headway east. It is not at all unusual to have a partial opening like being done this year.

You still have some preparation to do. I'll reiterated that you cannot start without knowing your draft. You do not know the circumstances in which the boat previously came through.
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Old 05-15-2019, 03:21 PM   #15
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If your time is flexible, I'd go for option 1 and make an adventure out of it. I doubt you will be stuck for long, and if you are, well, it's an adventure, right?
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Old 05-15-2019, 04:03 PM   #16
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If your time is flexible, I'd go for option 1 and make an adventure out of it. I doubt you will be stuck for long, and if you are, well, it's an adventure, right?

Yup, that's pretty much been our feeling all along, just doing our due diligence...
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Old 05-15-2019, 10:32 PM   #17
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I'd choose option 1. For option 2 if you have time to kill at the eastern end of Lake Ontario head down to the Thousand Islands. Lots of clean uncrowded anchorages and parks and a few interesting towns.
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Old 05-16-2019, 05:36 AM   #18
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I'd go with option 1 or 4. Lake Champlain is over its banks and there's only two places for the water to go - North or South. Even when the canals open, there will possibly be a speed limit of a no wake in areas where there are homes and camps. Also remember there will be a lot of debris in the water.

This can be an awesome trip! Four years ago this weekend, we moved our new to us Mainship from Seneca Lake to the Hudson South of Albany. There were a lot of debris and the rivers/canals were high, but not as high as they are now.

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Old 05-16-2019, 06:59 AM   #19
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I'd choose option 1. For option 2 if you have time to kill at the eastern end of Lake Ontario head down to the Thousand Islands. Lots of clean uncrowded anchorages and parks and a few interesting towns.

Thanks. We have extensive experience in 1000 Islands and the St Lawrence River as far east as Montreal. It is beautiful, but we were hoping to cruise somewhere new to us on this trip.
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Old 05-16-2019, 07:06 AM   #20
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I'd go with option 1 or 4. Lake Champlain is over its banks and there's only two places for the water to go - North or South. Even when the canals open, there will possibly be a speed limit of a no wake in areas where there are homes and camps. Also remember there will be a lot of debris in the water.

This can be an awesome trip! Four years ago this weekend, we moved our new to us Mainship from Seneca Lake to the Hudson South of Albany. There were a lot of debris and the rivers/canals were high, but not as high as they are now.

Jim

Thanks for the info. WE have done Champlain/Champlain Canal/Hudson River from Canada to NYC before. It's an excellent cruising area but man, gotta be vigilant about flotsam... We were astounded by how devoid of traffic the Champlain Canal was, even in August. In our 24 lock-throughs down and back, we only shared the locks with other boats 3 times. The Rideau was vastly more crowded when we did that last Summer. I'm curious to see what the Erie will be like, crowd-wise.



FWIW, we had the Eisenhower and Snell locks to ourselves last Summer, that was weird to have such massive locks cycle for just one little boat.
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