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Old 05-07-2022, 08:10 AM   #1
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Cruising the New York Canal System

Seeking information on the topic. Any suggestions?

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Old 05-07-2022, 08:28 AM   #2
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https://www.canals.ny.gov/
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Old 05-07-2022, 08:54 AM   #3
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There's lots of information around. Do you have any specific aspects of the trip you're wondering about?
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Old 05-07-2022, 09:04 AM   #4
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There's lots of information around. Do you have any specific aspects of the trip you're wondering about?
.

Last year we ran the coast from Cape Cod to Bar Harbor. This year spouse would like to do the Erie canal. I am completely unfamiliar with the NY canal system and did a quick search on Amazon for a waterways guide for the area. Found a $15 publication on the canals but it's dated (2006).
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Old 05-07-2022, 09:09 AM   #5
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We found “Skipper Bobs” guide for the NY canals useful and up to date.
A couple tips:
Rig fenders for both sides. Occasionally the lock master will have you tie on the opposite side than you prefer. It just saves time.
If you tie up to a lock wall overnight, choose the high side. You get a rude awakening when they open the dam gates at 3am!
We prefer to lock using “pipes” or “cables”. Very easy to control the boat.
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Old 05-07-2022, 09:10 AM   #6
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The Canals website psneeld linked has a good bit of info that's helpful for planning (speed limits, distance between locks, locations of town docks, marinas, etc.). Active Captain has some good reviews on a bunch of the potential stopping points as well. Pay attention to the bridge clearance information on the Canals website as well.

As far as planning running time between locations, I generally calculate as an average speed of 6 kts. We run between 6.5 and 7 kts at slow cruise, but assume an average of 6 in the canals to account for areas with docks and other no wake zones that require slowing down more. I typically figure 20 minutes per lock when calculating. That usually gets us pretty close to real-world travel time.

The Skipper Bob's canal guide has some decent info, although I can't say I've really gotten a lot out of my copy that some searching around online wouldn't provide.

For doing the locks, I like the big round fenders. They slide well on the lock walls if there are rough spots and it keeps the lock slime off the nice set of fenders. I generally fender with 12" balls just below the rub rail and 18" balls just above the water. That avoids needing to adjust in locks that fill close to the top (putting the rub rail well above the wall). It works well for overnighting against walls as well. Typically we just leave the fenders down the whole time in the canals.

You'll also want at least 2 boat hooks on board and good, heavy gloves for everyone while in the locks.
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Old 05-07-2022, 10:23 AM   #7
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My Bacchus website (linked in Signature) has a Cruising Notes section with a few NY Canal links. What is the extent/time of your cruise on the NY Canals?
If you get to the Finger Lakes we home port on NE side of Seneca Lk - Watkins Glenn at S end. I'm a Port Capt for the Finger Lakes & Mid to Western NY Canals so let me know if I can help.

NY Locks are NOT standardized so you need to be prepared for different tie up arrangements. Some cables (fixed top & bot), some recessed pipes, some just ropes hanging down from top of lock wall. All locks have ladders at the ends of the lock and can be handy to run lines around and for boat hook to pull yourself in. Use of ladders requires you to move lines up / down as level changes to catch a convenient rung.

Ropes are the least secure but pretty common. If wind or current (going up lock) are troublesome get used to walking the rope towards the center or opposite side of your boat to create a side force to pull you back into the wall. Also taking a "half wrap" around one horn of a cleat help maintain more force to control the boat - DO NOT tie off to a cleat and be careful when you get to the bottom of the rope - I & others have experienced short ropes and had the bottom weight hang up on a cleat making quick action necessary!! Best to carry or have a sharp stout knife handy for anyone tending lines. I have seen situations where it was necessary to cut a rope and wouldn't hesitate to do it if necessary.

In some locks you may be able to get one fixed cable and have to use a rope for the other end. I like to try to judge wind direction going into the lock and tie the windward end to a fixed cable, pipe or ladder and let the leeward end take a rope.
Also be aware that a wind from say Port side to Stbd side will move you in that direction at the top of the lock but frequently will have the opposite effect when at the bottom of the lock due to wind reflecting off the lock wall. All locks have a flag flying and is a useful visual aid of wind direction and speed.

I don't mean to scare you about the locks they are not hard to handle but being aware of some of the surprises you might encounter will make life a little easier. After you get a few lock under your belt they are pretty easy. The only challenge I warn folks about is the Waterford Flight will be your first introduction to NY Canals and has several locks closely spaced. Good to be prepared... If you stop at the bottom take a walk up and watch what other boaters are doing and plan what you think will work best for you. If I recall correctly the flight locks are pretty similar in arrangement and pretty easy unless winds add to the challenge.

Going up lock is easier than down in some respects - person at / near bow can grab a loose rope with a boat hook or pass a line around a pipe or cable. Sometimes / some boats its better to pick up a rope closer to mid-ship and walk it forward. When going down lock and approaching from the top the person at the bow can grab a rope but are really unable to do anything with fixed cable or pipe as they are too high. You may need to be flexible and experiment with different arrangements to find what works best for you/ your boat.
In most cases when locking we use mid ship and stern lines / cleats and normally don't bother with a bow line. I can generally reach cables / pipes from my mid ship helm door and my mate / admiral handles the stern - generally from tuna door & swim platform.

two boat hooks required IMOP and a spare in case one gets jammed & lost overboard is not a bad idea. Rigging both sides is a good idea even if you have a primary / preferred and do minimum rigging on the other side. If traffic is busy you may need to switch to the other side quickly. Good to contact other boats travelling with you to see what their preference & intentions are. Once you go through a lock together its just more of the same if you stay together and in the same order. Communication ahead of time helps all.
Good luck - it is an interesting and fun trip.

If I've confused you with any of the above or have additional questions let me know.
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Old 05-07-2022, 10:48 AM   #8
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The Canal authority used to publish a very helpful guide. You could get it from the site @psneeld linked to in post #2.

I couldn't find it there with a quick look. I know they stopped publishing during the pandemic. I wonder if they have totally given up on that. It would be a shame.
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Old 05-07-2022, 01:54 PM   #9
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Great info!
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Old 05-07-2022, 02:43 PM   #10
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We've done the canal a few times. There are some great places to tie up, some in towns, and some in the middle of nowhere. We like those remote locations.
Bring a couple of tent stakes if you have them. We used stakes exclusively a couple of times.

We usually did the towns on weekdays, and the remote locations weekends.

Take your time and enjoy a laid-back trip. You could spend several weeks in the system.
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Old 05-07-2022, 04:59 PM   #11
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I remember having the entire canal system to ourselves during the week.



Stay in a marina during the weekends.
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Old 05-07-2022, 06:19 PM   #12
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Stay in a marina during the weekends.
My take is that even that is not reqd. Just plan on getting to destination early and stay an extra day to explore & enjoy the stop.
Part of the attraction of the NY Canals are the towns walls.
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Old 05-07-2022, 08:25 PM   #13
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Seeking information on the topic. Any suggestions?

Scott

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The charts are dated ‘cus the canals haven’t changed! If u do the Western Erie (which is a great trip with several free docks) you must be able to get your air draft done to 15’6” as there is a single railway fixed bridge at that height. Lock operators may be able to lower the pool up to a foot if you can wait up to a day and plead your case. It’s a great trip, lots of crowd sourced info on Active Captain.
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Old 05-08-2022, 06:26 AM   #14
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Appreciation

Thanks to everyone for their replies! Appreciate the advise and wisdom as always.

Scott

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Old 05-08-2022, 07:15 AM   #15
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We really enjoyed the towns on the western half of the canal and at the southern end of Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. Most of the towns on the canal have free or extremely lost cost sea walls to tie up two. Ithaca is at the southern end of Cayuga and has a nice state park marina. Watkins Glen is at the southern end of Seneca has a few marinas. Well worth taking extra time to be able to spend time on the two large lakes. Both lakes also have winery’s with docks that you can visit.

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Old 05-08-2022, 06:49 PM   #16
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The state park in Ithaca only takes advanced reservations for slips. If you just show up and are standing there in the office and they have empty slips, they'll still tell you no. You have to reserve at least a day in advance.
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Old 05-09-2022, 08:34 AM   #17
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The state park in Ithaca only takes advanced reservations for slips. If you just show up and are standing there in the office and they have empty slips, they'll still tell you no. You have to reserve at least a day in advance.
Yeah they can be a bit unaccommodating. Even using honey seems to be ineffectual sometimes.
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Old 05-11-2022, 06:06 AM   #18
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The state park in Ithaca only takes advanced reservations for slips. If you just show up and are standing there in the office and they have empty slips, they'll still tell you no. You have to reserve at least a day in advance.
That's a new one on me but I don't doubt that NYS would turn someone away when slips are available. When we first cruised Cayuga Lake and wanted to go there they would not accept a reservation... first come first served only.
We usually tried to call ahead to see what availability was and hope it didn't change before we arrived... that was if you could get them to answer the phone.
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Old 05-11-2022, 09:28 AM   #19
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That's a new one on me but I don't doubt that NYS would turn someone away when slips are available. When we first cruised Cayuga Lake and wanted to go there they would not accept a reservation... first come first served only.
We usually tried to call ahead to see what availability was and hope it didn't change before we arrived... that was if you could get them to answer the phone.
Happened to me. I went to launch my boat for a multi-day cruise on Cayuga and the Erie Canal at the state park in Ithaca. After I launched I discovered a problem that needed parts to resolve. Since it was late in afternoon I could not resolve the issue immediately. I went to the office to explain my problem and inquire about a slip. They said "Do you have a reservation?". I said "No". They said I had to go online and make one. The online reservation system cannot take same day reservations unless you make them early in the day (maybe). I told about the reservation issue (not same day) and they said sorry but they could not do anything without a reservation.

Ended up spending a night in a hotel and fixing the boat in the parking lot. The hotel had no problem with immediate online reservations.
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Old 05-11-2022, 01:22 PM   #20
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Scott, just to add, locks are not difficult with proper preparation and a little studying. Not sure if are sold on Lake Erie for some specific reason. Are you planning to go all the way to Lake Erie then turn around and return the same way? There is also a canal system to take you to Lake Champlain. Not as long as the Erie canal, but similar in some ways. Depending on what you are looking for. Lots of good boating in Lake Champlain. If you are really adventurous you could continue on into Canada and even make a "small" loop from Cape Cod to NYC, up the Hudson to Lake Champlain to Quebec and back down the coast to MA. Or go in the reverse direction. Something to think about.
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