Welland Canal

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Mac G

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2022
Messages
190
Am asking this question way early because we are currently hauled and winterized, but my wife and I want to cruise our GB 42 from New England up into the Great Lakes.
In 1978 I helped deliver a racing sailboat up thru the Erie Canal to Lake Erie and eventually on up to the Mackinac Races so have some limited experience with locks, but that was long ago.
I understand our GB won't be able to take that canal all the way to Buffalo and that we will need to detour thru Lake Ontario and then up thru the Welland.
Read the Welland guide wherein three (3) persons are required for upbound transit whereas only two (2) for downbound, right?
And read that upbound the third person (minimum) is required so someone can remain on the helm.
Okay. Why? And what can I expect?
Is it because the incoming water pushes the vessel around and you need to counter that with your own power?
Looking for advice on what to expect and how to properly man the helm so as to not screw up.
Will get another couple to join us for that leg so will have the minimum.
Looking for war stories and advice from those who have done this before.
Thank you
 
welland canal is a rise of somewhere in the neighborhood of 135' over 8 locks.. I have been though there several times, but always with commercial tugs and sometimes tows.. I'm not sure of the procedure for yachts, but I suspect they will put you in the que with a tug, rather than a ship.....
 
Personally I would take the TSW instead of the Welland Canal. The TSW is awesome. You come out in Georgian Bay and have lots of choices on routes from there. Also no commercial traffic except some boat rentals.
 
Are you sure the GB 42 will not get down low enough. I saw nothing under 16'. My boat lists at 21' and I got it down to 13.5'
Trent Severn is a better bet for cruising.
 
You may not be able to do the western end of the Erie Canal due to air draft but you can take the Erie to the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario. Cross into Canada and take the TSW to Georgian Bay. Beautiful, great trip through the TSW.
 
We specifically want to visit Lake Erie on our way upbound. Want to visit all five lakes plus Lake St Clair on our way north.
Did a lot of sailboat racing there years ago.
Am familiar with the islands in her western end and want to visit those again too.
So skipping the Welland, at least on this first trip, is not an option.
Thanks
 
Ok, but the TSW is one of my favorite places to cruise. You need to do it sometime.
 
go Lake Erie on the return. Upbound its 375 miles against the prevailing winds and currents. You will save days and hundreds of dollars in fuel.
If you can get the height down, the Western Erie Canal should not be missed.
 
I've gone through the Welland both ways. I think they require three because there may be more turbulence in the lock chamber going up.

The most difficult part of the process is keeping the boat parallel with the wall during the lift Staff drop two nylon lines down, and you are expected to hold them bow and stern, but when they're hanging 50 feet down it's hard to get any leverage. Thrusters make it easy, and there is no requirement to shut off engines, so you can use them as well if needed. The rest is easy. Show up on the morning you're booked and follow instructions.

I agree with earlier comments on air draft. Lots of folks have done the Erie through to Buffalo with sisterships.
 
welland canal is a rise of somewhere in the neighborhood of 135' over 8 locks.. I have been though there several times, but always with commercial tugs and sometimes tows.. I'm not sure of the procedure for yachts, but I suspect they will put you in the que with a tug, rather than a ship.....

They actually schedule dedicated pleasure boat passages. So you'll likely be in company with other yachts, and they designate one as the lead. There are 3-4 passages per week.
 
Three adults are required upbound, and you will probably want 4. Turbulence from filling the locks can bounce the boat around pretty good. It might be easier on a trawler (I went through both directions on my sailboat). We had 4 and were glad of it. Fenderboards outside of the fenders would have been useful. Downbound is easy, only 2 required and only 2 needed.

I was advised to enter late in the evening, as you were much more likely to be alone in the lock, which we were when upbound. Downbound we were on a schedule and arrived in the morning, had to go through with several other recreational boats, all driven by drunken yahoos. So if there is a next time I might stick to the middle of the night idea. If you are in with other boats, and you have the larger boat, you are on the wall and there may be several boats rafted to you, so now you are controlling lines for all of them.
 
That is good advice DDW.
Thank you
Have fenders, but had not thought of fenderboards.
Would prefer to avoid drunken yahoos so evening sounds better.
 
If you could / would consider doing the Lk Erie route on the return and TSW unbound it would have some advantages. Different scenery and an easier time downtown thru the Welland.
Handling a link with "loose" lines is a bit tricky and harder with inbound turbulence.
Some training of crew can help. Never tie off but use of a "half wrap" on a cleat with the line provides better control as does walking the line across the beam to the side away from the wall provides at least a small increase in control.
 
go Lake Erie on the return. Upbound its 375 miles against the prevailing winds and currents. You will save days and hundreds of dollars in fuel.
If you can get the height down, the Western Erie Canal should not be missed.

I'll second that. Lake Erie may be a 3 day transit in ideal wind, but that is not a common stretch. There are regular inlets to hide in, but you may be there a while. Depends on your tolerance of course.
 
Air draft limit for the west end of the Erie Canal is 15.5 feet. If you can get under that, you have the option to go that way instead of the Welland. If you can fit, I'd probably do that on the way up to Lake Erie and then consider the Welland (or the Trent Severn) on the way back. That would let you see the widest variety of places (both the western Erie Canal and Lake Ontario).
 
That is good advice DDW.
Thank you
Have fenders, but had not thought of fenderboards.
Would prefer to avoid drunken yahoos so evening sounds better.
The problem with fenders is as the water filling the lock slams the boat against the very rough concrete side, the fenders can get pulled - hard - downwards. We had one crew at each end tending the lines, and two in the middle attempting to fend off and keep the fenders unstuck. If you have a fender board, just a rough 2x6 tied outside the fenders, this will slide up the wall much easier. I was advised to do this and didn't, but next time I will. Going down is without drama.

Lake Erie has the rep of being rough - it is shallow and the seas can be short period. Westbound, it was nearly calm and we motored the whole way. Eastbound, it was a southerly gale, getting across to the south shore involved about 8 foot waves on something like a 6 second period. Once we got to the southern (windward) shore, we had a very fast sail straight through to the Welland. It will definitely pay to have time to wait for weather, the basic mistake we made.
 
One of the other things to consider is if you have 'hard top' and especially a hard top covered sundeck, such as with my boat. We travelled 'up' the Welland when bringing our boat from New Jersey to Michigan. One of the best pieces of advice I received was from a man who 'hired' himself out to help short handed boaters. We had four on board so we didn't need him. His advise was to put finders on the outside of the hardtop over the sundeck. There is a LOT of turbulence in the locs and many times our fenders we put on the sundeck hardtop protected the top from getting hammered into the wall.
Also the comment earlier about trying to hold the poly line and boat close to the wall, when the line is 50 ft above you is spot on. very hard to get a good pull to keep the boat close and parallel to the wall.
 
For fenders in locks, I'm a fan of large ball fenders. They tend to slide better against rough lock walls than cylinders. Fender boards don't slide well in my opinion.



Generally we fender with a couple of large balls just above the water and a few smaller balls tucked up just below the gunwale. That keeps the boat far enough off the wall and also keeps us covered in locks that fill very close to the top (where the upper fenders will be above the wall at the top of the lift).
 
Okay. Will heed the advice of you experts and folks who have done this before.
We will modify our itinerary and take the TSW north and then return downbound via Lake Erie and the Welland.
That is better for my wife and I anyway as would rather not have to coordinate with another couple for assistance - we like to make things up as we go and go alone.
So are you all suggesting that downbound will be a piece of cake for two geezers (my wife and I) on a GB 42?
Please advise
Thank you
 
If you don’t absolutely love the TSW I will be amazed. It is awesome. Our dog absolutely loved the locks because the lock masters gave him treats. We would pull into a lock and he would start to drool.
 
Okay. Will heed the advice of you experts and folks who have done this before.
We will modify our itinerary and take the TSW north and then return downbound via Lake Erie and the Welland.
That is better for my wife and I anyway as would rather not have to coordinate with another couple for assistance - we like to make things up as we go and go alone.
So are you all suggesting that downbound will be a piece of cake for two geezers (my wife and I) on a GB 42?
Please advise

Good choice. Why not take the Erie Canal from Buffalo?
 
Want to experience the Welland, at least once.
Don't mind mingling with freighters.
But agree upbound and the requirement that we have crew does not sound appealing.
And you are all right, coming back downbound thru Lake Erie makes more sense as will have favorable current thru St Clair and Detroit rivers.
 
That sounds like a plan. If you have any questions about places to go around Lake Ontario on your way through feel free to reach out.
 
I think your modified plan is a good one. Prevailing winds on Lk Erie have a W component and tougher bucking that.

FYI my Bacchus website has a complete log of our 2019 TSW & Georgian Bay cruise with daily track, stops & pics. Canadian canal lock & mooring passes are discounted 5-10% if ordered before Mar 30... worth taking advantage of if you are sure you will make the trip.
You can also pay mooring each day and save receipts and they will honor annual $ as a max and not charge addnl but you won't get the discount if not ordered ahead.

Ask any ? About that section. Good luck you will live the TSW.
 
Downbound is dead easy. There is no turbulence in the lock, a couple of fingers pressed against the wall will keep you off (but of course use fenders). You still need to tend the lines forward and aft, but you are just easing them as the water falls. Very different than upbound. I couple of geezers shouldn't have any problems or drama.

One thing you do have to be vigilant on down bound is to make sure that the line they hand you doesn't get tangled. It is normal to pass it around one horn of a cleat and hold the other end, paying it out as the water falls. If the coil is not free to run and you can't pay it out at some point, the water will continue fall and something on your boat will give way. It all happens slowly, you just have to be thinking ahead and observing the free end of the line is still free.
 
Agree on traversing down the St Clair and Detroit Rivers. I haven’t been on the Detroit River for about 40 years but we brought our current boat up the St Clair River and there was about a 4 mph current that we had to fight against. We were still making 22 mph up it but in a trawler it would have been pretty slow. By going west bound through the TSW you will be going down the St Clair and Detroit Rivers on the way back to Lake Erie. Going the other way is sorta like doing the Loop backwards up the rivers.
 
Downbound is dead easy. There is no turbulence in the lock, a couple of fingers pressed against the wall will keep you off (but of course use fenders). You still need to tend the lines forward and aft, but you are just easing them as the water falls. Very different than upbound. I couple of geezers shouldn't have any problems or drama.

One thing you do have to be vigilant on down bound is to make sure that the line they hand you doesn't get tangled. It is normal to pass it around one horn of a cleat and hold the other end, paying it out as the water falls. If the coil is not free to run and you can't pay it out at some point, the water will continue fall and something on your boat will give way. It all happens slowly, you just have to be thinking ahead and observing the free end of the line is still free.


Good point.
Do they give you enough time to pre-coil it up properly for paying out or do they just drop the line and start empying the water with no prep time?
 
You have time, it is a fairly slow process. When downbound you start with the operators looking at you at eye level, they will hand you a coil. The problem can occur when you put the coil on deck, as it is payed out it gets tangled on something. We kept a close eye and made sure there was 8 or 10 feet clearly free on the lazy end at any moment. That gives you 30 seconds or more to tend to it if it begins to get tangled.

Going down the St. Lawerence, some of the locks have a sliding float in the lock wall you tie off to. That was far easier to use, but of use only for small boats, and the locks were built for (and are paid for) by large ship transits.
 
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