June 30 – July 3
We docked at the Waterford City Docks the night before venturing into the Erie Canal. Again, free dockage, but they do request a small voluntary donation, which we were happy to contribute, thinking back to the $125.00 per night in Key West. I guess it all evens out. It really is possible to anchor out more and take advantage of various free docks to substantially reduce the cost of cruising. With our 8kw generator, inverter, and 170 gallon water tank, we lack nothing when on our own. This was the first place where we had to pay to lock through the system. There are a few options for payment; we chose the 2-day pass for $20. Some of the bridges at the locks were very low; we find ourselves holding our breath much of the time when going under them. At one bridge where our antennas scraped the under side, the construction workers on top looked over to see what was making all the racket. First mate, on the bow watching the clearance, assured them it was only the antennas. Some of the lock walls are badly in need of repair. We have found lockmasters here to be friendly and helpful, and the help is necessary here because of the locking system used. Instead of the floating bollards, there are either lines, cables, or pipes to secure a line around, and from our height there is no good way to grab on without help. The lines are the worst; they’re free hanging, so it’s difficult to get and stay close to the wall. The lines take two people, one at the bow and one at the stern, so the Captain can’t sit and relax. We locked through 14 locks our first day in the Erie Canal. We remembered when we thought 4 locks in one day in the inland waterways was a big deal. We only had some difficulty with one of them, #8, again because of the current. This is our first time locking up, which is more troublesome because of the current caused by the water rushing into the lock to fill it up to raise us to the higher level. We’re glad we had the experience locking down first. Lock #17, at 40 feet, is the highest one in this system. It’s also one of the few this high left in the country with a lift gate instead of gates that open like doors. That, of course, means that when it’s raised to pass under, your whole boat gets wet from the water dripping off it. The fewer of these the better! The speed limit in the system was confusing. We had read that it was 10mph but did not see any postings. One lockmaster we questioned said they no longer time boats between locks to be sure they were adhering to a particular speed; we should just follow normal safe boating practices. Later in the system we were timed and told to slow down. Upon questioning, that lockmaster said that faster speed is acceptable in the eastern part of the canal where the canal and Mohawk River are one, but the western part is landlocked and slower speed is required to prevent erosion. The first night we docked at St. Johnsville Marina. Not much here, but some really friendly people who were very interested in our travels. We passed a group of rock climbers who were practicing along the canal. We were impressed with the appearance of the lock areas all through the canal. Their colors are blue and yellow, and everything is freshly painted in those vibrant colors. There are beautiful flowerbeds and the grounds are well maintained at each of the locks, and some have parks where people picnic and watch the boats lock through. We met the head of this canal at an AGLCA rendezvous last year, who spoke of it with pride, and now we can see why. We spent our second night at Winter Harbor Marina in Brewerton. The next day we locked through #23, the last one for us in the Erie Canal. We would go into the Oswego Canal from here instead of continuing across the rest of this system to Buffalo, as some do. This is because of another low fixed bridge west of here near Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. In locks #1-20 we had locked up 420’, and then down to 363’ by #23.