June 30 –
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’