FLORIDA TO NIAGARA
1949 Miles of 1,949
2258.5 Gallons of Diesel
36 Locks of 36
1949 Miles of 1,949
2258.5 Gallons of Diesel
36 Locks of 36
Goodbye Gasport, NY! Hello Tonawanda, NY but first we stop at Lockport, NY.
Lockport is of historical significance to the Erie Canal. It’s original flight of 5 locks has been refurbished complete with working lock doors and a working model of a packet boat. On Saturday mornings they run the packet boat through one lock of the original locks. We lock through our last locks of 34 and 35, a flight of 2, which are the updated locks to replace the original 5. The town itself is showing signs of bringing the lock area to life. Old buildings are now being remodeled for shops. The famous “Lake Effect” ice cream store with its artisan homemade ice cream is busy with a stream of people even on this cold, cloudy day. We, of course, stop for a cone. There is a cave tour, a Flight of 5 winery, and other shops close to the free terminal wall. Lockport is always a fun stop.
On the route to Tonawanda the speed limit slows to 5 mph due to the amount of homes, dock and boats along the shores. It’s a slow go from Lockport but familiar territory. Tonawanda is the terminus of the Erie Canal where it enters the Niagara River. From here most boats will take the Black Rock Canal alongside the Niagara River to Lake Erie. There is 1 lock on Black Rock Canal which is about 2 feet usually. It’s a leveling lock. Tonawanda offers a grocery store, liquor store, restaurants, a renowned and refurbished old theater, The Riviera, antique shops, and bars. Wednesday nights are concert night. A good spot to provision for the journey on Lake Erie. This is our last stop.
We leave Conductance on the terminal wall, pack up, and batten down and wait for the ride home to the dirt. We will be back tomorrow to pick her up and take her back to Canada.
Today ends our journey. After 6 weeks and 2 days we are back at home. Seeing all the kids and our furbaby. Amy has done a fantastic job keeping the house, Aiden and Newton in routine. We cannot thank her enough for all the sacrifices she has made to keep the crazy schedule of a teenage boy and his activities. Steve kept the office running. HIs help made us feel secure knowing that the building and tenants are taken care of the way we would. Aiden kept up his side of the deal by staying in the honour’s category at school and not driving his sister too crazy. Thanks to the most amazing children!
We were leaving Holley when we realized that the lift bridge operator was not at this bridge. She operates 2 bridges 3 miles apart and was at the other bridge helping a boat through. We should have coordinated with a time prior to getting ready. Lift bridges are plenty from Brockport NY through to Tonawanda. You will have to recognize that 1 operator can run 2 bridges and jumps between them accordingly. Usually they know you are coming.
We are headed towards Gasport, NY. It’s about a 4-5 hour run from Holley to Gasport. It’s a canal setting with farms below the canal. Grape, wheat, soy farmers are here. It starts to rain and it is cool today. Canvas goes up and we are in sweaters. Again, it’s June 26th and this is unseasonable cool.
The tiny town of Gasport, NY has some welcome surprises waiting for us. The terminal wall has a few 30 amp plugs but no water or amenities. We’re fine with that as this is our last night officially on our tour. The little town has a well stocked ACE Hardware. Very reasonably priced as well. They offer a year round Christmas store inside the hardware store on the upper level. There is a full supplied pet store. The laundromat is about a 2 minute walk from the terminal wall. A dollar store is about a 10 minute walk. A long standing restaurant/bar is a stone’s throw away. The setting along the bank of the terminal wall is all park with benches and picnic tables.
We wandered around the town for the afternoon and then headed back to the boat to escape the rain and cold wind.
It was another long 4 hours to Holley NY today. It’s not that it’s a bad ride. It’s just that after that many hours of 10 mph and getting only about 25-30 miles you start to zone out to the surroundings. It all looks the same. A canal richly edged in green trees and foliage. The odd house pokes through the leaves. We did pass by Brockport, NY with its mystical sculpture on their free city wall. I don’t remember what it represents but it has been there for years.
The canal itself is on higher ground that its surroundings in these parts. The original canal was made larger and the walls wider but the canal itself sits on a hill with houses below. The towpath has a jogger, bicyclist or someone walking their dog. The serenity of the area is something to embrace. We can embrace all that when we get to our destinations.
Coming into Holley, NY the city wall offers free power and water, pump out and a large par. Behind the park is a cascading waterfall that is supplied from the canal. It’s a spot to fish for pike and bass and small feeder fish. There are some short paths through the wooded area as well. The town is small and not much is open. There is a diner called “Sam’s” that offers an array of lunch and dinner choices. The favourite shopping spot, “Save a Lot” is now closed. A choice may be the gas station in town for some convenience items.
Scott loves this spot. It is a favourite on the western side of the Erie Canal. It offers some photo ops as well as some scenery. We ended up meeting with some friends from our marina on Grand Island, NY. They were on vacation on the canal so we coordinated schedules. The girls were fishing and caught a couple nice sized pike. We shared stories and memories over the course of the day. We haven’t seen them since leaving for Nashville a couple summers ago. It was a nice rendezvous. We do plan on getting together this summer on the island. Can’t wait to anchor at “the triangle”.
We only plan on traveling 6 miles today. We’re headed to Pittsford, NY on the wall. The sun is shining but rain is expected much later today. It’s a nice ride as we pass many rowing sculls practicing or learning to scull. Some fishermen are out this morning too.
We pass Bushnell’s Basin. We’ve always said we should stop here instead of Fairport but forget about this tiny gem that sits near a small town with restrooms, showers and restaurant nearby. The town is a short walk. We pass some rental boats that are available at a local marina to rent by the 3 – 4 day or weekly basis. No better way to see the history of this area and the small towns that were created due to the canal.
Pittsford, NY is an inviting town. Everything is very close. There are boutiques available directly at the water’s edge and city dock. It’s a free dock for 2 weeks at a time. Water and power are available. The setting is a park like setting on the south wall and a more busy town atmosphere on the north wall. The south has the power and water but nothing on the north side. There is a bike path that runs along the towpath of the old canal. It’s a great spot to jog, hike or bike ride. The old lock 62 has been refurbished. You can walk the 2 mile hike or take the bike for a beautiful ride along the canal. They cleaned out the canal bottom with hopes that a creek would fill it but the creek doesn’t have enough water to fill the area right now. Wildlife is everywhere along this area.
There are restaurants, ice cream shop (the best organic to be found), liquor and wine store and those boutiques I mentioned. There is a bike place as well where you can fix your bike up nicely or rent one for the path.
We’ll be heading to Apt Sea II’s place tonight. We haven’t seen them since our first time down the canal when we bought the boat. Rich and Lisa have asked us over for dinner. I hear that Mark is in town as well. We traveled with Apt Sea II with 3 brothers and a friend mechanic. We spent long 10 hour days in 90 degree heat traversing locks on our first voyages in our new to us boats and, as it turns out, made a friendship that withstands the distance and time between us. Scott learned about what a “smoker” can do for a beef dinner. I think I know my Christmas present already. Rich and Lisa made the best brisket we’ve ever tasted. We had lots of reminiscing and found out some new facts about both those trips down the Erie Canal all those years ago. Thanks so much for your generous hospitality and friendship. We really appreciated being included in your biannually family day.
Ohmmmmm…….we can’t get overly excited on this leg of the journey. It’s so slow. Remembering zen moments like this is why the Erie Canal western section is a complete decompression.
We are headed to Fairport NY today. To us this slow 6-9 mph is so boring. Sure you can decompress but what happens after you are decompressed…..boredom sets in. It’s a big deal that we have 2 locks today to wake us up. It is a beautiful passage though. Lots of trees and virgin forests line the canal. The old mule path has been converted to a bike path. You can travel along this bike path from Lock 26 all the way to Buffalo, a 100 mile trek. We’ve often thought of doing the bike ride along with the boat. I bet the bike would arrive faster than the boat.
The threatening rain and thick cloud make for a humid day. It only gets more humid as the day lingers on. Rain comes and goes throughout the afternoon but barely enough to get things wet. An almost 4 hour drive today to put in 20 miles from Newark, NY.
Arriving in Fairport there is barely room on the wall. Day tripping boats and local trawlers have decided to stay along the walls. We contemplate moving on to Pittsford, NY. The day tripping boats are lined by the electric and water and not using them. They are spaced out so that a larger boat traveling cannot dock between them. We decide to stay as a rental boat leaves. We plug in the power.
Fairport is a nice town with lots of shops, ice cream, convenience, and the best sausage around. We head over to Skip’s Meat Market to pick up some homemade sausage. Feta, spinach, red pepper sausage, Buffalo chedder sausage, artichoke, asiago, mushroom sausage, taco chedder and chicken salsa sausage. We may go back for more. There are so many different homemade types that we buy at least 6 different flavours.
The bridge here in Fairport is in the Guinness World Book Records. It is the only bridge that is higher on one end than the other, has no angles the same as another. There was a fixed bridge originally but when they widened the Erie Canal the businesses along the canal were fixed and buildings were already there. So they made this bridge to accommodate the incline. It’s noisy though. It won’t matter where you park your boat. The constant drone of the metal bridge and vibration of the tires is constant. It will die down at night but for the afternoon it’s just part of the charm of this tiny community.
As we pass through the refuge today the birds are out in full force. We can hear the sounds of osprey, robins and some others that we can’t identify. The area is just so green it seems fake. We continue past the refuge and still, the area is so green. More homes, boats and docks but not as many as in the past. We are able to do a whooping 9.2 mph. There are also 4 locks to get through.
Rounding our trip out today we stop in Newark, NY. This place has everything. Groceries, liquor store, free laundry, restrooms, showers, and even a well deserved haircut for Scott. The town boasts 8900 in population but for what it lacks in people it has in amenities. We also walk up to Sal’s ice cream and deli. At Sal’s, a popular spot for 18 years, you can find guitars, music store items, a deli, great ice cream and sundaes and of course, Sal. We were eating our ice creams and Sal decided to come out and talk to us. “Are you boat people?” Why yes, we are. So he continues that boat people wear sunglasses even if the sun isn’t shining. The girls usually wear sun visors and, boaters don’t have a car. He talks us up a storm about the city and where to go. He told us about some homes not far from his shop that have been around a long time and well kept. So after hearing about the history, the culture and some interesting tidbits of the city we head over to some old time houses. We were not disappointed. Beautiful old homes, kept up well with stunning grounds as well. I said the one house looks like its an Addam’s Family house done up nicely.
After our wandering around the town the laundry is calling. I haven’t done laundry since Shady Harbour so this is a 4 load day. Free laundry sponsored by the Town of Newark. It’s a welcome addition to the usual canal city docks. There is even free wifi. That’s a first. Scott feeds the human friendly fish that follow you when you walk the docks. As night rolled in Scott took some gorgeous photos of the area. This place has it all.
It rained most of the night and now it’s a chilly high of 72 today. There are some winds to keep a light jacket on. Someone needs to tell Mother Nature that it’s the middle of June.
We pass by a couple trailer camps along the way. Something we don’t see much of lately are cows wandering in the pasture. There are a couple grass fed farms. We find remnants of the old aquaduct from the first Erie Canal. This is where they built the canal over large bodies of water like the Seneca River that now forms the Erie Canal. The old aquaducts would be be the path for the boats to traverse the canal by mule and bypass large rivers. They are a sight to see as they are in ruins now but majestic none the less. You can see where the boats would travel on the top of the the gorgeous cement work.
Following our path west along the Erie Canal at an average speed of about 6 mph due to speed limits on the canal, we find that our time is going so very slow. It will take us about 4 hours to do 30 miles. Even though today we have the opportunity to go full speed in some of the areas we travel today, there are docks and boats in the water to consider so we have to slow down. Our average speed today ends up around 9 mph and 1 lock. We have decided to stay at Lock 25 on the terminal wall. It’s well manicured with grass cut and fresh paint for the lock. We’ll be staying at the western side of the lock. There is a long stretch to the east as well but passing through the lock makes it easy if we want to get moving prior to the opening of a new business day. There is no power or water.
This lock is smack in the middle of a wildlife refuge. The birds are abundant and singing away. There is a resident blue heron here that hangs on on the lock doors and catches fish caught when the waters go up and down. We’ve named him Fred. A groundhog made his appearance as well. The car bridge is a bit noisy but that will die down by tonight. We are looking forward to a quiet evening. There are bollards to tie to but the spacing is very large so we tie our front line to a sign and the stern to a bollard. It’s so quiet here that I don’t think city folk would be able to sleep.
Scott found a observatory area just over the bridge. He’s taking some gorgeous pictures of the refuge. It’s about a mile walk. The deck overlooks some areas that bald eagles tend to like. There was one, we think, but he was so high it was hard to tell. A white head and tail but the osprey look similar.
Tonight we had a picnic in the grass instead of dinner on the boat. The area is just so invitingly green. The pictures are exactly how green it is. It’s quieting down now from the bridge traffic. All we hear are birds chirping and the odd splash of a fish at the surface. Loving this spot. If we had a dog he would be able to run and run here.
The winds were picking up this morning as we left. A light wind from the SW had been consistent all night. The anchor came up clean. It was a great night anchoring when the winds are calm on this lake. We head back through the Onondaga Lake to the channel to the Erie Canal and begin west again. We do encounter some interesting sights along the trek west. A couple of swans were preening themselves on a dock oblivious to us passing. A great photo op. Then a dilapidated boat that is still tied to its dock. Finally there is a tree full of hanging anchors. Love the creativity of this one.
We are stopping at Baldwinsville, NY today. The only lock we will do today is Lock 24 in Baldwinsville. There is a wall with electric and water on the west side of the lock for $5.00 for 30 amp and $10.00 for 50 amp. It is an on your honour system. There is a locked fee box with envelopes that you place your money into. The docks are floating wooden docks in great shape. Around the docks is a park like setting where pups can roam. A walking path is here as well.
After we dock we decide to head to the small town and get some bottled water from the pharmacy. There is a grocery store, Tops, further away and since we only need water, this is good for us. The little town has a barber shop and hair salon for the much needed trim. An ice cream place called Jessicakes has just opened up beside the lock on the east side. There are restaurants and bars on each side of the canal and dam area.
While we are walking we see an osprey grab her dinner out of the water. I didn’t know that they dive and fully go under to catch a fish. Scott caught it on his new camera. He’s loving its capabilities but criticizes his learning curve. Without a doubt he’ll get there. The flood gates are open on the dam due to all the rain and runoff that has the waters still high.
The hundreds of carp are trying to get back up the dam so we watch them jump up like salmon do. They won’t make it but they keep trying. There has to be several hundred right at the fall of the dam. They are massive as well at about 10-15 lbs.
We came back to wash the scum off the boat. First time since we can’t remember. I think we turned the canal darker.
We found out while on our walk that there is a free concert tonight directly across at the Budweiser Amplitheatre. The amplitheatre is a permanent bandshell on the area directly across from the city wall. It’s a top notch high school band playing tonight. They played a lot of radio music along with some oldies from the ‘70’s and ‘50’s. The band calls themselves “Plan B”. They are the only high school band to open for an NFL game. Well played young ones, well played.
We were up and out before all the other boats this morning. It was supposed to rain all morning but we thought we’d run in the rain with only 1 lock to do today.
We are taking a side trip to Syracuse, NY. After a diesel fill up in Brewerton, NY just on the east side of Oneida Lake we continue west along the Erie Canal. We pass the area where the Oswego Canal heads north toward Lake Ontario. Most of our Looper friends will be heading that way either to go across Lake Ontario to the Trent Severn Waterway or to take Lake Ontario to the Welland Canal for those that cannot do the Trent do to draft or other size restrictions.
In the area past Brewerton there is a 20 mile stretch that is 10 mph zone. It takes a long time at that speed to go 20 miles. We finally find the Onondaga Lake which is the start of the trek south 5 miles to Syracuse, NY. We have decided that since the winds are to be kind at 5 mph for the next 24 hours that we will anchor out at the southern tip of Onondaga Lake. We decide that we could do the channel into the basin but with 0-5 mph winds expected overnight we stay on the hook.
There is a harbour that you can get into to stay in Syracuse NY. We contact the Erie Canal Corp and are advised that no dredging has been there so not to go. Anchoring works okay today. We take down Low Voltage, our dingy, and head into the harbour along with a pole to mark depths as we go. We take periodic depths to find that the west side of the channel at the entrance has good depths of at least 6-7 feet. Towards the middle to east side there is only about 3 feet. There is a bridge of about 15 feet to pass under as well. We do the same measurements at various spots on the way out as well. Good depths over 6 foot in the basin and the channel. Our 6 foot pole doesn”t touch bottom. It is only the entrance that is shallow.
Inside the harbour we find a beautiful harbour basin with electric. I didn’t check water. There is also a really nice walking path along a waterway to get to the city. We walk to the city about a mile to find the Erie Canal Museum. The museum is full of information and the history of the building, success, and changes of the canal. It’s a good 2 hour walk through. There is the only surviving weigh station in the US here as well with an old packet boat that you can go on to get a feel for what it was like. New immigrants would land in NYC and find their way to one of these boats to find work in the interior. This year the Erie Canal celebrates its 200th birthday.
There is a brewery area where we find good brew and eats. It’s an easy walk. There are 200 year old buildings, banks, factories that the Erie Canal supported. Stunning! Also by the harbour, within a 10 minute walk is a massive shopping mall that has been suggested as one of the top places to go while in Syracuse. I can go shopping at home so this isn’t a stop for us.
This stop in Syracuse was an absolute gem of a find. Too bad the city doesn’t try to make this a destination because it has so much potential.