“Low bridge, everybody down, low bridge yeah we’re coming to a town. And you’ll always know your neighbor, you’ll always know your pal, if you ever navigated on the Erie Canal”
“15 miles on the Erie Canal”
Well….. They got that wrong. It’s more like 40 miles and 22 locks. Boy was I happy to be done with it. Below is how it went: Kind of a saga of mixed days. Ultimately we survived with tales to tell. Every day was different. The best part was the friendship and buddy boats. It made it so much better for me to have girls and company. It also made it fun to laugh at the tough days, and party at night.
On our last night in Shady Harbor we met up with 3 other couples in the restaurant. We all had planned to leave in the morning but not together, and start up the Erie Canal. We formed a pack of 4 boats (United 771, Chasing 80 and Curti-Sea). We decided what time we would all leave and how far we would go the first day. Over drinks and a lot of laughter I relaxed about this section. I had been told that it was common to get bunched up with boats during this section. I had also been warned to choose wisely because once you start traveling with your little group there is no place to really separate. I liked these people and I felt really excited instead of nervous. The night before I prepared all the fenders and lines. We got out our gloves, life jackets, charged the batteries of our headsets so we could hear each other talking vs yelling over the sounds of the lock. The next morning we woke up and headed out all together. We encountered our first lock right on the Hudson in Troy NY. We moved right thru Waterford, which is the headquarters of the Canal with a visitor center and cute little town. The thought of having to listen to any more conversation about how to run the locks made me nauseous. We had been talking this subject to death. I was as prepared as I could ever be. I was ready. I had total butterflies, but this was excitement and disbelief that we were actually here. All the months prior, all the videos, all the discussions, all the books had finally lead to today.
The first day we did 7 locks and 211 feet of elevation. It took us 7 hours to only travel 30 Miles. We pulled into the Marina exhausted but totally euphoric that we did it AND survived without a mishap. We were slightly relieved that it didn’t seem such a big deal. The locks have ropes that run down the walls that are weighted at the end, so they hang straight. You simply grab a rope and hold on. Then as the lock fills you climb your hands up the wet slimy rope to the top. Seemed easy. The struggle was that the boat sometimes got pulled by the current and you had to use your body weight to keep the rope tight and not to let the boat swing into or away from the slimy wall. Of course we had fenders everywhere to protect the boat but it’s best to keep the boat slightly pushed out. Otherwise they scrap up the rough cement walls. Some were very slimy and rough and our new shiny new balls got slimed and scratched. Some locks were easy, some were more challenging and needed a lot of muscle. At the end of day 1 was pretty tired but psyched that we survived. We were the lead boat today. Aquaman led the way.
Day 2: It poured rain so we hung out a bit. I spent most of day in the boat editing pictures and the video I had made of our first day on the canal. Later that day all 4 boats gathered to have dinner and celebrate Steves (United 771) birthday. Lots of laughing and drinking made for a fun night.
Day 3: We headed out for round 2. We choose how far we would go and we all tackled each lock as they came, some were easy, some were a struggle. At one point United 771 lost their front line and the boat went smashing into the other wall. Steve recovered control of his boat but it was totally freighting. Then it started to rain. I got out the rain gear. I was wet and my arms were burning and I felt a wave of “OMG we have soooooo many more of these to do! Can I handle this?” It felt totally overwhelming. It was a totally different feeling then that first day where we ended excited. Today I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of locks in this canal. We got to our spot for the night and secured for the night (in a crappy little spot along a cement wall). I put on my jammies, made a bowl of pasta and went to bed. My body was pounding and I was exhausted. Everyone in the group was the same. No happy hour tonight. We all retreated to the comfort of our respective boats. I hoped when we woke it would be with a new attitude.
Day 4 only 3 of us left. Cathy on United 771 got a sore throat so they were going to rest up. We said goodbye, I gave her a bunch of onguard oils. We were now a group of 3. As we headed out today I gave myself a little talking to. “You got this girl, you are strong and capable, you are having fun, you are experiencing something few people get to do, you must put on a smile and get it done!” It worked because I had a much better day. The locks were still tough, it did still rain a little but I changed my attitude and I didn’t get so overwhelmed. As we approached each lock, I took a deep breath and started a countdown in my head. Lock 18 done, lock 19 done, lock 20, 21, etc….. That night we tied up to a cement wall that was a restaurant. It was a yummy restaurant!! We all enjoyed a nice dinner and went to bed a little less grumpy.
Day 5: Rain AGAIN!!!!! Happy Father’s Day Andy!! Everyone decided to sit tight and just relax. The problem for me was we were in desperate need of a pump out and groceries. I was looking forward to moving to a town. Not today!!! To make matters worse our boat sprung a pretty bad leak. Water was coming into the boat, thru the light fixtures and down my new shades. We spent hours chasing it. I placed towels and bowls everywhere. The boat stank and it was damp out and I was grumpy. We got an Uber and went to get groceries in the rain. I made cupcakes for the dads and I made Andy a stir fry for dinner. I had to keep busy doing something.
The Erie Canal has been a day of ups and downs. This day I was OVER IT!!!! I wanted to go home. I wanted to get to an airport and fly home. I knew this emotion would pass and it did. Everyday of this journey has had highs and lows. Some days are just wonderful, some not so much. Just like life. At the end of the day we were graced with a sunset. I am grateful for all my blessings.
Day 6: It was bright but chilly. We left the security of the restaurant wall and headed out. Because we have had several rainy days and NO-GO days, we blew right past a place we wanted to stop called Sylvan Beach on Lake Oneida, and continued on. We crossed Lake Oneida and made it to Brewerton. This was the first time AQUAMAN has been in a lake. It was beautiful and the water was flat. When we got to our marina, we fueled up and emptied our holding tanks (Thank God!). The marina was full of loopers. I cleaned a little and straightened up which always makes me feel better. Andy did some cleaning of the engine room. I felt better today. I was recharged from our down day and rested up. I was happy to be making progress. I was happy that we were only 1 day from finishing the Erie Canal and Oswego canal.
Day 7: The last day of this section. This section is actually called the Oswego canal. We will pull into the town of Oswego on the shore of Lake Ontario. We have a marina booked for 5 days. We will take a time out. I need a little break. We are going to rent a car and drive to see Niagara Falls. Today we have 30 miles and 8 locks. I am so ready to be done with this Canal!!! Our 2 buddy boats were staying another night. We were ready to move on.
We arrived at the marina and tied up. The locks today were all descending and easy. It wasn’t a hard day. I have discovered however that after 5 or 6 locks I am done. We got to lock 8, the very last lock we will do for a while and I was SOOO happy. I felt a big sense of relief as well as accomplishment. This was a long week. It also marks another section of the loop that we have conquered. I am so proud of us!! We have learned to work as a team. We have a rhythm. We don’t yell at each other. I am so much better at chillin out and going with it and Andy is better at explaining things to me which helps me not be anxious. We have good days and tough days, but mostly we are having fun. Each section brings on a new challenge.
We will be leaving the boat for a few days for a break and driving to Niagara Falls. A hotel and some sight seeing by land!
I am happy this section is done. It was challenging. It’s an area we can cross off our list of places traveled.