Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Buffalo to NYC, via the Erie Canal

In Buffalo we had heard about a great place to step the masts (we have two of them now) called First Buffalo River Marina.  When we got there we took a whole day getting the boat ready for them to pull the mast.  When they say they pull the mast, that's all they do.  We had to take down all the sails, running rigging, two booms 10 shrouds, four backstays, one forestay, and then this thing that we call a top stay.  I don't know what the old sailors called it, but it is the wire from the top of the main mast to the top of the mizzen. There's where the trouble began.  When I went up the Mizzen to undo the top stay, as soon as I pulled the pin the mast was on its way down.  I quickly repinned the topstay and we figured another way to get that piece of rigging down. 

With the masts down and secured on the braces we made above deck, we were ready to set out on the 350 mile treck across the state on New York via the Erie Canal.  The canal, most of which was built and engineered in the early 1800's, is still operational, and much of it is still original.  We got our "masters degree" in locking by safely navigating through 37 locks up and over the state of New York. 

When we left Buffalo, we had to make our first important navigatioal decision.......Which channel to take on the Niagara River.  In the photo (left) if you went to the left of the center wall, you would be in the fast flowing Niagra River, headed straight to the renouned Niagara Falls in about 10 knots current.  At that speed the boat could not have returned after she got in the fast current.  The good news is that there is a low bridge down stream that would probably crush the boat before it hit the falls.  We, however took the high road.  We took the right side which is the Black Rock Canal, and it is walled off from the current and has a lock that gently lowers the river (and boat) down to the desending levels.  When we got to the town of Tonnawanda, NY, we took a right into the start of the historic Erie Canal.
Each little town, which were all called "villages" had it's own personality, yet they all vied for top-spot in having the best reputation for being nice to boaters on the canal.  Most villages were named after a port; Lockport, Middleport, Fairport, Brockport, and then other quaint sounding villiages like Brewerton, Sylvian Beach, St. Johnsville and Waterford.  Each one had it's own personality, and I have to say that every one in every village that we talked to was friendly.  Being from Alabama, I never expected New Yorkers to be friendlier than us Southerners, but in upstate New York, they have it down.  O.K., so everybody has their favorite, but I guess I have to say my favorite town was Middleport where the chief of police saw that I was going to have to walk down to the gas station, so he offered to give me a ride in the patrol car.  It felt like I had just met Sheriff Andy Taylor. He even gave me a police badge to remember the town. 

The town of Waterford, NY ( http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2479/places/32378/ )was having a Steam Boat show and the harbor was full of real, live, smoking, chugging steam boats.  This area was the home of Robert Fulton when he made his famous first Steamboat ride from Waterford NY to New York City and proved the concept of commercial steam boats....that changed history.
Waterford is the first lock of the Erie canal, which of course for us, since we were going from Buffalo to the Hudson (East) it was the last.  The first five locks from the Hudson river take the canal up over 170 feet in 1.5 miles.  They call this the Waterford Flight.  BTW, Waterford got it's name from a "ford" in the Mohawk river where horses and wagons could cross in low water.  Waterford is also home to the start of the Champlain Canal which was an early canal system that allowed navigation up to Lake Champlain and on through to the St. Lawrence Seaway into Canada. Lock #2, which is acutally the first lock has a spillway with a metal grid that looks down to the raging river.
When we finally got to the Hudson River, we all gave a loud HOORAY since we knew that we only had done all the New York Erie Canal locks and we had just one more Federal lock on the Hudson River.  In that lock we were joined by three Steam Boats locking through with us.  That made for a beautiful and historic memory, except for the smoke filled lock as we decended to the lower river level.
At that point in the Hudson River, we were at the mercy of the tides.  The Hudson is tidal from the Atlantic in NYC up 150 miles to Troy, NY. 
We made it down river to Catskill, NY where we were able to put the mast up, do some repairs, and enjoy the 4th of July weekend celebrations in the quaint village of Catskill, NY.  On Sunday we rented a car and took a cruise through the Catskill Mountains.  (for more pictures of this leg of the trip, go to: https://picasaweb.google.com/charlie.wingspan/ErieCanalToNYC20110701#

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