The End of the Erie Canal
09/04/2007, Waterford, NY
Sept. 3rd Labor Day....
We stalled this morning until 9:30 and then called guard gate 2 on the radio to find out when we could lock through the "flight of five" and down to Waterford ,NY on the Hudson River. We assumed (correctly) that the wall at Waterford would be full and were hoping that at least a few boats would pull out before we got there....1.5 miles away and 170 feet down. The gate keeper said that he could get us in right now so we started up the engine and cast off. We couldn't get any photos because the view was directly into the sun ...but believe us, looking out from the lock over the Hudson Valley below us was breathtaking.
On the bottom we found a spot between two boats that called for the "Captain Ron docking maneuver" and spent the afternoon exploring the town and drinking beer. The marina is wonderful and free for two nights....after that it's $10 per night. We will probably stay tomorrow to provision, do some laundry, and make arrangements down stream to step our masts.
I've been tempted for the last week to show off my new found knowledge of the Erie Canal, but have never really had to time until now so if your brain already has enough useless information please quit reading here...
Gov. Dewitt Clinton of NY almost single handedly brought about the Erie Canal tying together the eastern seaboard to the Northwest Territories, what we know as the Great Lakes States. Roads at the time over the Appalachians, Adirondacks, and Alleghenies were impassable for six months a year and difficult the rest of the time... it cost $100 / ton to haul freight from farms and forests of the west to the east coast which was prohibitive from a financial standpoint. A Canal would allow an relatively easy avenue for both settlement of the west and affordable transportation system for products moving eastward.
The Erie Canal was started in 1817 and finished in 1825. At the time there were no engineering schools in the United States so those in charge just had to figure things out. The final product, "Clinton's ditch", was canal 363 miles long, 40 feet wide, and 4 feet deep with 83 locks. Locks were 15 feet by 90 feet by 4 feet deep. In 1862 the canal was updated to 70 feet wide and 7 feet deep with 72 locks that were 18 by 110 by 7 feet.
Today the 340.7 mile canal has the dimensions of 123 feet wide by 12 feet deep(we would debate these figures in some areas of the canal, especially if we talk about navigable width and depth). There are 34 locks that are 44.5 by 300 by 12. All the locks are the same size but vary in lift from 6 to 40 feet.
Interestingly, the old canal boats today are know as 62's, 25's or 03's which correspond to the standard size of the locks as it was improved over time. All boats were built to fit exactly into the size of the lock. The '62 that we toured , the Lois McClure, was built in Vermont to fit precisely into a lock after the 1962 renovations.
Originally, the canal avoided all natural waterways. Seasonal flooding of the rivers would wash away anything that men could build during that era. Aqueducts were built to route the canal over rivers that happened to get in the way. The current canal however, makes use of at least three rivers, the Clyde, Oswego, and Mohawk as well as the 25 mile expanse of Oneida Lake. The Mohawk, which comprises the last 100 miles, is dammed at every lock with cable dams which look like a bridge with sections of steel that are dropped into the river bed. During the winter the steel plates are opened from time to time to get rid of ice jams.
The western half of the canal is narrow, and runs through forest, farms and quaint little towns that have gone out of there way to make things comfortable for boaters. On the eastern end the canal follows the course of rivers, primarily the Mohawk, and flows through swamps and mountains, but not so many small towns. There are larger cities that have seen better days but don't seem to have the funds to fix up their riverfronts for boaters.
If a boat was provisioned for 10 days, it is very possible to travel the entire length of the canal with fuel being the only cost. Although we're not sailing, the Erie Canal has been enjoyable from start to finish.
Ps...thanks to those of you who have offered up ideas on our fuel system. By the way, our engine is a 1983 Westerbeke 52 hp which I failed to mention earlier. Even though our lift pump seems to push fuel through all the bleed valves, I too have come to the conclusion that it needs to be replaced. For the past two days I turned off the engine while locking and there was no sign of the racing, revving, and faltering that we have noticed for the last two weeks. I hope to order one in the next day or two and have it delivered to Annapolis.
Another view . . .
09/04/2007, West of Guard Gate 2
September 2, Sunday Lock 12 to Guard Gate 2
We woke up to a dense fog. It was 48 degrees and the water temperature was in the 70's, so it was a bit moist. So we had coffee, read books and then went for a walk while waiting for the fog to burn off. We saw more boats today on the water than we have seen this whole trip through the canal. The last lock we went through today, Lock 7, had 3 other boats in it! We are now on the last page of our Erie Canal guide book. We stopped just before Guard Gate 2 and will go through the last 5 locks tomorrow.
The Mohawk River Valley
09/04/2007, West of Lock 12
September 1, Saturday Little Falls, NY to Lock 12
The fireworks last night were superb. The band that played all evening was good also.
We had a beautiful day again today. The scenery is beautiful here through the Adirondack Mountains.
The sky was blue and temperature got close to 80 degrees. There are not as many good places to stop as we near the end (actually the beginning) of the Erie Canal, so we stopped just before Lock 12 to tie up beside a small park. We are right next to a train track and it's pretty loud at times. In fact, quite often. We hope we get some sleep tonight. While we were fixing dinner Mike was saying something about the trains when I looked out and saw a HUGE boat going by us. I told him I thought we had bigger things to worry about than trains at the moment. I was scared-it looked like it could side-swipe us. Well, Mike went down to watch it go through the lock. It had to be 42or 43 feet wide because it took up most of the canal which is 45 feet wide. It was over 100 feet long, but we're not sure how much over. I sure hope we don't end up in any locks with that boat.
We are near the Schoharie Crossing, a site of the original canal with remains of an original aqueduct. We could see it as we went by and thought about taking the dinghy over to look at it since walking to it entails crossing a very scary looking bridge, but we never quite got motivated to go.
Thanks to all who called with results of the football games. Go Michigan State!