Heading South - Erie Canal | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Heading South - Erie Canal

This Fall we are heading south with the seasons. We have just left Toronto a week ago and have spent the last few days in the Erie Canal. For Canadians in Ontario and Quebec the Erie and Champlain Canals offer a quick passage through to the hudson River and New York City. This means you don't need to go down the St Lawrence River - a tougher and much longer route if your destination is the US East cost and South.

Here are a few pix from the Erie. It is a very nice trip and well worth planning a week to do the Canal. Although it can be done in three very full days that would mean you miss the opportunity to see the small towns along the way. We especially liked Fort Plains, Amsterdam, Sylan Beach, Fulton and Waterford. There are probably many more we have yet to discover. Many of these towns offer free dockage to encourage boaters to stop. Some even offer free electric hookup and even wifi?!? Such hospitality!

Park with an original Erie Canal Lock Circa 1880.

Alongside at a free dock near Amsterdam

We meet up with cruisers who have an original copy of the first edition of our cruising book! Great to meet up underway!

Canal Tip - Mast on deck - going through the canal means taking the mast down since the clearance is only about 20 feet. Most people carry their mast on deck although you can have a company truck the mast down for you. We haven't found problems with carrying it on deck if you take a few simple precautions. First of all it has to be very well supported. I recommend you building horses to support the mast fairly low over the deck. Our first time we had tall horses both fore and aft and it was difficult to reinforce them to handle the weight of the mast so high up in the air. Remember their will be movement in the boat from the occasional big wake to deal with. We often see boats with sturdy horses capable of supporting the mast but not dealing with pitching of the boat. The mast can start to move fore and aft in this case. My solution this time was to build simple tripods. A tall one at the stern gives us walking room in the cockpit and a lower one at the bow keeps weight lower to the deck.

The other problem in doing the canal with the mast on deck is that the mast will hang out over the ends. Distant Shores mast is roughly 57 feet long versus our LOA of 42. So we have about 15 feet extra to deal with. The main concern is banging it against the lock walls. I set it roughly halfway on deck so it sticks out 7-8 feet at bow and stern. The stern isn't a problem since the boat is quite beamy astern. We haven't found we have ever been near to hitting the lower mast end. But the bow is a problem. My solution is to tie fenders to either side of the masthead. This will cushion the mast if it were to bump into a lock wall.

So there are my two canal tips - Number 1) Secure the mast very well with special consideration to pitching movement, and Number 2) protect the masthead.

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