Southbound Part 1 - Erie Canal
By Paul Shard, Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Do you dream of escaping the cold northern winter on your boat?
For sailors on the American East Coast the Intracoastal waterway is a great resource and fun trip south. For boaters on the Great Lakes, the first step is to get out to the coast. Our favourite route is to use the Erie Canal to get to the Hudson River and New York City.
What Time Should We Start
We have done this trip Southbound 3 times, leaving Canada from August 29 up to September 21. If you then take your time enjoying the trip south you will not arrive in the Hurricane Belt before the finish of the hurricane season in November. BTW you should check your insurance policy to see what their dates are for hurricane season (often finishing November 1). We recommend arriving at the Erie Canal early to mid-September. So if you come from further up the system you can work the dates back from there.
Waypoints - Where to be When
Leave before it gets too cold crossing New York via the Erie Canal. The Erie closes mid-November but that would mean a cold trip. Our late-September trips were very nice with frost a few mornings and fall colours on the trees.
Hurricanes - some insurance want you to stay north of 35 degrees until after Hurricane Season - That's around Oriental North Carolina - and partially explains the popularity of this destination :-) Of course other companies insure boaters south of this zone. Check your policy!
Annapolis Boat Show
Many sailors try to get to Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay in time for the US Sailboat show early October. Annapolis is about 250 nautical miles from New York City. We plan a week for this at least - more if you plan to explore along the way. Remember there could be weather delays on this route as you go out in the ocean to the Delaware Bay. If you get in a few days early you might snag a mooring in Spa Creek right by the show (or in Back Creek nearby). Then you can spend the time at the show buying those last minute must-have boat purchases.
Erie Canal Attraction
One thing we learned from our first trip South was to prepare a bit more time for the Erie Canal. This first leg is often done in a hurry, but we have spoken to many who rated it as a high point of the route South…
Planning this trip in the future this is what we would do…
- Leave Toronto first week September
- Mast down at Oswego Mid-September
- Arrive Hudson River 3rd week September
- Enjoy New York
- 8 Days to Chesapeake Bay
- Annapolis for US Sailboat Show October 8
Erie Height Restrictions
You need to take your mast down to allow for the clearance in the canal (http://www.canals.ny.gov/about/about.html#heights) Basically 20 feet clearance for our Route from Oswego to the Hudson, or 15.5 feet if you come the Erie Canal all the way from Tonawanda (Buffalo).
Preparation for the Erie Canal
Sailboats have two options but must take down the mast to transit the Erie Canal…
- Carry the Mast on Deck
- Have your mast trucked overland to meet you
Get Protection - Fenders and Boards
Transiting the locks means you'll come up against the rough lock walls, docking and moving up and down the side many times a day. Your regular fender strategy probably won't offer sufficient protection. We recommend a fender board to keep allow your fenders to slide easily up and down rough lock walls. This can be as simple as a couple of 2-by-4 boards 8-feet long. Drill a hole vertically so you can put a line down through the board and it won't chafe rubbing on the wall.
Prepare to Enjoy the Erie Canal
So you have designed a secure way to mount the mast, made a couple of fender boards, and designed a schedule to get you south. Now prepare to enjoy the canal journey!
Check out our How-To video below for more hints and a taste of the trip through the Erie Canal.
Paul & Sheryl