We get joined in the marina by a bear, and start the Erie Canal
70 Days Looping
1,164.3 Nautical Miles Total (1,339.9 Statute Miles)
74.0 Nautical Miles This Week
15.2 Hours Underway This Week
6.4 NMph Average Speed
10 Locks This Week, 12 Total Locks
Monday – June 17th – 0 NM – In: New Belgium, NY
We stayed at Shady Harbor marina on Monday to do some preparation for our trip into the Erie Canal. I woke up at about 5:00 AM and saw a great sunrise. Brenda got up about 7:00 and shortly afterward, I noticed some large debris in the river. While watching it, I noticed that it was moving against the current, so I grabbed the binoculars and took a look, at first, I thought it was someone’s Black Lab dog that had fallen off a boat, then I realized it was a black bear! It was swimming from an island on the other side of the river and paddled right up between the boats in the marina. When he reached the shore, he bolted through the picnic area and into the woods!
In the afternoon we put the dinghy back onto the top of the boat. There won’t be many opportunities to use it in the canals, and it adds 4 feet to the length of the boat which in locks with other boats behind you can be an issue. Also, the marinas charge by the foot and some measure you (like here at Shady Harbor), so it saves some money to be shorter. We had to do this now, like tomorrow, we needed to drop the mast for the rest of the trip through the Erie Canal as many of the bridges are less than our 23 ft height.
After getting the dinghy back on board, I worked on the blog, and in the evening, we had dinner on the boat.
Tuesday- June 18th – 21.6 NM – To: Waterford, NY
Tuesday morning we got some help from the dockhands at Shady Harbor to drop our mast and then headed out at 8:30 am. The day was cloudy, and we had rain off and on.
We headed toward Albany, NY. On the way, we passed several large barges loading at a cement plant. This area has lots of cement plants, it is a major industry, and they ship by barge and rail. Next was a shipyard where they were diving to repair a barge. We then went under the Castleton-on-Hudson bridge and railroad bridge, and saw some hearty soul swimming in the river!
As we approached Albany, NY the banks of the river became very industrial with power plants, shipyards, huge salt piles, and a giant tank farm. There were also many large barges. Albany is the northernmost port where the large ships travel to on the Hudson. After the industrial section, there was a waterfront area, but no marinas or docks. The skyline was pretty, but we sort of expected more from the capital of New York state.
We left Albany, passing under the Patroon Island bridge, and continued on toward Troy, NY. Troy has a bit more of a waterfront, and there were a couple of large river cruise boats. One of the feature sites in Troy is the Green Island lift bridge a very art-deco design. Once under the bridge, we reached the Troy Federal Lock, our third lock and the largest so far.
The Troy Federal lock and dam is the point on the Hudson River where tides stop due to the dam. It’s amazing to think that the river has a 3-foot tide, up to Troy, 155 miles upstream. It had been raining off and on all morning, but fortunately, the rain stopped just as we got to the lock. We were the only boat waiting to go through, so we only had to wait a few minutes for the doors to open, and we went in. We had to wrap lines around a pipe embedded in the wall to hold the boat in position while we were raised. The lock raises you 14 feet, and the lift only took a few minutes. Once the doors opened, we were on the upper Hudson and only 2 miles from the cut-off to the Erie Canal at Waterford.
On the way to Waterford, we saw a deer right on the edge of the river. I saw something else and pointed it out to Brenda, who thought it was just some plants until it moved and it was a small buck. We approached Waterford, and made our turn into the Erie Canal, and saw our first Erie lock dead ahead just after a railroad bridge. We pulled into the Waterford public dock (which is basically an old wall where the barges used to tie up that they added a floating dock too) under a bridge. It was a good thing that we dropped our mast that morning, as we had one bridge after the Troy lock that was only 20 ft clearance and the railroad bridge was less than that!
After tying up, we checked in at the welcome center next to the donkey (a tribute to the donkeys that were used to pull barges on the canal), then walked into town and did some shopping. When we got back to the boat, a tug and barge came out of the lock, and picked up a barge that had been tied up to the wall behind us, then headed south.
In the evening, we had docktails with Golden Daze, Our Time, and Nautilus. While we were sitting on Golden Daze boat, Rusty from Golden Daze was hitting on Brenda trying to pick her up! If he wants her, he can have her!
At 6:00, we walked into town with Gregg and Sonia from Golden Daze for dinner at McGreiveys an Irish Pub. After dinner, we walked up to the top of Lock 2 to see what was in store for us in the morning. The locks are amazing and we were able to walk around and cross over the lock. On the far side, there is a park, that has an old canal boat, and the remains of the original Locks 1 & 2. When the larger more modern lock was built, they combined Lock 1 and 2. It was neat to see the original canal width. If you look at the stones the wear marks from where the gates opened and closed are still visible.
Wednesday – June 19th – 21.6 NM – To: Amsterdam, NY
Wednesday morning woke up ready to do the famous “Waterford Flight” 5 locks that raise the boat 165 feet in just over a mile. This is the greatest lift in the shortest distance on any canal system in the world. One of our fellow Loopers on Nautilus got the first lift of the day at 7:00 so we walked up to the first lock to watch the process and learn what to expect.
We then went down and got the boat ready for the next lift. A research vessel from Middlebury College in Vermont (the David Folger), called in next so we cast off quickly and joined them in the flight. Basically, you enter the first lock (Lock 2) and just keep going up, move forward a bit, go up, move forward a bit, go up… Until you come out of Lock #6. The locks are a lot of work, both in piloting into the chamber, pulling up to the walls, grabbing the ropes, or attaching to cables, then holding on as the water rushes in and lifts the boat up an average of 33 feet in about 10 minutes.
Each lock is unique in style and design, and it’s fun to see what’s on top as you lift up. We made it through the Waterford Flight in about 2 hours. After Lock #6 is a structure called a “Guard Gate”. These are like moveable dams that can be lowered to prevent flooding in case of a failure of an upstream lock door. Some are open all the time unless needed, some are closed by default, and you have to call to have them opened to go through.
Brenda welcomed the rest during the 10 mile trip from Lock #6 to Lock #7. The “Canal” is really the Mohawk River in most places. They have dammed the river, made lakes, and deepened it between the locks and dams. In doing this, you have a large dam just to the side of each lock that gives you a way around. As you approach the lock chamber, you pass right next to the dam. With the high rainfall they have had in the area, the dams were flowing quite heavily which creates interesting currents just as you are trying to fit the boat through the lock doors.
One or two times, there was a “pucker” moment when the boat suddenly started to spin around unexpectedly! Happily, none of the events went bad, and we were able to quickly get the boat back under control. The only casualty was my hearing with Brenda yelling into the headset! The sides of the canal/river started to rise and became exposed cliffs between Lock #7 and Lock #8 which was another 10-mile ride with more great views. We even got run over by a train!
After Lock #8, we had 6 mile run to Lock #9 and 5 mile run to Lock #10. The railroad tracks run along the Northside of the canal, and there were long freight trains every 15-20 minutes. We also saw lots of young geese and ducks along the way. After clearing lock #10, it was just 3 miles to Riverlink Park in Amsterdam NY our stop for the next two nights.
Just before reaching the docks, we passed the old Mohawk Carpet Mills, at one time the largest carpet manufacturing plant in the world, but sadly now closed. At 4:00 pm we were tied up with the Dave Folger, and within an hour or so, we were joined by Gökotta, Nautilus, and Catrina. Phew! What a day!
Shortly after we docked, the skies opened up and we had torrential downpours. We’d been dodging sticks and logs in the canal, especially in the lock entrances all day, but now we had large logs floating down the river past the docks. It rained hard for a couple of hours and we could see the river start to rise. At 6:00 we got together with Nautilus, and Catrina broke out the umbrellas and walked across a pedestrian bridge to The Armory, an Italian restaurant for dinner.
The Armory sits at the base of an old National Guard Armory building that looks like a castle and has since been converted into a boutique hotel. By the time we finished, the rain had subsided for a bit and we walked back to the boats. The marina is in a park next to the main railroad line, and there is a pedestrian crossing with towers that overlook the park and marina. We walked up to the top and got a nice view of the boat and sunset.
Thursday- June 20th – 0 NM – In: Amsterdam, NY
Our plan was to stay in Amsterdam until Saturday as we had our forwarded mail from home arriving on Friday at a local UPS store. On Thursday morning, we planned to move the boat to the pump-out to empty our tanks. As it happened, a few more boats arrived just as we were getting ready, so we helped them tie up and moved two other boats around so that they could pump out first, then moved our boat to the pump-out and back. Just as we were finishing the clouds opened up and we got heavy rain for most of the rest of the day.
We stayed in the boat and I worked on the blog and caught up on email and some other computer stuff, Brenda worked on her cross-stitch, and we watched the water rise steadily. In the early afternoon, there was a break in the rain and our friends on Golden Daze arrived as well as two other boats. By late afternoon the river had risen over a foot and there were large logs and lots of other smaller sticks, and junk floating by. The water was moving so fast, that a water-ski jump that was in the river had been pushed downstream a 1000 feet or so!
In the evening the rain had stopped again even though the river was continuing to rise, and we got word that due to the high water, the Erie Canal had been closed upstream from us. It was a good thing that we had planned to stay because we were not going anywhere! We got together with Golden Daze and a few of the other Looper boats and went to the BBQ restaurant in the park, then walked across the railroad tracks and down by the old canal warehouses to Stewart’s for ice cream.
A bit about Riverlink Park in Amsterdam, NY. The area where the park is was a Coal to Gas plant since the early 1900s. As a result, the area was very polluted. The town tore down the old plant, did some remediation, and built a public park turning the old barge tie-up wall (where they unloaded coal for the plant) into a small marina. They also built a small restaurant, band-shell, and event space. The park is basically an island. Until recently when Amsterdam built a footbridge from the South Bank, the only way to access the park was using a pedestrian bridge over a roadway and the railroad tracks, which is accessed from the roof of a shopping mall parking garage off of the main street. There is an access road to get supplies in and out, but it’s gated as it crosses the busy rail line at an uncontrolled crossing. So unless you work there, the only way to get to the park and restaurant is by foot, bike, or boat!
The restaurant is run by “Dan’s BBQ” which is a popular catering company that uses the kitchen at the restaurant to prepare food for catering events off-site. On Thursday-Sunday in the summer, they open the restaurant to the public and frequently have concerts and other events in the park.
Friday – June 21nd – 0 NM – In: Amsterdam, NY
Overnight it rained heavily again, and it was still raining in the morning. The canal was up another foot, and our floating dock was at the top of the wall. There were, even more, sticks and logs floating by, and the Erie Canal Authority closed the entire Erie and Oswego canals. Some of our fellow boaters were stuck between locks in areas without marinas and were just tied up to the sides of the lock walls with no water, power, and in some cases with no way to get off their boats.
By noon, the rain had stopped, and it had cleared up some. Brenda and I walked across the Gateway Bridge to the south side. The bridge is beautiful with mosaics, statues, and great views of the Mohawk River. We did a geocache and checked out the old Armory, and an old Canal Store. I got a phone call from the UPS store that our package had arrived, so we walked back across the bridge, over the railroad tracks, and into downtown to catch an Uber as the store was a couple of miles away and all up-hill.
Amsterdam, NY is not a popular Uber location, and there was only one car in the area and they were already engaged, so we walked about a mile up the hill past Kirk Douglas Park (yes the actor, he was from Amsterdam NY). We stopped at a Rite-Aid (yes, we have to stop at pretty much everyone) and while Brenda was checking it out, I was able to get an Uber driver. We got our package, got a ride back to the end of the footbridge, and walked the rest of the way back to the boat.
That evening Sonia and Gregg of Golden Daze invited us to have dinner with them on their boat. Brenda’s boyfriend Rusty was glad to see her and sat right behind her all through dinner. Ruby, their other lab, just napped. As we were finishing dinner, it started to rain again so we moved inside. This was just a passing shower, and as it passed and the sun came back out, Brenda noticed that there was a rainbow. We all went outside and saw that it was a Double Rainbow, and the end was just across the river from us. Everyone from the boats and the restaurant came out to take photos. It’s one of the most spectacular rainbows we’ve seen!
Saturday – June 22nd – 0 NM – In: Amsterdam, NY
In the morning, we checked and the locks were still closed. I went up to the restaurant to let them know we were staying another day. While I was there, Dan, the owner, was preparing a catering meal for 700! There were 6 briskets in the oven, with another 6 waiting to go in. Also, huge pans of pasta were spread all over. Dan was just taking a brisket out of the oven when I went in, and he asked me to be his taste tester. I said “Yes!” I’m always willing to take one for the team! It was EXCELLENT!!!
We spent the morning, washing and cleaning the boat, as it had gotten pretty dirty going through the locks, with the slimy ropes rubbing against the sides. The water on the river continued to drop during the day and was about normal by noon. However, the debris washing downstream continued to increase. Even if the Canal was re-opened, we wouldn’t want to risk our propellers in that mess!
We made a date with our friends on Golden Daze to come over to the boat in the evening for dinner. After we finished with the cleaning, we took an Uber to Walmart to do some food shopping. It’s right next to where we picked up our package yesterday. We did our shopping, then Ubered back to the boat.
When we returned, we heard that Sonia was not feeling well, and they took a rain check for dinner. I walked across the railroad tracks, and got lucky as there was a train coming! I’d been wanting to be on the bridge with a train going underneath since we got here, but they run so fast, it’s hard to catch them!
Since our dinner plans had been canceled, we decided to go back to Dan’s BBQ at the marina and have one more BBQ dinner. His BBQ is excellent!
In the evening, there was an announcement that part of the canal ahead was re-opening at 7:00 AM the next morning, and we would be able to move up a bit, so we planned an early departure before they changed their mind!
Sunday – June 23rd – 19.5 NM – In: Canajoharie, NY
We left Amsterdam at 7:30 with the second batch of boats through the lock. It was a nice morning, sunny, a bit cool, light winds. The river had slowed down quite a bit and there were only a few small sticks and twigs floating by. We cast off, followed by Gökottaand a sailboat.
When we got to Lock 11, our first lock of the day, which was less than a mile from the dock, the water was a bit rough coming over the dam, but we made it in easily and pulled up to the front to make room for the other boats. It was a quick ride up, only about 15 ft, and we were out and heading the 5 miles to Lock 12. We quickly lost the sailboat which is much slower and when we got to Lock 12, it was just the two of us. The dams at the locks were full of trees and other debris. The canal maintenance boats were clearing as much as they could and there were huge piles of trees on the banks.
Between locks 12 and 13 there is a fairly long stretch of about 7 miles. Along the way, you get some good views of some impressive buildings and nice farmland. We passed two canal barges working to clean up the canal. When we got to lock 13, we had to wait for a sailboat that was coming down with a full crew! After we went through the lock, we let Gökottaget around us as they were trying to get to Little Falls which was farther upstream and we were stopping at the next town Canajoharie.
The ride from Lock 13 to Canajaharie was easy. We were following the railroad tracks on the north side of the canal, passed a few more farms, and arrived at Riverfront Park at 10:30 am. Aside from power and a picnic area, there are no facilities at the park, but the docks are not bad.
You may know the name “Beech-Nut” famous for baby food, and Beech-nut gum. Canajoharie, NY is where Beech-Nut was founded and had their factory until just recently when they moved to Amsterdam, NY. The original factory is still a major landmark in town, and the Arkell family that founded Beech-nut donated an art museum and library to the town that has a large collection of paintings by American artists, and Beech-Nut advertising. Also, there is a gorge about a mile outside of town that has a natural feature called “The Pot That Washes Itself”, which is a 15′ wide 5′ deep round basin that has been worn out of the rock by the rushing water.
After settling in at the dock, we walked into town and had lunch at the “Village Restaurant”. We then walked through downtown, by their famous “Dummy Traffic Light” which sits on a pole in the middle of the intersection. We then walked up the hill following the creek to the gorge and down to the falls and the Pot. The gorge was very pretty with steep walls, and rushing water. The view was somewhat ruined by the locals sunbathing on the rocks and lounging in the “pot”.
When we went back down the hill to the town, stopped at a small downtown park and did a geocache, then went to the Arkell Museum. The museum has several galleries, and we took our time browsing through them. They have a large collection of paintings by Winslow Homer, the original artwork was used for the early Beech-Nut advertising, and a full-size copy of Rembrandt’s “The Nightwatch”. They also have a collection of the Beech-Nut gift tins that were popular Christmas gifts in the 1930s and 1940s.
When we got back to dock, another boat, “Grumpy” had arrived. Grumpy is famous in our AGLCA group as he’s a small boat and cruises at a controversial 30 mph. He also had a mishap earlier this month when he hit a submerged wall and tore a hole in the bottom of his boat. He was okay, but it took several weeks to get repaired so it was good to see him back underway. Over the next hour or so, two more Looper boats, “Heartbeat” and “Not Ready” arrived, followed by two sailboats, “Sea-Yawl” and “Stormy”. We had dinner on the boat and then walked up to the next lock, #14 which was only 1/4 mile upstream. We then crossed the bridge which gave us some good views of the Riverfront Park and the town, past the Village Hall, a Rite-Aid (fortunately closed), and went to Stewart’s for ice cream.
Tom & Brenda