Before we could leave Buffalo and head into the Erie Canal, we had one minor thing to take care of.  Our mast needed to come down and get secured on our boat for the 300+ miles that we would be motoring. The Lowest bridge on the Erie Canal that doesn’t open is only 14′-6″ above the water, and given that our mast is 58 feet high when up this presents a bit of a problem. So the marinas on both sides of the canal have been doing this for years and are setup to remove and re-lift masts for sailboats, and they do hundreds of them every year. As this was Labor Day weekend, we contacted a marina in Buffalo and made arrangements to have our mast “Un-Stepped” on Tuesday following the long weekend. There were three of us having our masts taken down that day and it was a very busy day of mast removal and organizing everything so that we could take our mast with us on the canal. Gypsy Spirit and Encore (more on them in a moment) made the decision to have their masts shipped to the other end of the canal. We were going the traditional route and making the adventure with our “Stick”. The marina was able to get it secured on Wandering Toes the way we wanted it and the operation took the entire day. Getting done at 5pm, hot, sweaty, and tired, none of us wanted to begin our canal adventure this late in the day so we decided to stay at the marina overnight. It was a good thing for me because I was so exhausted from the heat of the day and all of the hard work to get everything done I was suffering from heat exhaustion and had a wicked headache. I went to bed early with Tylenol and slept for 12 hours.

And we’ve added another boat to our caravan, Chris and Mary on “Encore”, a Niagara 35 sailboat. We met them in Erie Pennsylvania and have been having a wonderful time getting to know them. We are all traveling towards Florida and The Bahamas and have found them to be excellent company. We’re glad to have met them and are having a great time getting to know them. They are on their way to meet up with one of their daughters and her husband and child who are also sailing to The Bahamas. They have a sailboat exactly like ours, a Hunter 35.5. And they have a YouTube Channel also, Sail Away. It’s all fun and we can’t wait to meet them also. So that’s the three of us who had masts taken down and we’re all traveling together now.

Feeling better in the morning we all left Buffalo and headed into the Erie Canal. First was Black Rock Lock and a short drop of only 6 feet. Keeping to the right, (You do not want to take a wrong turn at Tonawanda or you’ll go over Niagara Falls!) we made our way into the Erie Canal entrance. 300 miles to go! A side note: we’ve heard about free walls where you can tie up to for the night along the Erie Canal, but didn’t really have any good information about this. So we motored for a few hours and got to Gasport, NY, a tiny town with not much going, but here was a perfect concrete wall to tie up to with a park, tables and electrical hookups for boats! Just free. Just so people have a place to tie up to for the night. It was perfect. Motoring on in the morning we only went a few miles and stopped in Medina, NY. This was a picturesque little town with a big wall to tie up to, electrical, showers and bathrooms. Free. The Canal bridge operator came down and gave us the bathroom codes and asked us if we needed anything. We had lunch in Medina and spent the night. We also bought some things in town and walked around to see some neat sights, one of which was a river flowing under the canal (the Erie Canal went over the other river on a bridge of water). Very neat and amazing to see the engineering that went into that.

Stopping at Brockport, we all went out for dinner again at a great local BBQ place. Another Fairport, a great town nothing like the last Fairport we stopped at. Then Newark, NY was next. Knowing that we would be staying for a day or two because of rain, we opted for a larger town and again found a free wall with electrical, bathrooms, showers and free laundry. We bought supplies and groceries, and ate out 3 times getting to see a bit of the town since the dockage didn’t cost us anything. The rain day was nice and we all got to have some time to relax, read and do other things.











Onward! Meaning to put some miles under the keel, we made a plan for the next couple of days. In the morning we left Newark and went 38 miles to a free wall in the middle of nowhere, Weedsport, NY. There’s a restaurant there, but nothing else. No power, no bathrooms, just a few cleats to tie up to and nobody asking for any $. Next stop was Brewerton, a small town on the west side of Lake Oneida. Free wall to tie up to with power and a nice park right there by the water. In the morning we crossed Lake Oneida. This was probably the most perilous part of our journey as the lake can be rough given it’s shallow depth and long east to west length of about 25 miles. We left early and motored into the fog on Lake Oneida with east winds. Seeing that the west end of the lake had only about one foot waves we kept on and the day improved as the fog burned off and we got further east on the lake. It is a strange thing to have your mast sticking out almost ten feet on both ends of the boat and a lot of damage could be done if everything isn’t secured extremely well. We had 11 ratchet straps and five ropes securing everything and we didn’t have any problems.

On the east side of Lake Oneida we motored back into the canal and the next three locks were up meaning we had to lock up almost 60 feet between the three locks to get over a high spot in the NY canal system. This brought us to Rome, NY for the night. The wall there SUCKS! Rome was our least favorite spot along the whole canal and we were happy to leave. The only saving grace of Rome is that this is where the Mohawk river empties into the canal providing all of the water to this portion of the canal and making the whole canal passage possible. If it weren’t for the Mohawk river, there wouldn’t be an Erie Canal. But this portion of the canal from the east end of Lake Oneida all the way to Little Falls is very boring. It is just a straight channel with zero turns or bends for something like 60 miles. I wanted to weave the boat back and forth in the canal just for something to do. After Rome, Little Falls was an oasis. They have a super club house for transient boaters with showers, bathrooms, a common area with TV, lounge chairs and a table we all played cards at after dinner. A wonderful place to hang out and relax after the days on the water. East of Little Falls is Lock 17, one of the highest vertical lift locks in the world. It dropped us 41 feet on our way east. The scenery gets better east of Little Falls and we were moving along as there was weather coming and we needed to get off of the canal in a few days. Amsterdam was our next stop and it is a clean and nice dock to tie to for $1 a foot for the night with electricity, bathrooms and showers. They have a great pedestrian bridge and parks along the canal and we explored on foot a bit before turning in for the night.











The next day we moved on to Waterford, our final destination along the Erie Canal. We went through 10 locks this last day with the final five of them being right at the east end of the canal before Waterford. This is called the “Waterford Flight”, where these 5 locks bring you down the last 180 feet of elevation and leave you just 15 feet above sea level. These locks are the highest lift of locks over the shortest distance of any locks in the world. In about a mile you drop almost 200 feet down to Waterford, NY. Waiting at the end of the canal for us they had a 1000 foot wall to tie up to and a nice welcome center (awful showers) and we were done with the Erie Canal. We all went out for a celebratory dinner at McGiverys, a nice fine dining place and we had a great dinner with Dave and Leslie and Chris and Mary.

It’s been two months since we left Cornucopia, Wisconsin and we’ve seen a lot of the country. Strangely we’ve been in the states of Michigan and New York for about 90% of it. We are almost as far south as Chicago and further east than The Bahamas. From here we will head south and slightly west down the Hudson River towards New York City, the ocean and beyond.

Old friends and new, adventures accomplished and adventures to come, we are enjoying our journey very much.

David and Marge Back
s/v Wandering Toes and Verne!

8 thoughts on “Canallin’”

  1. Enjoying the updates and wonderful pictures! Keep it coming!! It’s great you have other’s to travel with. You are missing cold and wet weather here. They are talking now that waves on the lake Tuesday/Wednesday will reach 12′-16 ft.and predict it will cover some land & roadways along the shore. Safe travels Backs and enjoy the warm temperatures!


  2. Glad you got your posts caught up-to-date. Enjoy reading them and seeing your pics. Gonna be a long day or two starting tomorrow. Hope all goes well and the weather holds for you. Wishing you fair winds.


  3. Great to read about your adventures. See that you are in NY now enjoying the sights n sounds. You’re not missing much here these days as the weather is starting to tell us winter will be on its way soon. Glad to know all is well. Say “Hi!” To Dave n Leslie. Remember to keep posting pics and send a note now n then. Sending hugs n snorts to all.


  4. What an amazing piece of engineering the Erie canal is, even though there were parts that were boring and parts that were a lot of work. Thanks so much for sharing your adventure with us. Glad you have old and new friends to sail with.



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