Friday, July 17, 2015

The Adventure is On!

Where to begin? I almost think I should begin with the end…but don’t want to rush it. This is how it went...
Saturday, June 20-

We had arrived at Lock 8 in the rain, but it soon quit. For some reason, we just didn’t feel comfortable at this location. Wayne actually ended up sitting up in the salon for a while to keep an eye on the place. Not sure why…maybe the fact that we were the only boat around…the only people around, except for some guys fishing. And we were right by a secondary road with some traffic.

Today we traveled to Canajoharie free town dock.

Nice location in proximity to the town…with a nice waterfront park for our viewing pleasure. We got there in time for me to tour the Arkell Museum which is part of the Canajoharie Library. (
Bartlett Arkell, the founder and first president of the Beech-Nut Packing Company {think Beech-Nut gum, baby food, etc.!} built the original Canajoharie Gallery in 1927 based on galleries he had experienced in his travels to Europe. A museum designed by Ann Beha and DesignLAB Architects was added in 2007 to the existing Canajoharie Library and Art Gallery to provide inspiring new space for exhibitions and programs.
Almost all of the paintings in the permanent collection were purchased by Bartlett Arkell for the people of Canajoharie. The American painting collection includes 21 works by Winslow Homer, and significant paintings by many distinguished artists, including George Inness, William M. Chase, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Henri, and other members of The Eight. Permanent and changing exhibitions also feature selections from the museum’s Mohawk Valley History collection as well as the Beech-Nut archives of early twentieth-century advertising material.
Bartlett Arkell was apparently ahead of his time in terms of work environment and productivity. He had music playing in the factory area until machinery came in and drowned out the sound. Then they renovated the cafeteria to include art work on the walls and large plants in containers. One of the librarians said that Arkell took care of the people of Canajoharie like he cared for his employees.
Two of Homer’s paintings really stuck with me: “On the Beach” and “Watching the Breakers-The High Sea.” A great find on the Erie!
The library part...

…and the attached museum.

Memorial garden in back of museum/library.

After touring the museum I walked over the bridge to the drug store for batteries…our headphones were dry. Stopped by the Stewarts shop for a pint of Crumbs Along the Mohawk for dessert.
Spotted this lady on the streets while walking. She was celebrating her 80th birthday. Looks pretty good for 80, I’d say!!

Love the name of this store.

That evening there were several people out fishing from the docks. One young lady in particular inspired me to do a little postcard size painting...

And a view of the Canajoharie waterfront with an arrow indicating our location. See that major highway bridge behind us? Well, there’s also a railroad bridge close and between the two of them there was considerable road noise.

Sunday, June 21 - Big Breakfast at McDonalds (yes, we do know how to live, don’t we?)…walked around town a little...then headed for Lock 17 and the town of Little Falls, NY. 
On the way to Lock 17 we stopped at St. Johnsville Marina for fuel: "lowest prices on the Erie Canal." Nice little place with a very friendly dockmaster who was encouraging us to stay with him due to the back up on the canal. As I may have mentioned before, the Oswego Canal closed to boat traffic around the 15th of June so all those of us who are going to Oswego to cross Lake Ontario are pacing ourselves. Word has it that Brewerton marinas are getting full…and lock walls are filling up. Before we left the marina we called Lock 17 to verify there was room for us, and there was. 
Having cast off lines we began to pull away from the fuel dock and realized quickly that the bow thruster wasn’t working. GULP! Maybe we’ve hit some debris and damaged the prop? We’ll have to take a look, somehow, before too long because handling this one engine boat without a bow thruster can be tricky, to say the least. 
We were in Lock 16, telling the lock master, Scott, about our bow thruster issue, and he offered to bring his diving gear over to Lock 17 tomorrow to see if he could find something obvious by looking at the prop underwater. Sounded good to us, since there really aren’t any “full service” marinas between here and Brewerton. 
Here we are on the east side wall of Lock 17...the only boat on the wall.  So far, we obviously haven’t hit the crowds who are waiting on the opening of Oswego Canal!

This sailboat, Maria, was going through the lock as we walked by the next day. It will give you an idea of the height. Ray is the captain on Maria and we will end up meeting them at Lock 20. He has two of his grandsons with him to crew. Nice guys, all!
Monday, June 22 - Scott came by at around 8:30 and got right to work…diving in the water.

Soon he came up with good results: it’s not the prop! We had looked at the thruster from inside the boat (it’s under the bed) and could hear the motor going…so at this point we’re thinking it could be a shear pin that had sacrificed itself for the good of the unit. ;-) We’ll know for sure when we get to Brewerton and Ess Kay Marina for a look-see.
So…knowing we can’t go beyond Brewerton right now because of Oswego closing…we spend a couple of days in Little Falls, NY. A neat little town that used to have lots of manufacturing going on but has now switched to tourism.

Festivals and Canal Shops for shopping.

Some of the oldest rocks in North America!
On which people climb...
Hey. Like the 80 year old lady, they look pretty good for their age!
Speaking of rocks, the canal walls have some interesting rock designs going on.
And we mustn’t forget the zebra mussels that are all over the lock walls here! I could have sworn I’d taken several pictures of the little varmints…but can’t find ‘em. I call them varmints because, even though they clean up the water they inhabit, their little dead carcasses end up clogging pipes, etc., and washing ashore to create quite a mess.
But, I digress. Back to the story at hand. We really like Little Falls.
Doorway in Little Falls.
Found out this afternoon that the Oswego Canal is opening tomorrow! Yes! It’s supposed to be really windy and stormy tomorrow so we might just stay here a day and let some of the clogged up marinas and lock walls empty out as boats clammer for Oswego.
Walked into town and had lunch at Ann’s…good! Wayne spied the peanut butter pie on the menu and saved room…or at least he thought he’d saved room. I’ve never seen him leave a bite of this kind of pie on the plate, but he did today!

I opted for a yogurt at local shop. Later I walked back into town and tried to download some items on the public library’s wifi. No go. Too slow.
We are up to 15 GB/month on our Verizon plan and still find ourselves needing to pinch gigs. I’m using an offline blogging tool now called Desk and that has helped a lot on saving time on our wifi. I can add all the pictures in the text document and do a “rapid upload” to Blogger. So far, it’s working pretty well.
Tuesday, June 23 - Well, we’re not going…then we’re going! We woke up to thunderstorms and rain with predictions of winds with gusts up to 30 mph in the early afternoon. Protected though these waters may be, 30 mph winds could ruin your day. As the morning wore on, though, we saw sunshine and lots of clouds. We decided to make a run for Lock 20, hoping to get there before it really got bad.
As we passed through Lock 17 and the marina at Little Falls we saw Joe from Glory Days waving from the dock. We’d met Joe yesterday when he came by on his bike. We swapped boat cards…and todayhe  called us later that morning to say they had decided to leave and go to Lock 20, too. We sent back reports on the weather as we went along and spotted him when they came in that night.
We saw some rain…and we felt some pretty strong gusts of wind, but the trip was mostly sun and clouds.
Arriving at Lock 20 we tied (awkwardly) up to the wall using rings on the wall and big bollards meant for tow boats. We doubled up on the ropes to compensate for possible high winds in the evening.
Lock 20 has a beautiful canal park that goes on both sides of the canal. The sailboat Maria was in front of us on the wall and Ray, the owner, explained that Lock 20 looked more like the places to tie up on the western Erie Canal. Interesting...

Wednesday, June 24 - At 9 AM we left Lock 20 heading for our next stop, Sylvan Beach.
On the trip that day we talked about our trip plans…and both admitted that with the end of our time on the Erie Canal coming soon, we were feeling some remorse. We love Canada and loved all the time we spent cruising there during the 2008 trip. But…we’ve seen the Trent Severn, North Channel, etc. and there’s SO MUCH we haven’t seen by boat that we feel the need to do something more adventurous.
We’ve decided to go all the way over to Tonawanda, NY, to the west end of the Erie Canal, and from there across Lake Erie, up the Detroit River to Lake St. Clair…then Lake Huron, Lake Superior (for a wee bit) and back down the Michigan side of Lake Michigan to Chicago.
We’re excited!! Now for some buying of charts and planning of course!
When we got to Sylvan Beach Joe had spotted a good place for us to dock and we settled in for the afternoon. Tomorrow was going to be a great day for crossing Oneida Lake, so we wanted to get a feel for Sylvan Beach before we headed out.
Sylvan Beach is a sort of retro beach town with an old, but functioning, amusement park and a beach on Oneida Lake. They have a lot of space for docking along the canal, on both sides of the waterway, and there were a lot of boats there today…most getting ready to enter the Oswego Canal after crossing Oneida Lake.

One of the boats docked on our side of the canal was a tug named Governor Roosevelt. The tugs have been really busy lately removing debris from the high waters. The crew kindly let us board and take a tour.
Wayne’s checking out the fenders on the tug: some ropes that are plaited and some that have been frayed to become what they call “whiskers.” On the front of this boat are the whiskers...

And this is what the braided fenders look like.

The captain of the tug was nice enough to answer all our questions. In fact, he was eager to share. He said he’d been at the job over 30 years and still loves it.

The people that crew these boats do all the maintenance (painting, remodeling inside, engine care). They had completely re-worked the helm.

Down in the engine room, we got a look at the power behind this tug...a BIG Caterpillar.

Once a year the tugs are inspected by the “organization” so they have been doing some fresh painting. This tug always gets good marks in the inspection. One frustrating thing, they said, was that the paint colors don’t remain the same from year to year: different brands, different colors…hard to keep up with it.

Following the tug tour we headed out for lunch and, after checking TripAdvisor, honed in on the Canal View Cafe. Good choice! We had a good lunch and followed that up with ice cream from the Cafe’s ice cream shop at the back of the building. How convenient!

Sylvan Beach has a beach! And the little cottages in the town, the old amusement park…we really liked the feel of the place. And, while not yet in full swing tourist season, things were pretty busy for the middle of the week.

Potato sacks and a big slide. How simple is that for a great ride!

Tilt-a-Whirl, Polar Express, bumper cars…and a roller coaster that would scare you to death, not because of the swoops and swirls but because of the clanking, rattling, and grinding of metal during the ride!

Thursday, June 25 - Crossing Oneida Lake today was an easy ride...

We were docked at Ess Kay Yards, Brewerton, NY, by 10:35.
We had arranged to have someone look at the bow thruster today, so while Wayne stayed with the boat I rented a car and drove to the Oswego Marina in Oswego, NY. See…we’d had all of our mail, packages (read: cases of dog food, supplies, etc.)sent to Oswego thinking we’d be going through there on the way to Canada. Now that we’d changed our plans, we needed to get those supplies before we started out on the western side of the Erie Canal.
Kim, owner/manager of the marina, loaned out her daughter, Rachel, to drive me to the rental car location. Rachel is getting ready to spend a semester of her college education in New Zealand! She’s very excited and seems very competent to be traveling solo to a location far, far away.
Rental car engaged, I made a quick 45 minute trip up…retrieved the mail from the nice folks at Oswego…stopped by WEGMAN’S supermarket on the way home for a grocery run…and delivered it all to the boat.
I was arranging to have Rachel take me back to the rental agency tomorrow morning…when I heard her discussing with another customer the fact that the canal corporation was going to be conducting a couple of “flotillas” tomorrow guided by a canal crew since the canal was still closed between Lock 24 and Lock 25!
Ah, rut-ro, as Scooby-Doo would say! We’d been concentrating on the opening of the Oswego Canal and hadn’t paid any attention to the fact that this one area of the Erie Canal did not open when the other areas resumed operation.
Well! We would definitely like to get into the flotillas tomorrow. One leaves Lock 24 at 8AM tomorrow morning and one is expected to leave around noon. Rachel assisted me with a ride home that evening after I returned the rental car so we’d be ready to “roll” tomorrow morning.
But wait. Ethan, the repairman for the thruster, had worked on the thruster yesterday and attempted to replace the shear pin. He had trouble getting the pin in and wanted to talk with the manufacturer of the thruster tomorrow morning before trying to hammer it in. (We quickly agreed this was probably a good idea!)
Kim assured us they would do their best to get us out of there as early as possible in the morning.
Friday, June 26 - Ethan called the manufacturer as soon as they opened and got the OK to use a hammer. We then took on fuel, water, and got a pumpout before leaving Ess Kay Yard at around 10 AM and starting on our new adventure…the western Erie Canal. We had no idea just what an adventure we were in for!! ;-) But the view that morning was promising!

Lock 23 is close to Ess Kay so we were through there in no time. Then we realized we were taking a little current “on the nose” and were not doing our usual 7.5 mph. We weren’t going to be able to make the 12PM flotilla at this speed.
Surely they were going to conduct more of these flotillas? Maybe we would just go to Lock 24 today and take the NEXT flotilla. We called Lock 24 and found out that there were no other flotillas scheduled…and they were calling for rain in the next few days so conditions would get even worse.
But…the flotilla wasn’t leaving until 2! OK, we might be able to do this. We upped the rpm’s and measured out our miles to make a speed that would get us there.
We squeeked into Lock 24 shortly after 2 PM and were the last boat to arrive for the flotilla. Shortly after that a small runabout boat, crewed by Canal Corp. employees, led a group of 7 boats out of the Baldwinsville harbor (Baldwinsville, by the way, looked like a very appealing place to stay. Maybe next time!)
There were four power boats and three sailboats in our group (the first flotilla had 16 boats). The distance between the locks is 30 miles and, because of the water…and sailboats that don’t go so fast under motor power…the predicted speed for the caravan was 5mph.
We longed for 5mph. During the first couple of hours we were going so slow that our ETA read between 9:50PM and 12:15AM! We ended up being the third boat from the lead boat…right behind two sailboats. One had a tendency to speed up…then slow down. About the time we reached 5mph and thought we might get through the lock before dark…they’d slow down.
Mid-way in the trip the lead boat we started with turned over the task to another boat with which they rendezvoused. The second lead boat went a bit faster. They also spread the word back to the flotilla that those of us who were counting on 15’ clearance at some of the bridges we’d pass under that day (the JOURNEY crew leaned in close to the radio)…might find a half a foot less, or more.
Off came the windshield covers at the downstairs helm and I took over piloting the boat while Wayne collapsed the bimini top. Whew!
It worked. We didn’t have to worry about the bridges now. ;-)
The water was really much higher than normal in this area of the Canal. We saw many docks near or under the water surface...
Then word came back that Lock 25 wouldn’t be able to take all 7 boats down in one load, so we’d have 2 lock throughs to accommodate the whole flotilla.
Well, what if, says one of the powerboats, what if the powerboats go on up there to the lock ahead of the sailboats and that way we’d be down and the lock ready for the sailboaters when they {finally} arrived.
So that’s what we did.
Then word came back that, uh oh, there was only room for 3 or 4 more boats on the lower wall of the lock as there were some boats there from the day’s first flotilla.
Turns out, of course, that all 4 power boats were able to get through the lock and tie up on the lower wall…and the sailboats were left to stay on the upper wall and would have to wait until the lock opened the next morning to be able to transit the lock and continue their trip west on the Erie Canal. Needless to say, some of the sailboaters were upset about this. But the lock master gives the orders and that’s what was done. There was actually room on the lower wall for 1 or 2 of the sailboats, but the lock master was going home for the evening. It was almost 9PM before we were tied up to the lock wall.
I’m sure Lock 25 has the potential to be a pretty place to light for a night…but the mosquitos we saw that evening were big and plentiful! We quickly fed and walked Lucy and headed indoors for protection!
Saturday, June 27 -

We waited until about 9 AM to leave this morning…we were pretty wound up after our trip yesterday and it took a while to settle down last night. Most everyone else had already headed out for the day’s travel, including the sailboats that locked through when the lock opened at 8 AM.
We passed by towns like Lyons, "former Peppermint Capital of the World” (Former??…)and Newark,  both looking like good places to visit.  But in the end we opted to get as far west as we could that day just in case the coming rainy weather would threaten to close other areas of the Erie Canal. We headed for Fairport.

It rained pretty much all day. We drove from inside, which, though necessary because of the collapsed biminy on the upper helm, was convenient because of the rain.
Still had to get out and handle lines in the locks, though, and we saw quite a few that day.

The REAL challenge of the day was locking through 4 of the locks with one of the rental canal boats we see everywhere on this side of the E.C. The specific boat we were destined to cruise with had 2 couples onboard and apparently none of the 4 people knew how to handle the boat.

Now, I can be sympathetic to the couples. I understand since then that the orientation they get when they pick up the boat is to take it about 1/2 mile up the canal to a lock, go up and back down in the lock…then, whoopee, you’re on your own! One of the bridge tenders later called them SCORES. Stupid Customers Operating Rental Equipment.

As I said, I can be somewhat sympathetic…to a point. I just know that if I went through the first lock and bungled it as badly as they did…I think I’d stay in one of the open areas of the Canal maneuvering the boat until I got a better feel for it.

They were a real threat in the locks. We let them go in first to grab the ropes anyway they could get them…but just about the time they looked like they were secured, they would let go and the boat would go floating out in the middle of the lock. Turns out, they apparently weren’t taking the boat out of gear once they got the ropes so 3 of the 4-some would be on the top of the boat scambling around trying to hold onto the ropes.

In every lock they ended up coming off the wall at some point in the lock through. Their boat actually hit ours at one point, but it didn’t cause harm.  Lock masters started telling us to “watch out” as we came in with them. Oh, believe me, we knew!! In the last lock we went through their boat ended up parallel to the lock doors! Before any of us could exit, the lock master had to yell and instruct the boaters on how to turn the boat around (the canal boaters couldn’t be hailed on the radio).

Here we are that evening tied up at the Fairport, NY, town dock. The boat you see getting ready to go under the lift bridge at Fairport is not the same boat we fussed at the day before. But you get an idea of the size and shape of boat...

We really liked Fairport!  These trails border the entire Erie Canal and are heavily used.  Lots of people take bicycle tours all along the canal.  Others, like us, just take advantage of the scenic walks.

Bill, the dock master…most helpful.

Our place on the dock…Oh, did I mention we are steps away from an awesome ice cream shop featuring two brands of ice cream and the cheapest prices we’ve had so far on this trip for ice cream! Another good find was the nearby restaurant, Riki’s. We were there twice this week and both times the place was full and we had a short wait. Sampled both the breakfast and lunch menus. They had a veggie frittata that I ordered on two separate occasions, it was so good!

There were two amazing shops we found in Fairport. One was a Tool Thrift Shop and the other was an arts and crafts store called Craft Bits and Pieces. Both shops took in donated items and sold them (at amazingly cheap prices) to benefit senior charities in Fairport. Though alike in ways, they are not affiliated with each other.

I found a great little wooden box with a sliding top at the tool store.

Then I spent at least an hour in the arts and crafts store. They had so much to see!!

I spent most of my time browsing through several large pins of stamps. They were arranged by size, which was perfect for my purposes…‘cause you know we have limited space on JOURNEY. This is the collection I carried away (see nickle in upper right for sizing of stamps).

These stamps will be perfect for playing around on little card projects.

As I walked in the door to the crafts shop I spotted this antique toy Singer sewing machine. It still works and has the original box with it. I know I don’t have space for it…but I thought my sister, Nadine, might be interested so I sent her a photo. She loved it, too, so I bought it and shipped it up to Virginia where it will have a loving home. ;-)

Meanwhile, Lucy is getting furrier and furrier. She’s overdo for a trim, but it’s so hard to arrange on a trip like this. Here she is in the mornings, waiting on one of us to take her for a walk. She may be blind, but she catches on quickly to her surroundings.

Spencerport, NY, July 2-3 - We called Eric, the bridge operator, on Thursday morning and got passage through the first of many lift bridges on this western section of the canal. (Eric helped us diagnose the problem with our refrigerator.) It was a slow day of travel today, what with two locks, 32 an 33, and many more bridges to pass under.

While at Fairport we put the bimini back up. But…we still couldn’t be sure of the water levels with all the rain this area has had. We crept under most of the 16’ or less bridges, with Wayne and a measuring post keeping watch. From our perspective at the helm it looks like the bimini is going to be scraped off. But, from eye level, as Wayne was on his perch, we had clearance of about a foot or more on even the lowest bridges. The Erie Canal doesn’t mark the bridges with water height gauges. As a result, not even the Canal Corp. can tell you for sure on a given day the vertical clearance on any given bridge.

When we got to Spencerport our friend Dick was there…and so were Don and Carol from Last Rambler. They helped us tie up to the wall and gave us an orientation to the town.

Both Dick and the folks from Last Rambler are part of a transient community that live on the Erie Canal during the summer. Dick lives in Florida during the winter and Don and Carol live in St. Louis, MO. They have both been doing this for years now, and there are others here just like them. They don’t stick together day-to-day, but run into each other as they wander and always seem to enjoy the company. Don and Carol have gone to boat shows in the surrounding areas and tried to get the Canal Corp. to build up interest in this friendly, economical cruising ground. They, like we, believe this is a hidden gem for boaters.

Both boat left the next day and we were the only ones on the dock…again.

The only real issue we had in Spencerport was the siren. We were parked right in front of the Depot & Canal Museum…and that circled item in the pic below is, yes, the siren. When it would go off, and it went off a LOT, everyone would practically hit the ground with fingers in the ears! They have a volunteer fire dept. and, in addition to the normal uses for a siren, it’s used to call in the troops, so to speak.

Spencerport has a Tops Grocery within walking distance, as well as a Dollar Store and…yes, friends, an ice cream store. Actually it was a custard store, even better. We were there both days. ;-).

There’s also a fantastic book store in Spencerport. Books were piled mile high! I asked if they had any art instruction books (usually there will be one or two…maybe). He had three sections. One was made up of 3 piles of books on the floor. They had just been received and marked…but not shelved yet. Then there was the “usual” section with about 6 shelves of art instruction books. And THEN…I was invited to move several stacked piles in the floor to peruse even MORE art instruction books. I was tempted…but found 2 great books and settled for those without going through moving the piles. ;-)

On Friday another boat came in and tied up ahead of us, Lady J. The name sounded familiar, but I didn’t remember ever seeing that make/model of boat before. Turns out, when we started talking with them later that day, that Jana (Mike’s her husband) had been following our blog and we had actually corresponded a couple of times. They are just starting the Loop and are so excited! We had a great time talking, and sharing boat tours. ;-)We had a lot of laughs over my antics to get the cell phone operating with the Selfie Stick clicker.

When we left the next day, I took a picture of their boat at the dock and they took pictures of JOURNEY headed for the lift bridge. They were also kind enough to give us their Lake Erie chart book! We’ll keep up with them on their Great Loop adventure.

Brockport, NY, Saturday, July 4 -
We left Spencerport on the 4th and had a short trip to the village of Brockport.

Reading the email this morning I came on an interesting Notice to Mariners from the NY Canals:

Mariners are advised that a large, unpowered, makeshift float comprised of interconnected inflatable rafts will be drifting down the Hudson River/Champlain Canal from the southern tip of Campbell Island (near Buoy R “18”) to the Troy Motor Boat and Canoe Club (near Buoy G “1”) starting at 1:00 pm Saturday, July 4th. This float, an annual excursion of the Troy Motor Boat and Canoe Club, will have limited maneuverability, a large number of passengers and will be accompanied by lifeguard/support boats.Mariners are to proceed past this float at a “no wake” speed not exceeding 5 mph.
Wonder if beer is involved?

In Brockport that Saturday we had lunch at the Stoneyard Brewing Company, right by our dock.

Great burger and brews! Fortified, we headed over to the town’s celebration of the 4th at a local historical home. A cake walk was the highlight!

Of course there was ice cream on the agenda afterwards.
The next morning, before we left, we went to the local farmers’ market.

Took home these prizes.

We left Brockport and took a short ride to Holley, NY, for the night.
As we approached Holley, a couple of boats pulled out from the dock…including Last Rambler. Again, we were the only boat on the dock.

Holley is small, with limited resources for the boater. We were docked by a path that led to the Falls, and took that trail for the view.

Who knew?

Our position on the dock. Only…boat…there.

Small town. Most places closed. Sam’s Diner was open there, though, and we took advantage of it for breakfast the next morning before we left!

Albion, NY, Tuesday, July 7 - Short day to Albion town dock. Lots of bridges, not all lift. We’re the only boat on the dock. Same song...

Walked to town and looked at the library…a very nice one for a town this size. Storms during the night, but clear the next morning.

North Tonawanda, NY, Tuesday, July 7- 9
Left Albion on Tuesday and headed for a stop at Medina where we’d had mail delivered to the City Clerk’s office. Got a quick look at Medina on the way to the mail and it was a neat looking town with great architectural details! At one point a passerby asked me why I was taking a picture of a building. “I like the windows?"

We stopped at the Bread Basket and bought some treats for us and some for the Clerk’s Office for their trouble with the mail.

After picking up the mail we stopped at a local restaurant and ordered lunch sandwiches to go. Here’s Wayne with the loot...

On to North Tonawanda! Which involved a trip through Lockport, a city that looked like it would be worth a stay some day. Maybe when we become annual cruisers of the Erie Canal???

Interesting ride through our last two locks, 34 and 35. These locks are together, with a door between.  We went up half way...then through the middle door and up the rest of the way. The lock master asked us to tie up to the port side in the first lock…then to the starboard side in the second. Trouble was…there was a tour boat and a pleasure vessel coming from the other direction and when the doors opened for us to enter lock 35…they were on their starboard, our port side. We had to play dodge-em to criss-cross to the other side to complete our transit. Dock master apologized for the mix up as we were finishing our “ride."

Pleasant trip on to North Tonawanda. Now we were off the Erie Canal (sob!) and on the Tonawanda River/Canal.

Once in North Tonawanda we tied up on the wall just after the railroad lift bridge. Dockage, power and water for $20/night. Another good deal! BTW, there is Tonawanda and there is North Tonawanda, not to be confused. The waterway separates the two.

Wednesday, July 8 - We rented a car today from Enterprise (they picked us up at the dock at noon) and, after a stop at the Chill Yogurt Bar, we drove to Niagara Falls. Neither of us had seen the falls and it was quite an experience! Pardon me while I…gush!

We rode the Maid of the Mist through the area and came back soaked, but exhilerated!!

Thursday we did laundry, grocery shopping, lunch and a yogurt bar (Moe’s opened at 11…White Rabbit Yogurt Bar at 11:30) before turning in our rental at noon.  Gotta take advantage of wheels when you got em!

Buffalo, NY, Canal Side, July 10 - Pulled out of N. Tonawanda dock around 9 and were in Buffalo, NY, at the Canalside municipal docks by 12:30. We didn’t need charts, really, because the signage was pretty clear...

The passage through Black Rock Lock (try saying that a few times as you are calling out on Channel 16!)was easy peasy. Short trip up, 6 feet, they say, with short lines to grab for a bow/stern hold.
We’re headed south, but the Niagara River flows north. We saw 2 miles per hour drag on our speed as we made our way towards the Black Rock Lock and Canal.

This was our view of the Niagara River from the Black Rock Canal channel...

The excitement came when we heard the Coast Guard telling us all to watch for signs of a boat having capsized near the Peace Bridge on the Niagara. Not a good place to get lost!

We stopped in at the Erie Basin Marina for fuel and pump out. Ouch! Diesel prices here are in the $3.67 range. We’ve been spoiled so far with most prices under $3/gallon.
The skyline of Buffalo, NY...

Tied up at Canalside by 12:30...

(yes, there was a bit of debris in the harbor) and set out on foot to find two culinary specialties recommended by friends for this area: duck blood soup and beef on weck. Didn’t have any luck with the duck soup, given the time we had…but we did score some beef on weck with local brews at the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery. Wayne was anticipating a good meal...and we were not disappointed!

From Wikipedia: A beef on weck (also known as beef on wick) is a sandwich found primarily in Western New York. It is made with roast beef on a kummelweck roll. The meat on the sandwich is traditionally served rare, thin cut, with the top bun getting a dip au jus and topped with horseradish.
The kummelweck roll gives the sandwich its name and a distinctive taste. A kummelweck (sometimes pronounced "kimmelweck" or "k├╝mmelweck") is topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds.
It was delicious! Then we set out for museums: me to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a 30-min. bus ride away…

and Wayne to the Naval Museum at Canalside where he toured 3 historic boats.

My trek up to the museum by bus was a tour in itself. I got to take in Elmwood Street and the Elmwood neighborhood. Really good looking area of town with lots of contemporary shopping opportunities. Oh, that we had more time here!

Couldn’t help but notice this gorgeous church downtown…

Buffalo harbor was jumpin’ on a Friday night!

 All kinds of boats out milling around and people walking around the Canalside area.  Next morning, by the time we walked Lucy, everything was quiet.

We’re liking this town! Very friendly, up beat vibe!

Dunkirk Yacht Club, Dunkirk, NY - Saturday, July 11

First day out on Lake Erie, proper! So…when we got our Lake Erie charts from Mike and Jana she said they never wanted to be on Lake Erie again. They’d had some rough experiences on the lake and from all we hear…they were justified in saying that. The lake is long and relatively shallow. Winds normally come from the west on the lake this time of year which builds into large waves on the eastern side of the lake. One guy said they refer to those waves as 4 X 4’s.

Fortunately for us…it was a calm day on the lake. Winds under 10 knots and waves 1 ft. or less. We were soon at our home for the evening, the Dunkirk Yacht Club. We received reciprocal dockage for the night (read: free) because of MTOA’s membership in the Yacht Clubs of America.

Great club. All volunteers. They limit membership to 100 active members. Everyone is obliged to spend 10 hours a month volunteering at the club. We talked with several members after finding the guest dock and were offered rides to grocery, etc. We did do some walking around to check out the place (ice cream shop, yes!)…then spent a quiet night on the dock.

The town of Dunkirk looked like it was struggling. Lots of store fronts closed and for rent.

We have a lot of people who stop to talk with us on the dock when they see Knoxville, TN, as our home port. “How did you get here?? Up the Mississippi??” Then we “wow” them with the course we’ve been through and the miles, 3500+ at this point, we’ve come. We’re getting the spiel down pat!

Geneva State Park Marina, Geneva-on-the-Lake, OH- July 13-15

We’ve adopted the idea of leaving really early (OK, for us we shoot for 6:30AM) on our trips over Lake Erie. Here’s our view as we left Dunkirk and headed over to Geneva State Park Marina on Monday,July 13.

Geneva State Park Marina is located in a beautiful setting and the marina staff are nice and helpful. There’s a large charter fishing boat contingent in the marina…but lots of plain ole pleasure boats, like ours, too.

The park has a beach on the lake and it’s a lovely walk from the marina.

No shells to speak of…but tons of neat rocks…and I hear there’s sea glass (well, beach glass in fresh water), too.

As we were leaving Geneva I read more about the stones there and realized I missed something! The are “otoliths” along Lake Erie and they are considered lucky stones. They are the ear bones of Sheepshead fish.
I’ll have to look through my stash of Lake Erie stones gathered so far and see if I can find any that I picked up unknowingly.
What I did notice was a lot of heart shaped stones...

My collection, so far.

Geneva-on-the-Lake is a short walk from the park. It looks like a retro-version of Gatlinburg…I’m talkin’ way back.

All kinds of little cottages for rent...

The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake

Cleveland, OH, Lakeside Yacht Club, July 16-?

We’re in Cleveland, OH! Did some grocery shopping today via taxi rides…and plan to check out downtown Cleveland tomorrow. More blog later!