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Friday, June 1, 2012

250' Above Sea Level

I'll bet our boat never thought it would be up in the air like this!  We have now come through 12 locks and climbed 250', and I must say I think we've got the hang of it.  There were a few blunder moves by yours truly, but stainless rub rails have so far saved the day.  There is widely varying amounts of turbulence in the locks when they are filling, and you are never sure where it will come in relative to where you stop.  Some locks are easy, and others are a real chore to keep the boat from getting away.

Two days ago we tied up over night at the Waterford Pier right where the Erie Canal begins.  In this picture you can see the boats tied up, and the first lock door just to the left of the line of boats.  That's the first of 5 locks in a row known as the Waterford Flight.  Each one lifts the boat about 34' and collectively they are the highest lift over the shortest distance in the world.
Waterford Pier and Flight

In the same picture all the way to the left you can see one channel of the Mohawk River where it empties into the Hudson.  Back when all the canal traffic was pulled by mule the entire canal was a dedicated ditch with tow path.  But as mechanized propulsion evolved, it became possible to push/pull barges in the river and the "canal" started moving over to use the Mohawk River.  Now pretty much the whole stretch we are traveling is the Mohawk, with remnants of the old canal visible here and there.

When I awoke in the morning at Waterford, this family of geese were hanging out near by.  Fortunately they were not THAT close, and all their mess was in front of the boat ahead of us.

Family of Canada Geese

The next series of pictures show us working our way through the Waterford Flight.  In one picture, you can see the next lock gate up ahead in the distance.  The lock operators are all very friendly and helpful, and will let the next lock know you are coming so they can be ready for you.

Waterford Flight, E2

Waterford Flight, Approaching E4

Waterford Flight, E4 looking ahead to E5

Many of you know that I went to Union College in Schenectady, NY, but you might not know that it's also where the idea of this trip was born.  Being the heavy machinery junkie that I am, I used to go hang out at Lock #7 to watch the barges and boats lock through, and that's when I first realized that not only was the Mohawk navigable, but that it ultimately tied the Great Lakes, NYC, the St Lawrence, and Champlain all together.  I brought our Boston Whaler to Schenectady and did a little cruising up and down the river and through a couple of locks, and thought how cool it would be to do a northeast circumnavigation.  30 years later, here we are approaching Lock #7, finally doing the Downeast Loop.  Thankfully, the part of the original plan to do the trip in the 17' Whaler did not survive.  Tanglewood II is a tad more comfy.

 
Lock #7, Birthplace of this Trip

Last night we stayed at the Schenectady Yacht Club which isn't in Schenectady, but is adjacent to the remains of an aqueduct that was part of the original canal.  It was a stone and wood "bridge" that carrier the original canal across the Mohawk.  SYC's club house is one of the original houses used for canal operations.  The next morning brought a nice mist rising off the river.

Schenectady Yacht Club
 Beyond Schenectady, the Mohawk passes through mostly rural settings with an occasional boat club or house, but all along you are not far away from two rail lines and I-90.

Around Rotterdam, NY


To many, Irene was a big-nothing of a storm, but the Mohawk Valley and upper Hudson really got the crap knocked out of them.  I previously described some of the damage along the Hudson and in Waterford, but the stretch that spans locks #8 through #12 is astonishing.  Lock #9 probably got hit the worst with all the land to the north of the dam and lock having been completely taken away.  The pictures show the approach and you can see how the entire right side has been rebuilt.

Lock #9
 The next picture is closer, and you can see the new concrete embankment about in the center of the photo.  There used to be a significant gate house there which was completely swept away.

Lock #9
Up above from in the lock, you can see how the land has been refilled to force the river back over and through the dam.  One of those ponds is where the lock house used to stand.

Lock #9

Lock #9, Pond where Gate House Used to be.

Lock #10 was a similar scene.

Lock #10
About half way between locks 12 and 13 are Fonda and Fultonville on opposite sides of the river.  On the Fonda side is an old barge terminal where you can tie up for the night, so that's what we did.  Most of the locks have long approach walls on one or both sides where you can also tie up, but in this stretch many of the walls are either gone or have been so badly damaged that they can't be used, so we decided to grab this spot for the night.  It now appears to be a work yard for the State, but there is an old crane for loading barges and a canal work boat tied up with us.  Interestingly, there are a couple of power posts available for transients, but we aren't going to bother hooking up.

Not Much Action at The Fonda Terminal

Canal Work Boat Keeping Us Company

Fonda Terminal

Itty Bitty Work Boat




Stay tuned for the next exciting installment......

1 comment:

Dave Hayden '81 said...

I remember going to Lock 7 the summer that I spent in Schenectady.