The lock closings due to high water kept us at Schenectady Yacht Club for five days. We spent time restocking the galley, doing laundry, finishing a few boat projects and riding our bikes along the beautiful Erie Canal Bikeway. The members of the small owner-run club were extremely kind to us and went out of their way to ensure that we enjoyed our stay and had what we needed to continue our journey. After getting notice that the locks were again open for safe passage, we got up early on a beautiful Tuesday morning and continued west.
Search for the “Erie Canal Song” on Google and listen to Bruce Springsteen sing his version! You will then understand the title of this blog post. I thought we had some low bridges in South Carolina, but not nearly as many as on the Erie Canal. Around every corner there seems to be a fixed bridge with a clearance of between 20 and 25 feet. The top of the radar mast on the Estrellita is 20 feet off the water, so we were rather anxious every time we approached a low bridge. I found myself sitting lower in my seat every time we passed under…..like that was going to make some kind of difference! The water level in the canal was unusually high due to the recent rains, so we made the decision to reduce our anxiety by taking the mast down and laying it on our deck. It didn’t look too nifty, but it definitely kept our hearts out of our throats.
We are about half way through the Erie Canal and we have passed through 18 locks, some lifting us 10 feet and others lifting us as high as 40 feet. The big ones continue to be quite an experience as we enter the cavernous concrete chamber at idle speed and then bring the boat up against a sheer wall where we grab slimy ropes to hold ourselves secure. Gloves and telescoping boat hooks are a must! What a transition it is to be lifted from the bottom of each lock holding muddy water and overwhelming diesel fumes…up to a fresh cool breeze and the sight of the lush mountains of the New York. We will have approximately 125 more locks to pass through before we finish the Great Loop.
Over the last few days we have made an effort to cruise at least 40 to 50 miles and then stop in one of the small towns that are a part of the rich history of the Erie Canal. Most of the towns have a free docking wall that we can tie up to for the evening, where we are often greeted by local people who are glad to have cruisers come and support their small-town communities. The walls will sometimes have water and electricity hookups which allow for powering up the boat without use of our house batteries. The greatest thing about tying onto the town wall is that you immediately become part of the town. We are a temporary, but an important part of their community and we feel their sincere hospitality.