As the Hudson River narrowed, we arrived in Troy, NY where we turned left toward Waterford and the entrance into the historic Erie Canal. This is where the infamous “locks” begin to appear with great frequency. Before we planned this trip, we always thought of a lock as something you put a key into. We South Carolina folk have never put our boat into a lock! These locks are high-walled water chambers that you drive your boat into, secure it to a vertical cable or pipe in the lock wall, and then ride upward on a water elevator as the lockmaster fills the chamber with water to lift you as much as 40 feet to the level of the canal above. Sounds easy enough, right? We had been thoroughly briefed on how to perform this maneuver and had been through a few small locks in the Dismal Swamp of Virginia. We felt ready after taking inventory of our special lock fenders, line handling gloves, boat hooks and tie-off lines. We had even been to a fellow looper’s boat for u-tube briefings on how to safely negotiate a lock. After spending the night tied up to the town dock of Waterford, we left the next morning ready to pass through the Waterford Flight, which is a series of 5 lock chambers that lift your boat a total of 169 feet over a cruising distance of 1-1/2 miles. To tell you the truth, it was one of the most interesting days that we have had. As we experienced the tons of water rushing into the chamber from under the boat, it jostled the Estrellita around like a little tub toy and it took all the muscle we had to hold the boat securely against the wall. There were a few times when Stel and I looked at each other with anxious eyes, but eventually admitted that each ride up was a pretty cool experience.
We pulled into a slip at the Schenectady Yacht Club, a relatively small marina, for what was planned to be a one night visit and opportunity to ride our bikes on the Erie Canal Trailway. It had been lightly raining throughout the day, but we needed the exercise and decided to ride the trail despite the drizzle. We had a great time along the beautiful wooded and hilly route, built and maintained by the state of New York. After riding about 10 miles of the trail, we returned to the Estrellita just as the rain started to fall a little harder. It rained throughout the night and the entire next day. As the unusual amount of rainfall worked its way down the surrounding mountain ranges, the speed of the current and the water level grew at an alarming rate. We were told to secure the Estrellita to structures on land if possible in case the flooding waters caused any problems during our second night. Needless to say, these suggestions were acted upon, but didn’t allow us to sleep very well. As a result of the fast moving water, a great amount of shoreline debris, including large logs, struck the hull of the boat with continuous thunking noises. I crawled out of bed at 2 and stepped out onto the dock to find a torrent of debris-filled water flowing around the boat and the water level up at least 2 feet. The dock appeared to be very stressed along with all of our mooring lines, which were so tight that I feared they would break loose. It didn’t look good, but all I could do was add more lines and push away the big logs that became lodged against the side of our boat. I got up again at 5:30 to find the water level still rising and one of our buddy boats being pulled away from its dock mooring due to the crazy current. I woke up all the loopers and we did what we could to keep the docks and boats from coming apart until a large group of local club members came to the rescue. During the busy morning, we met some of the nicest and most helpful people that we have met thus far. The locks in our area are closed temporarily and we are patiently waiting for the “dynamic waters” of the Erie Canal to settle down a bit before we venture back out. God continues to be very good to us.