About in Boats, Boots, and Byways:
Archive of all Erie Canal Journal entries for
and driftin' in our skiff
left, self-portrait at Holley Town Wall
on the canal. Above, detail of canal bank,
with Shasta Daisies and Medina limestone.
July 02: Today
we took The Weekend Skiff on the new boat trailer
to the Erie Canal. The boat and trailer were
happy, and we were, too. We put in between Brockport
and Holley and rowed west for a mile or two
to the Holley Town Wall. Then we drifted back
with the current and wind to the dock. The weather
yesterday was incredible; today we had lots
of haze, some gentle wind, and nice temperatures.
Half the big boat boaters who passed us by shouted
out admiration for the skiff.
works its magic on a humid day
water was like glass.
July 02: We went for
another row on the canal. This time, we put in
below Middleport and rowed for a while, then drifted
back. The day had been hot and humid, but on the
water, as the sun went down, the humidity, and
the heat, eased. It was magical. I couldn't stop
launch the Harmonica, our canalboat
August 02: We launched
the Harmonica canalboat that I built today.
We used the ramp at Middleport. Stayed out
about two hours. It was hot but not so humid,
about 84 degrees. The sky was clear and clean.
There were many boats and lots of people out
enjoying the day. Saw lots of fish jumping,
too. No wind to speak of.
is Heidi, a mommie dog that we saw
at the ramp a few weeks ago. This
was our second meeting. Heidi's human
likes to park it on the dock and fish.
Heidi jumped in the truck as soon
as my wife opened the door. She was
a sweet little thing for sure.
see dogs and ducks ... and a very odd crane
were a few dozen yearling ducks
that circled the boat while we
were at anchor, and even the heavy
equipment on the canal bank look
almost alive. A trick of the light
makes the mirror image in the
of Medina limestone shows quarry
August 02: We took the Harmonica out
for its second voyage. Again, we went
to the ramp just outside of Middleport,
on the Medina side. And this time, we
went to Medina instead of toward Middleport,
as we did on the Harmonica's maiden voyage.
We were out for about four hours, and
used about 40 percent of the battery's
power, which is as much as we would want
to draw down before recharging, to promote
battery life. It was a hot day and there
was a bit of breeze but not constant.
The boat did OK in the breeze, though
the breeze exaggerated the touchy steering.
I'm thinking about adding a skeg to get
some tracking going. As it is, I have
to correct the course every 10 or 20 seconds
to avoid getting off course. We tried
out the anchor, which was a success, too,
and on the way back the sun went down
and it was very dark. A beautiful day
and evening on the boat!
now, we're canal veterans
August 02: We launched in the afternoon
at Veterans Park in Amherst on the Tonawanda
Creek section of the Erie Canal. It was the
first time that we had much wind to contend
with, and the wind drew down the battery a bit
faster. I had to use full power to stay clear
of the seaweed crap (don't know what to call
it, really). There isn't any of this on the
canal, because of the yearly filling and draining,
I'm assuming. All in all, I'm glad that we went,
because this section is much nicer than I expected,
and wider --but also busier, than the canal
proper. There were lots of birds, especially
ducks, including some tiny ones. I'm beginning
to wonder if I'll get used to the sit-and-stare
reaction that the boat elicits in most of the
other boaters that we encounter. On balance,
I like it, a lot.
set a pace we can't quite equal
sky made beautiful patterns against
our new sun awning. And walkers were
still catching up and passing us.
We went to the launch ramp between Holley and
Brockport, and started off downstream to Brockport,
but when the wind picked up at our backs, we
anchored for a time in hopes that the wind would
die down, but it didn't. We turned around, and
fighting the wind and current with our trolling
motor, fought back to the ramp, and then went
on to Holley, and back. We were out for about
three hours but used as much energy as we did
in a four- or five-hour outing. The difference
was the occasional need to use full power to
maintain steerage against the wind. The place
where we anchored was down from a wide spot
that seemed to funnel the wind and current.
Once we gained the point at the foot of the
wide spot, we were able to move better. Once
we were to the ramp, the going was even easier.
My feeling is that we could go full power for
longer stretches, and that we could use the
backup battery, too. I would want to install
a gauge or two (volts and amps) and know how
to use them before I used full power too much,
though. We liked the striped sun awning that
we made. The other thing special about the day
was the sky. Lots of cloud shapes and blue sky
passes us by; we couldn't be more pleased
August 02: We
took the boat up to Lockport this afternoon and
launched at Widewater. We went up to the lift
bridge near downtown, then turned around and went
with the current to a bridge a few miles away.
We were on the water for about three hours, and
we saw a lot more people on the towpath and a
lot more boats than we usually do. Many folks
shouted praise for the boat; I wonder if that
will ever get old ... .
August 02: We
spent about five hours on the water, putting in
at Albion and motoring upstream toward a big lake
connected to the canal near Presbyterian Road
and Eagle Harbor. The color of the day was yellow,
including the first goldenrod blooms that I've
seen this year (not a good thing). We also saw
the first leaves that had turned -- sumac. The
stretch of canal is not as populated with walkers
as some others, but we saw a lot of bike riders,
mostly older, since we were on the water at midday.
There were a lot of boats, because of the Labor
Day weekend starting. We were prepared to go through
our first bridge raising but didn't have to. When
we got to the lift bridge at Eagle Harbor, we
saw that we could drift under with two or three
feet to share in the headroom category. The sky
was blue and temperature was in the mid-70s to
start and low 80s later, but humidity was low.
A wonderful day on the water. The bead of epoxy
did its work -- no more leaks! We had to switch
to the second battery in sight of the ramp because
to oomph went kawoosh all at once. I could have
stuck with the battery but wanted to test the
drill of changing to the other. The critical component
was tossing the anchor overboard to stabilize
things so I could fuss without any need to use
an oar to fend off the shore. The switch took
about five minutes and was hassle-free. The difference
in battery power was noticeable, but later when
I hooked the first battery to the charger, it
shows the usual starting point on the amp meter.
I still have to learn more about the meter things
.... . I'm getting better at
the trailer thing, too. No longer feel lost about
what to do to make the rig go this way or that.
I'm scheming on a bowsprit piece to get the anchor
out from the bow to make it easier to deploy;
it'll hang from the sprit, too. Got a beautiful
piece of 2x4 poplar to make it with. Tomorrow,
maybe. The quality of light and wind made diamonds
in the water. Like the kitten in the cat litter
commercial on TV sez: "Diamonds! We're rich."
for all my friends!
We launched at the North Tonawanda town ramp and motored
down to Erie Gateway Park to meet four friends. The
goal for the day was to give first rides to friends
and to try out the waterbikes that one can rent for
$6 per half hour. We had dinner nearby, leaving the
Harmonica tied to the town wall. It was a fine and
hot afternoon, and we were surprised by the funky
little boat houses and cabins along the canal on the
north side. The grass gunk was a pain, and there were
a lot of boats, including my first witty drunks. On
the way back to the launch ramp, a Sheriff's Department
boat put the blue flashing lights on us for only having
a white light (not working very well). After a stern
lecture and the stated conviction that they should
ground us on the spot for an equipment violation,
they went the other way. I had gone to the state of
New York website and check on Coast Guard regulations,
and it was my impression that a white light was all
I needed on the Harmonica. The deputy said that I
needed a green/red navigation light and that I better
have one before I go on the water again. Cops can
be such jerks sometimes; me, too ... . I think I'd
rather have a ticket than a ration of crap and a quick
game of Kick
Me. And I will get the lights in
did just fine with five aboard. The extra
folk didn't change the trim more than an
inch or two.
is a houseboat with a huge pelican mural
on each side. We saw this craft last fall
up on the canal near Brockport.
sits at her ease at the town wall. (The
design is called the Harmonica; our Harmonica
we named Flipper.)
navigation lights give safety and joy
We spent about five hours on the canal this evening,
with the lion's share done after dark. We put in at
Widewater in Lockport and went as far as Orangeport
Bridge. The new navigation lights worked without a
hitch, though I did spend the early part of the day
installing them. I never did get this fancy switch
with fuses to work that I bought at Obersheimer's.
The leaves are just beginning to turn, and I spent
a lot of my available digital camera chip space trying
to catch the subtle change toward fall. The other
amazing thing about this trip (every trip on the canal
is amazing in some way) was the colors in the sunset.
For a bunch of pix of the sunset, click
about in Gasport
couldn't fit under, so we went home. It
was time anyway.
colors still subtle. There is some color
but still not much.
Sept. 02: We put in at Gasport Marina, where
there is a tiny public boat launch ramp. First we
went downstream, with the wind, for about 45 minutes,
then turned around and fought the wind back to the
marina and beyond to the Gasport Lift Bridge. We
knew from previous experience that this bridge has
only a few feet of space under the girders when
in the down position. That was the case. Last spring,
we couldn't even fit the skiff under with both of
us prone. It was fun to try, though. The weather
threatened rain all morning and on the way, but
the time on the water was dry, though the sky was
darkish. It was cooler, too. Yesterday topped out
above 80 degrees. Today was noticeably cooler. I
expected to see more fall color than last week,
but the change was subtle, and I don't know if the
pix I took show the difference. There
was a boatload of Nautical ... Ironical stuff.
wind puts our boating season on notice
left: Pruned willow. Above left: On the
water. Above: Classic Chris Craft goes
by the other way
Oct. 02: We
had some time in the afternoon, so we went up on
the Tonawanda Creek section of the canal, which
is closer to home, and launched at West Canal Park
and Marina, which is just off Niagara Falls
Boulevard in the Town of Wheatfield, about 10 miles
or less from the beginning of the canal at North
Tonawanda. The wind was very strong, such that we
had trouble getting out of the launch zone, and
then could barely make any headway. After a few
minutes of fighting the wind, we decided to anchor
for a while, but the anchor kept dislodging when
the boat began to charge around and catch the wind
on one side and then on the other. It was frustrating,
but being on the water is always good. We agreed
that the boat and motor are best for the canalized
section of the canal up further in Niagara County
where we prefer to go when we can, and we also agreed
that a bigger electric motor may be best for a bigger
boat, down the road. This may have been the last
trip of this season, unless we get a warm day matching
up with a day off in the next few weeks. I'm going
to hold off on winterizing the boat until the end
of October, just in case.
was a good day ... a dink day
Oct. 02: We went to Widewater at Lockport
today to launch
the dink that I'm building.
I took a short row down the canal, past the amazing
row of hardwood trees on the south back below
Widewater. There was more fall color than the
last time I was on the canal, but it still is
pretty subtle. We're hoping for one more trip
this season in the Harmonica, probably at the
end of this month, when we're taking some vacation
visit abandoned Genesee Valley Canal locks
finally seeing some significant fall color.
Through the colorful leaves, you can see
part of a lock wall of the abandoned Genesee
here to see more
pix of the locks
Oct. 02: We took a ride down to Letchworth State
Park to admire the turning leaves, and I also wanted
to take pictures of a series of abandoned locks
that I had seen a few years ago when we were driving
from Nunda to Portageville at the southern foot
of the park. We drove around and around before finding
the locks, but the search was worth it. The locks
are on State Route 436 about two miles west of Nunda.
We walked from the foot the head of the series
of seven locks on what was once known as the Genesee
Valley Canal. This canal branched from the Erie
Canal in downtown Rochester and went as far as Olean,
in the Southern Tier, about 60 miles away. The locks
that we saw are 10 feet wide and about 15 feet deep,
and 100 feet long. The dry-laid quarry stone that
was used for the lock sides is largely intact. There
are even a few shred of the timbers that were used
in the locks, too.
and temperature begin to drop for fall
left: There is an abandoned dockwall along
the canal just upstream from the locks at
Lockport, and at the end of the abandoned
dockwall is a short, steep launch ramp.
It would take a 4-wheel-drive pickup truck
to pull off a launch here. Below: I've been
taking pix at Widewater for several weeks,
off and on, and this is one shows the turn
of the season.
Oct. 02: We
took a ride along the canal from its intersection
with Niagara Falls Boulevard. We saw some special
... Ironical stuff and took pix,
and also took some pix of the abandoned ramp in
downtown Lockport and some pix of the turned leaves
out at Widewater. It was cold, and almost snowing,
but not quite, which has been the situation all
season of the Guard Gates begins
Nov. 02: We went up to the canal at Middleport
to see if the dusting of snow that Western New York
got overnight would make for some good pix. There
was a little more snow still on the ground than
there was closer to home, and it was cold and windy.
Still, there was a fisherman in a small aluminum
boat trolling around with a small electric motor.
The official end of the canal boating season is
tomorrow, so we are hoping to get a pic or two of
the process of shutting down and draining the canal,
later next week.
watch continues as the canal faces winter
Nov. 02: I
detoured over by Lockport on the way home from church
this afternoon to see if the draining of the canal
had started. In Lockport, below the locks, there
was no indication that anything was afoot. Going
home, I followed the canal and came upon a Guard
Gate near the confluence of the canal and Tonawanda
Creek. The gate was down, and the canal was down
a few feet. We're planning to check again this weekend
to get some more pictures.
left: Exchange St. Lift Bridge -- canal
still full of water. Below: Guard Gate
near East Canal Road is beginning to dry
up the canal. The far gate seeks to be
all the way down, and the near gate seems
to be partly down.
up, one down ... Gate watch continues
I took another detour to the canal today to see
if there was any more progress on the draining effort.
I went over to the Guard Gate below Middleport.
It was sunny and cold, and beautiful. I got a lot
of pix of reflections in the water, and I took some
pix of the Guard Gate. One side was down near the
water and the other was still all the way up.
foot here, a couple of feet there
Nov. 02: We
went up to Niagara Falls for a while this morning
then north to Route 18, then Route 104, heading
toward the Guard Gate at Middleport. We stopped
at a farm stand in Ridgeway and got about 50 pounds
of winter squash and apples, and some turnips. The
canal is only down about another foot from Thursday,
for a total of three feet. I'm going to give it
a few days this time and probably check again on
Wednesday or Thursday of next week. We also went
by the Guard Gate above Lockport. The gates are
down more but still not all the way. I figure that
a slow draining puts less stress on the gates and
other systems that drain into the creeks that cross
the line of the canal, heading for Lake Ontario.
If they pulled the plug all at once, there would
be flooding along those creeks. That's just my guess.
It was warm today, but there was no sunshine at
all. The temperature in the afternoon was about
60 degrees F.
theory, the canal will be draining for winter
Nov. 02: Took
yet another detour by Lockport to check on the
level of the canal. There wasn't any change to
feet down and 11 to go
reflections. At left:The willows are
beginning to let go of their leaves,
turning the ground to gold. The Middleport
Guard Gate hasn't moved an inch.
Nov. 02: We took a chilly ride up to Middleport
to check on the level of the canal. The total
drop so far is about 5 feet, which leaves about
11 feet to go before the canal is drained. It
was spitting snow and had been cold overnight,
too. There was a pronounced ripple to the water
in the upstream direction. The reflections of
the trees in the water were different still
from any other visit we've made to this spot.
level inches toward its winter position
down on the Guard Gate near the junction
of the canal and Tonawanda Creek.
downstream from bridge over the locks
at Lockport. The locks have been drained.
view of low water at the Guard Gate near
a long, long, long way down: View from
the bridge over the locks at Lockport.
in the water at the Middleport boat
launch. The guard gate is still up.
of the upper locks at Lockport, from the
bridge over the locks.
water is down at Widewater in Lockport.
The water level is way down at the upper end of
the canal, because the workers have lowered the
guard gate upstream from Lockport, and downstream
from the locks at Lockport the level is down 6
to 10 feet at the Middleport Guard Gate, which
is still in the up position. It was a beautiful
day, with high temps in the 50s and mostly sunny
skies. We're going to check again this weekend
at Middleport, and probably get some more of those
great turnips from the roadside stand in Ridgeway.
arrives at winter destination
Nov. 02: We took a trip up to the canal to see
how far the draining effort has gone. The canal
is down another five feet from the last time I check,
and there isn't much more to go. We going to give
it a rest for a while.
About in Boats, Boots, and Byways
of all Erie Canal Journal entries for 2002