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  #11  
Old 05-07-2011
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Hi, John

I sailed out of Holland for many years. Lake Michigan spoils you. No salt, no tides, even no compass deviation to speak of. I took the trip across Lake Erie and the Erie Canal about 10 years ago when I moved back to NJ, so this info may be a bit dated, but I don't think they moved the canal.

You probably know the first part as well as I do. From Muskegon to Macinaw is 2 or 3 days. Leland is a nice stop. If you go there say hi to my daughter at the Crib. If you want to anchor there is a nice protected anchorage near the park dock at South Fox. Macinaw is, of course, Macinaw.

I can't help with the run down Lake Huron. I had my boat shipped to Monroe and went from there. I was on a mission, so I didn't do some of the touristy things like the Lake Erie Islands. I did Lake Erie in three days, stopping at Cleveland and Erie before entering the Erie Canal. A third stop at Buffalo would have been advisable, since I entered the Erie Canal late in the day and got off to a bad start, as I describe later. A word of advice. Be sure you take the Black Rock Canal from Buffalo Harbor. In one of the stupider things I have survived in my sailing career I went down the Niagara River, following a tour boat. 6 knots through the water, 12 knots over the ground. Scared the hell out of me.

When you enter the canal you will have to unstep your mast. Mine was already down, but the standard stop seems to be Wardell's in Tonawanda, NY. You will have to buy a pass for the canal. For more info see:

New York State Canals: Faq

It's about 360 miles and goes through 35 locks. One of them, Lock 17, is, if memory serves, at 40.5 feet the second highest lift in the world after the Panama Canal. Like being in a concrete canyon.

Starting from Erie, I got into the Canal too late and ended up tying up to the canal bank when it got too dark to continue. This end of the Canal is amazing when you realize they only had shovels and mules. It goes for 30 or 40 miles through a rock cut about 40 feet deep. The next day I made my first stop at Fairport, where I bought my canal pass.

I won't go into detail about where to stop, since that depends a lot on how hard you push. Nothing moves on the Canal at night so you can tie up to the bank, although I was never really comfortable doing so. You can usually stop for the night near a lock and the towns come often enough that you can find fuel. The Canal system gives you a map showing a lot of information about facilities. The map, which you'll get with your pass shows the distance between locks so you can plan your days. It took me 5 days to get across.
Where you stop depends on your schedule. I was on a mission, so I didn't do any sightseeing. In general, however, it's pretty dull. I singlehanded it and, at one point, was so bored I was saying hello to cows.

The locks are a thrill, especially alone. I generally took two lines, one fore and one aft, and ran them around cleats to the center of the boat so I could keep her next to the wall. The turbulence is surprisingly strong. You'll finish the Canal part of the trip with the Chain of Locks down to the Hudson. This is a series of locks, one right after the other, that drops you down to the Hudson.

Your next issue is, of course, your mast. If your boat isn't too big, there is a do-it-yourself crane provided by the yacht club at Castleton on Hudson. For a nominal fee (I paid $35 back then) they let you use their crane to step the mast. There are usually other people there who, in exchange for reciprocity, will help you do the job. My 30 footer went in with no problems, with a little help from my friends.

You'll enter the lower Hudson at the Federal Lock in Albany. By now you'll be a locking pro and, from here down, the river is deep, wide and tidal. I honestly don't remember, but I think I took two days to get to New York, anchoring on the side. If you're not used to tides be sure to get tide tables and try not to fight them. If you must go against the flood, stay closer to shore. It doesn't run quite so hard there. Don't be surprised if you see an ocean going cargo ship coming around a bend. The river is deep water navigable all the way to Albany.

The ride down the Hudson is beautiful, passing through the Adirondack Mountains past West Point, the Tappan Zee, under the GW Bridge past Manhattan. There's a Marina at Liberty Landing in Jersey City with a great view of Manhattan. You can even, if you're so inclined, catch a ferry to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. Just don't bring your Swiss Army knife. The security on the ferry is just as bad as the airports.

Now you're in New York. If you push, you can do the trip in a little over 2 weeks. You can anchor out most of the time if you're so inclined until you get to New York. In the Canal you'll be hard put to find a marina, although some of the towns have public docks. Your biggest cost will be fuel and food. From here you've got the Jersey shore and Delmarva before you get to Mile 1 of the ICW in Norfolk. There are ports along the Jersey shore where you can duck in (figure three days minimum NYC to Cape May) but after Ocean City the Atlantic side of Delmarva is not sailboat friendly. The conventional wisdom is to go from Cape May up theDelaware to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, then through the Chesapeake Bay. I haven't gone that way but I have done the outside and my advise is, don't. Not unless you're in a hurry and have crew to make the run offshore in one leg from Cape May. The Chesapeake is longer and I've only seen it from the shore side, but it's beautiful.

The ICW is a whole subject in itself. I've made that trip twice and it's grand. I'm sure you can find plenty of people who have documented it on the Web. From Norfolk both times, it's taken me about a month.

That's a very broad overview but probably has enough detail to let you do a schedule that suits you. Be sure to get a Waterway Guide for marinas, fuel stops, anchorages and other info. Good luck and enjoy the journey.

Dick Pluta
AEGEA
Cape Coral, FL
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Old 05-08-2011
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Dick....Awesome post...Thank you very much....Boat has not been purchased yet...Looking for a seaworthy boat 30-36ft to be used as a live aboard and offshore cruiser to cruise the islands..Real Estate is listed for sale and hope to purchase boat sometime in July and spend some time getting familiar with the boat and systems before attempting this trip....

John
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Old 05-08-2011
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Here is one previous thread but you are correct it's not easy finding these threads,
Should we even do the intercostal en-route south? From what I am reading...

In 2003 we brought our boat from Lake Ontario to Brunswick Ga. We have gone south from Brunswick to places in Florida 6 times since. Sailboats are not canal friendly but a necessary evil.Your boat will tend to walk to port or starboard when in reverse so wherever you can go to that side of the lock. Canal cruising can be very enjoyable and the Erie Canal takes you through some beautiful and interesting parts of New York State with many interesting communities in which to visit along the way. You can reduce your canal time by going through the Welland Canal to Lake Ontario and enter the Erie Canal via Oswego. We had our mast shipped to Catskill NY as caring the de-stepped mast on deck further detracts from the canal experience but carrying it on deck may be your only option. Just make sure it's well secured. Check on Marinas that will de-step your mast for you. The best place to re-step your mast is Riverview marina in Catskill.
We stayed in Great Kills on Staten Island and did an overnighter to Cape May which I much prefered to stopping in Atlantic City. As mentioned above most people go up Deleware Bay and down Chesepeake Bay. We went through this area in October and it was cold. Hardly a time to enjoy the area. To me given good sailing conditions outside from Cape May to Norfolk would be a very good option.
From that point you will want to do the ICW to at least Beaufort NC to get around Hatteras. We loved the Dismal Swamp, Elizabeth City. The ICW gets a little tedious in SC and Ga but you will definitely want to see Charleston and Savannah. The ICW in Fla for the most part is fine except between Lake Worth and Ft lauderdale where the are over 20 bridges in 20 miles most of which are on an opening schedule.
The best and cheapest guide books for the ICW and the NY canal system are from Skipper Bob. You can get them at Home | Skipper Bob Cruising Guides I recommend you get both Anchoring and Marinas for the ICW and the Guide to the NY Canals. You will also need good charts and I found the Maptech chart books to be excellent.
I hope you enjoy the experience and joy of the journey.
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