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kwaltersmi 02-27-2012 07:20 PM

Great Lakes to the Caribbean (route review)
I just finished posting on my blog about potential routes to the ocean from the Great Lakes. If you've cruised from anywhere on the Great Lakes on out to the ocean, I'm interested to hear your opinion of the routes and any tips you might have.

While my blog post isn't intended to be a one-stop-shop for all the answers, I do want to provide a fairly comprehensive overview of the options for exiting the Great Lakes.

KIVALO 02-27-2012 07:47 PM

My father does it from Lake Ontario through the NYS Canal System to the Hudson and out NY Harbor and down to Cape May then through the C&D Canal and down the Chesapeake past Norfolk Naval Base and so on. I have done it with him from start to Beaufort NC. Fun trip to make.


PBzeer 02-27-2012 07:54 PM

You might want to PM xort, as they just made the trip from Chicago via the Tenn-Tom Waterway. (I haven't seen him online much of late, hence the suggestion)

killarney_sailor 02-27-2012 08:39 PM

I have done it through the Oswego Canal, Champlain route (when the Erie was closed), and have gone up the St Lawrence and done Welland several times (both ways). Know nothing about the Mississippl route other than that it is there.

1. Going down the Welland or the St Lawrence locks is quite easy. You can do it with two people and it is snap with three. Really not a big deal at all.

2. The distance from Whitby (just east of Toronto) to Albany (where the canals end and you can start to think about putting the stick up) is, to the mile, twice as far going the the Champlain route rather than the Erie Canal route. We had to go via the Champlain route because of flooding on the Erie so it is perfectly doable, but I don't see any advantage to it.

Both canal routes are quite pleasant and not too long so you get bored with the motoring. The latter might be an issue if you entered the Erie Canal in Buffalo. We had nice weather for crossing Lake Champlain with the mast down. I imagine that this might be a problem if the weather is unsettled. There is even a nasty, shallow lake on the Erie Canal (Lake Oneida). It is only a couple of miles wide but about 20 miles long and kicks up a nasty, short chop easily. Make sure the mast is very well-secured before you cross it and don't cross if the forecast is not good. Might want to go at first light before the wind comes up.

3. If you go this way you can put your own mast up at the Castleton BC just south of Albany. They have an excellent crane that was $1/ft a few years ago (sometimes they charge by boat length and sometimes by mast length). Best to avoid weekends since the crane site is exposed to wakes. If you are going south for a year or two and coming back you can mark your mast supports and leave them at Castleton for your return. (They may be there)

4. The St Lawrence route gives you access to some spectacular cruising grounds. I cannot recommend the south coast of Newfoundland too highly. Spectacular scenery, whales, friendly people, remoteness - even icebergs if you go a little further. You need to be self-contained going this way. There are not marinas and you have to be careful with fuel usage in places but it is worth it. It will not be very warm so you need some warm clothes. Radar is pretty much an essential until you get well into New England. You don't really go near the Bay of Fundy unless you want to, but there are tides (17' at Quebec City as I remember - the marina has a lock entrance) and you will go very fast downstream with the current and tides. Highlights are (in order of when you visit them): Quebec City, Gaspe, Magadlen Islands, Newfoundland, St Pierre (part of France), Bras d'Or Lakes. Maine, and then you catch up with the canal folks in NYC.

If you have any questions let me know.

killarney_sailor 02-27-2012 08:59 PM

Forgot a couple of things.
1 I have done part of the Trent-Severn in a powerboat only, but have talked to people who have done it in a sailboat. It is nominally good to 5' and they both had that draft but hit things in the channel several times, including things more solid than mud. I would likely not choose that route with most cruising sailboats unless draft was closer to 4'

2. The route you pick should be related to where you want to go once you reach the ocean. If you want to get to eastern Caribbean (BVIs down to Grenada), you are either doing the ICW all the way south and then the Thorny Path or you are going offshore from the Chesapeake or somewhere else. If the latter, the Mississippi route makes no sense. If you were going to the western Caribbean, the Mississippi route makes a lot more sense.

neverknow 02-27-2012 09:22 PM

This thread is perfect timing. I just got out my book "The Great Circle Route" last night. We are considering taking our Carver to the east coast next year if we can't get it sold before we retire.

I do have a question. If we go the welland route do we have to check into Canada and than check back into the USA after we make the trip through the canal?

Anyone know?

killarney_sailor 02-27-2012 09:28 PM

Yes, I think yo do, but it is not hard to do

neverknow 02-27-2012 09:48 PM


Originally Posted by killarney_sailor (Post 837601)
Yes, I think yo do, but it is not hard to do

I have not been to CA since they changed the rules. I know now you have to have a passport just to visit. Wasn't sure what else has changed?

CalebD 02-27-2012 10:00 PM

Nice blog covering all the routes. Well done!

Since I can't add anything more about the routes I caught a type oh or typo or two.
At the end of route 1:
"Congratulations, you mad it to the Atlantic Ocean!"
mad = made?
At the end of route 2:
"As a nice ring to the wilderness yang of the Gulf of St. Lawrence described in the first route above, the New York skyline and all of Manhattan will be on your port beam as you finally exit the Hudson River."
Yin and yang?

As you were.

svzephyr44 02-27-2012 10:15 PM

Excellent advice. I made the trip from Lake Michigan (Milwaukee) via Michigan, Huron and Erie. Entered the Erie Canal at North Tonawanda (Buffalo) Long trip on the canal but lots of nice towns at night. Put the stick back up at New Castle on the Hudson. Trip down the Hudson is OK, not lots of places to stop. New York City very expensive but some marinas will deal for a stay of a month or more. I stayed in Wehawken NJ opposite 40th street in NYC. Good ferry access to NYC. Very rolly marina. $1800 for the month. That was, compared to everyone else - cheap.

Met several boats that had done the St. Lawrence route. They enjoyed it but didn't have much specific advice.

Let me emphasize that if you can go early enough in the season go to Newfoundland if you are an experienced sailor.

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