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mc-passage 08-12-2012 10:26 AM

Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
Hi Folks:

Wife and I plan to navigate the Erie Canal from Oswego to Troy sometime soon and are open to any and all tips and suggestions.

One item on my mind is the business of supporting the mast and boom on deck after we have it unstepped ...

I have simple X-shaped supports that I use over the winter here in Rochester, but they're very simple and assume that the boat doesn't rock when its on the hard.

They're also mighty low, making it difficult to open the hatch on the foredeck, for instance. They're fine for winter, but I can imagine a foot or two higher would make a big difference underway.

It strikes me that folks have been doing this canal trek forever and there's a good chance that there's a good collection of abandonned supports somewhere in Oswego - just as we plan to leave ours in Troy when we have the mast re-stepped.

Should I construct the supports here in Rochester or is there a resource in Oswego where I can find used supports?

Are there folks in Oswego who can make supports on the spot?


s./v. Passage
Columbia 36 Mk II (Crealock)
Rochester, NY

Vasco 08-12-2012 12:30 PM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
Although there might be old lumber available in Oswego I would not count on it. It's much better to make your own before you get there. Make a crutch for the mast out of plywood for the pushpit. It should be fastened to 2x4's and bolted to the sternrail with U bolts. Make a sawhorse for the mast to sit on at the bow. Also one more support at the mast step/partners. Make it high enough so that the mast can fit over the dodger because sure as hell it's going to rain on the trip through the canal. Take plenty of lines for lashing as you will be waked both in the canal and on the Hudson. You have to cross Lake Oneida and it can kick up pretty fast on that shallow lake. Put the mast on deck butt end forward. This is in case you touch the side of a lock when entering. Doesn't hurt to put a small fender on the mast/furler.

When you are doing the mast in Oswego here's a few tips. Keep the headsail on the foil and lash the whole works to the mast. Keep the main on the boom and stow on deck. This way you protect the foil and also don't have to store sails down below.

The only place for doing the mast in Oswego is Oswego marina and they are a pretty good bunch there. When you get to the Hudson the best spot to step the mast is Riverview Marina in Catskill. Mike, the owner is very helpful.

Minnewaska 08-12-2012 12:50 PM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
We did the length from Tonowanda (Buffalo) to Albany and had the mast trucked. It was waiting to be stepped when we arrived. Much much easier. I would at least look into it.

smurphny 08-12-2012 02:02 PM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
If you are setting the mast high above the deck, just remember that the farther it is up, the more force it will exert when the boat rolls. If it were to start going, it would be difficult to prevent it from going in the drink and could do lots of damage on its way over. I set mine right down on the cabin deck with some 4X4s under it, supported fore and aft by the rails. It is lashed down tight in 4 different places. I take the dodger down and figure that for 2 days I can do without it. If going a long distance, the trucking idea sounds very nice if it can be done for a reasonable amount. Not having to leap over it negotiating locks nor worrying about hitting lock walls with it would be a BIG positive. It is surprisingly easy to hit lock walls with a mast sticking out 5' forward and aft and can do a lot of damage.

svzephyr44 08-12-2012 05:43 PM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
I did the North Tonawanda (Buffalo) to Albany route with the mast on board. I also had made the supports before I got there. The BIG MISTAKE I made was to not strip everything - wind instruments, antennas, etc. off the top of the mast when I took it down. So I bought new wind instruments, antennas, etc when the mast smashed against the side of the last (of course) lock (the one on the Hudson River.)

If I were to do the trip again I would seriously look at having the mast trucked.

killarney_sailor 08-12-2012 06:31 PM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
I have done the Canal several times and found it not too bad. This included with a Nonsuch 30 which has a 50' mast on a 30' boat + the wishbone (which we put upside down when reintalling and no, you cannot make do).
We had our mast go down the centerline of the boat from the pulpit to just above the helm station with support at the bow, middle and just in front of the transom. We cut rounded shapes from old plywood for middle and aft with 2 x 4s going down to the deck and feet going outward from the verticals. Test fit the angles for the feet since they will likely not be 90 degrees everywhere. These we bolted together. First time through we realized that support along the length of the boat is just about as important and sideways. Someone mentioned Lake Oneida and it can be a bitch. It develops waves that are only about a foot high but very close together and the boat (and mast setup) develops a pumping motion that is not something you want to experience. We were frantically adding lines everywhere to make sure mast and supports did not move fore and aft too much. Cross the lake at absolute first light before the wind can start.

Do not assume you can get any wood at Oswego Marina. They keep things pretty tidy there and I assume you are going south when others are. We restepped our mast at Castleton Boat Club which is south of Albany. They have a large DIY crane and are not expensive and the people are very friendly. There always seem to be multiple boats doing their masts there so you can help each other. Only problem is that it is right on the river and the powerboat morons can be a problem - better doing on a weekday. If you are coming back you can mark your supports with boat name and date expected to return and stick them behind a shed. We did this and no one had taken them when we returned.

Overall it is a very pleasant and relaxing trip.

JonEisberg 08-12-2012 08:53 PM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
,Only a few additional suggestions, others have covered it pretty well...

X-shaped supports will work fine, I'd agree that you want to make them up before leaving Rochester. sidney pointed out the value of heavy duty ratcheting straps, you can't have too many of those at your disposal, and will be the key to making the whole affair secure... Don't forget to use several in a fore & aft arrangement, much like spring lines, that will help immensely...

I think you want to have the rig at a height where you can still see under it while standing at the helm... I did a delivery a few months ago from Annapolis to Cleveland with the rig on deck, and since so much of the trip was gonna be run in open water, I opted to keep it as low as possible... But, when it came to maneuvering in close quarters, and running the canal in general, it really restricted visibility, and would have been far better to have had it above my head at that point...

Assuming you have a RH prop that walks the stern to port when engaging reverse, I'd suggest you offset the rig to starboard... Maneuvering into locks and coming alongside docks or walls, you'll be better off setting up for coming port side to...

A couple of large round fenders like those pictured below will be worth their weight in gold... You can get away with less heading south, as the only upbound locks will be those in the Oswego section, and over to Lock 21, then it's all downhill from there... Still, at least one pair of oversize fenders are never too much on the Barge Canal...

As others have said, unless you opt for the self service crane in Castelton, Catskill is the place to get re-stepped... I've never dealt with Riverview, only Hop-O-Nose Marina further up the creek, but can report their service was excellent, as well... although, that was quite some time ago...

Pick up the Skipper Bob's guide for the canal, it's the most useful of the guides I've seen - especially when it comes to marking mileage, and what is to be found within walking distance of various stops... Lots of good info, and a great bang for the buck...

Have fun, don't try to rush through the canal too quickly, there's so much wonderful exploring to do along the way, just a fantastic trip...

ebs001 08-12-2012 09:45 PM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
Don't forget your VHF. You can rig up a temporary aerial and running lights as Jon's picture above shows. You can get by talking to the lock masters with a handheld VHF but it's nice to have the security of the main radio.

Minnewaska 08-13-2012 06:18 AM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
On the East Side of the Canal, we used Hop-O-Nose. What a bad name. But they did a good job.

The canal, as well as the river marinas, all took a real beating in the hurricanes and tropical storms last year. Best to research their current status.

smurphny 08-13-2012 07:51 AM

Re: Mast Supports for Erie Canal travel
The locks are now set up so that you are directed to come alongside on your port side which, as Jon indicated, is what you want for a RH prop. I usually point in at a shallow angle toward a stop point then SLOWLY, INCHING ALONG, hit reverse which nudges the boat to a stop and straightens it out centered on a rope or pole. (The federal lock has ONLY poles) The key is to go slow and don't rush because some idiot behind with twin screws and a bow thruster is impatient. I rig up fender boards between two big fenders. They are a big help. Large fenders far forward and aft also will keep you off if you make a mistake and may keep the mast from hitting. Some of the walls are quite eroded with big holes which a single fender could get lost in. They also save your fenders from the rough walls, mussels, etc.

Another thing to watch for is logs. They accumulate around the lock doors. I usually get a bit of speed exiting and then coast through any floating debris at the mouth of the lock. I have heard stuff hitting the prop many times which seems to be somewhat unavoidable, especially after heavy rains. The Erie Canal may be better than the Champlain Canal which intersects the Hudson River.

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