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Annapolis to Lake Erie in April ?

4336 Views 20 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  drymartini
A friend of mine has purchased a 35 foot cat with a beam of 23 feet in Annapolis. It has to make it's way to Lake Huron on her own bottom so we will be doing that this spring. The new owner has very heavy work commitments starting about May 1st so he would like to start the trip April 18th. The plan is to go as far a possible by the end of the month and then we may park it for a week or two to come home and get our own boats in the water.

The third member has made this trip up the Hudson etc. many times so he has lots of local knowledge but he has not done it in April. Now of course the weather is unpredictable but I would appreciate any comments on the timing. Are the locks likely to be in service? Marinas open?

Thanks in advance.
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The canal opens May 1st as Bubb said. But almost every year, it closes at some point in May or early June due to flooding. Considering the heavy snow this winter I'd expect some delays in May.

Can you move the boat as far as Albany in late April and then come back in June for the rest of the run?
As Joe said, Castleton is a place you can go to drop your stick if you can do the work yourself (including cradles) or if there are other cruisers there who can help you (unlikely in April). Otherwise, head to Catskill and get it taken down at Hop-O-Nose or Riverview. We had ours done at Riverview - it was cheaper - and they did a good job, but both places are experts. They can also provide cradles - a lot of cruisers will drop off their cradles on the way south so there may be some pre-made ones. Outside of that, the canals will open May 1st AT THE EARLIEST, dependent on ice and flooding. They have opened as late as the second and third week of May. More information on the system is located at The New York State Canal System - Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga Seneca Canals. If you do a search for "Champlain Canal" you can find a bunch of tips I put up a year or so ago on traversing a canal system. They should be just as applicable to the Erie.

By the way, the trip up along the Jersey coast in April may be pretty rough. We did it at the beginning of May and it was foggy and very bumpy. Depending on the size of your boat and the motor condition, just watch weather conditions carefully. There's lots of info on the trip if you search around this board.
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Just re-read and saw you said it's a cat... Castleton for do-it-yourself and Hop-O-Nose are your choices (unless you drop the stick farther south in Poughkeepsie or Kingston). Riverview wouldn't be able to do a cat.
The Erie Canal system can handle 23 feet of beam?

May 1st can still be quite cold in upper NY state, if not usually frosty at night. Bring your own heating and plenty of it.

The lake levels were as high as I've ever seen them last spring at Toronto, and we are on track to beat last year's winter snow and rain and in fact are expected over an inch of rain over most of Southern Ontario in the next 24 hours. I would suspect that if "too much water" stops the canals, that you could get into a pickle if they close the thing while you're in transit, because where the hell would you pull over?
2 summers ago there was a flood and it took out floating docks and sent boats downriver! the canal system was closed for over a week. you sit tight and wait it out wherever you are in the system.
The locks are 40-45ft wide and a few hundred feet long. Some rather large boats have been through them before. With regards to water level, based on the amount of snow in central New York, my expectation is that the canals will be open late unless we have a really early defrost in the mountains.
Thanks folks this is great info, I kinda thought we were pushing the time of year a little.

Thanks, Labatt. I knew you would know. Even though I intend to go down them in a couple of years, I actually had only a mental picture, not actual dimensions. I was picturing a Trent-Severn size, but they sound more like a mini-Welland Canal.
I spent my childhood living on the NYS Canal , the seneca section between
Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake. It was always free to use then and I new Every lock master as I grew up W/ most of them. The canal system is a great place as the towns all welcome boaters and often provide free docking,showers,facilities, even electric,water and pump out !!
The Good news is it has gotten BETTER in the facilities department in the last 10 years w/ many towns adding new and improved facilities and public access to the canal.
If I had to be "stuck" in my boat anyplace I would choose the NYS Canal system. There are even live aboard all year around opportunities for incredibly reasonable rates.
Man ! what Am I dooing in Florida ?
Probably sailing while up here in the Great Lakes we are just celebrating the fact that the snow melted. Remember snow :)


Historically the worst winter storms have been in April in the LI and NYC area and it is allways windy to the "do i really want to go sailing" when the water is this cold point

The 23' beam may be fun in a few places
Going across Lake Erie in April can be a risky proposition. The wide beam of your boat will limit the options you have as far as ports to duck into. You better make that late April since a lot of years there still is some ice in the eastern end of the Lake. Best case a 3 day trip. Buffalo to Erie Pa. Erie PA to Lorain. Lorain to Grosse Ille. You might get lucky with a good weather window, but Lake Erie can be very treacherous with the 45 degree water at that time of the year. Good luck!
Beam shouldn't be a problem. There is a cruise line that does the semi-circumnavigation through the canal, across the lakes, down the Mississippi, across the gulf and up the east coast. I passed one of their ships when I came east a few years ago and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The locks are big enough but there are some safety gates that keep the canal from emptying in the event of a bank breach and they look pretty narrow. I called the captain and he assured me he could fit. Their ships were custom built to pass through the canal. April in the Great Lakes can be pretty cold but I always launched in April and the water wasn't hard. Wait a minute. July in the Great Lakes can be pretty cold!

Dick Pluta
Nassau, Bahamas
In May when the canal opens be prepared for delays due to high water. You may be stuck for a week or two in Waterford or even in the middle of the route as sometimes some sections are open and other not. In the past I have had to wait in Waterford and Lake Oneida at Brewerton. Also the currents will be very strong, sometimes taking out many of the buoys and there will be lots of debris at the locks. This is the worst case scenario (which I have had to endure more than once). Occasionally it's so bad they have to convoy you through led by a Canal Authority tug. This worst case scenario is when there's a lot of run-off compounded by rain storms. On the other hand it might be fine and warm but that has seldom happened to me early in the season.
the good news is that you wont have much trouble with other traffic - the canal is remarkably little used compared to what traffic it is capable of (and what it used to do). Everyone above is correct about flooding - I live on Cayuga lake which is part of the system and even though the canal gets priority when they pick water levels every few years there is a major flood which inevitably closes the canal for a while and takes out docks, and even locks sometimes. But as somebody above said there is no lack of places to tie up. In fact, the mostly depressed towns along the canal would LOVE to have you tie up on their bulkhead and spend a few dollars. They arent going to complain.
You're right. If you're going to be stuck anywhere the NY Canal System is the place. You can tie up free most anywhere, the lockmasters are friendly for the most part. And there are small towns all along the route which most of us seldom see, with small grocery shops, bars and restaurants. A very different America. The sad part is all the old empty factories, a few of which were being converted to condos in the larger towns. It is an America that you do not see zipping down Interstate 95.
How did your trip go Gary? I'm planning to sail/motor up the Hudson, then transit the canal in mid-June (1st time) and wanted to know if you had any pointers (best place to drop/raise the mast, costs, stopovers for the night, good resturants, etc). Can you help?
Read this thread with regards to the mast stuff. It's all in here. Three choices - Castleton (do it yourself using their equipment), Hop-o-Nose and Riverview in Catskill. Most of the locks will have places to tie up at night, and there are several welcoming towns along the Erie Canal. For the most part, just push as far as you can each day and then stop when they won't let you through the next lock.
Hi dry, we had a great delivery from Annapolis through NY up the Hudson. We took the mast down at Hop-O-nose which was a great marina. Sean took it over about 2 years ago and does a great job. He has wood availble to biuld a mast support. Good restaurant and bar on site. It is about as far back at the little river at Catskill as you can go.

The owner is going down there tomorrow to start the trip through the canal.

Have a good trip.

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