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Old 26-03-2015, 11:41   #1
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MI to NJ, First Post

Hi All!

Hard to believe I've been referring to these threads for about 3 years, but it was really a back burner dream I had until recently. Visits have been more frequent lately as the dream has been moved to the front burner and a lot of questions need answers. Many of which I have found right here, and that is much appreciated!

A little boating background on myself goes something like this: I grew up with power boats of all shapes and sizes in the family, but summers are relatively short in the northeast. I owned a Hunter 27 for 8 months 16 years back, but it was primarily a place to live, although I did sail it a few times. I'm currently enrolled in an 8 week sailing course affiliated with the local Power Squadron, of all places. I know, short and sweet. Fast forward to the present.

I'm in the market for a suitable cruiser, and of course 9 out of 10 of the most promising candidates are sitting or floating 2 or 3 thousand miles from me. One in particular is in a little town on Lake Huron. My understanding from reading these posts is that a water route does exist through the Great Lakes and then the St. Lawrence Seaway that will eventually get me to the Atlantic Ocean. Back to the dream: Buy a boat here in the Pacific Northwest, bring it up to snuff, sail it down the west coast, through the Panama canal, up to NJ where I have family, maybe up to Shediac, NB, where I have friends, don't forget to cruise the Caribbean either coming or going or both. Keeping it simple right? If, and it's a mighty big if, I were to buy this boat in Michigan, and live my dream backwards, my question to you is, when would my route be free of ice, making it possible to get underway?

P.S. As I am now referred to as the "crazy boyfriend" I'm pretty sure I'm in the right place
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Old 26-03-2015, 15:42   #2
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

I wouldn't count on anything prior to mid April. Even then, it can be dangerously cold if you don't have a well protected cockpit and there are few boaters u at that time. Especially concerning with a new to you boat that could be going thru some teething pains.


Then unless you have a specific hankering to do the full St. Lawrence route there are other more popular routes. St. Lawrence get's pretty lonely
- Go around to Chicago, and go down the river system.
- Take the Trent Severn to either the Oswego or the Champlain canals and work your way to the Hudson River
- Go to Buffalo and take the Erie Canal.
- Depending on the size, you could just truck it home

These alternatives do require you to pull the mast for short stretches but lots of folks do it because thee routes are drastically shorter.
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Old 26-03-2015, 16:52   #3
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

I guess a better way to phrase the question might have been, when do the locals normally plop 'em back in?

She does have a fully enclosed cockpit, deck stepped mast, and 32' LOA.

I didn't know about the other routes, one of which I'm sure I would choose over the St. Lawrence Seaway. I found a good book by Jimmy Cornell called "World Cruising Routes" which is great as far as it goes, but I would like to find a counter part to it that covers routes within the U.S. if one exists.

I have scratched the surface of the trucking alternative and find everything about it very unappealing.

I learn something every day here. Thanks for the info!
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Old 26-03-2015, 17:42   #4
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

I put mine in mid to late march last year in west michigan. Prob the same thing again this year. Too darn cold right now and besides a lot of marinas are just now opening or not even open

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Old 27-03-2015, 07:18   #5
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

Mid april is when launching starts in earnest. Before then you have to worry about gas docks being closed at many places. Also, in March, you run the risk of ice (last spring there was still 6" of ice in the marina in late march).


Google: America's Great Loop and there is lots of info on routes. I listed the primary routes but there are some minor variations.
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Old 27-03-2015, 07:34   #6
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

Around here Launch is at the end of April. No one starts to move until middle of May 1st of June. Water extremely cold into July. Trent system controlling depth 5 ft. St. Lawrence my preferred route to the Atlantic. Can keep Mast up. Lots to see and do. If doing the Barge Canal would recommend entering at Buffalo pull the Mast re step in the Hudson River. It's a long haul down Lake Ontario and could be dangerous with your rig on deck.
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Old 27-03-2015, 09:09   #7
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

The NY Barge Canal typically opens around May 15. As others have said, the water in the Great Lakes is very cold in May and June. This year there has been exceptional ice coverage and very cold temperatures even now. That means the lakes will be cold late into the season.

The question that has not been asked, is how much time and money do you have? On this trip you'll only average about 5 to 6 knots.

If the weather is with you and move every day, it would probably take a month just to reach New York City, then down the coast for 1200 miles and across the Gulf of Mexico to the Panama Canal and then upwind for a few thousand miles to the PNW.
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Old 27-03-2015, 09:12   #8
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

My vote would be Lake Erie, through the Erie Canal, then down the Hudson to NJ.

The St Lawrence Seaway allows you to avoid pulling your mast, but, adds SIGNIFICANT time to the trip. Also requires a trip through the Welland Canal.

The Erie Canal is well protected, and is as much a destination as it is a method to get from one place to another. This year, the canal is expected to open on Friday, May 1.

Based on your other options, the canal may also be the most direct route.

Plenty of places to step your mast, get fuel, and overnight for free along the canal.
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Old 27-03-2015, 09:57   #9
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

Erie Canal opens (tentatively), May 1st. the canal starts at Tonawanda, NY, about 15 miles north of Buffalo on the Niagara River. You will need to transit the boat there. Depending on your draft, there may be no suitable ports between Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY, about 100 miles.

You must unstep your mast to transit the canal. You have two options:

1) Unstep at Buffalo and have it shipped to your stepping location (described later), or

2) transit up to Tonawanda and stop at Wardell's boat yard and have the mast unstepped there. it's cheaper and there are remnant saw horses and scaffolding to place it on you boat. You will have a multi-day transit of the canal - so be prepared to live with the rigging all around you. Otherwise - ship it in Buffalo. Also, if you do carry it on your boat, you MUST secure it well for tranist of Lake Oneida (very shallow and can be quite rough).

The Erie Canal has 35 locks (including Lock #1 on the Hudson River at Troy, NY). Traveling east, 33 go down, 2 go up. Locks 15 to 8 can be treacherous when exiting in high water conditions seen in the Spring. Check this out as you go.

You will need to obtain a transit permit - likely more than one as they are time limited.

Once on the Hudson, you cannot restep your mast until south of Albany. I recommend Catskill, NY, where there are two marinas that can handle it. I have used Hop-o-nose marina. Hoppi's and Wardell's will be the cheapest you can get - unless your boat is small enough to use a gin pole (one of which may be available in Albany).

Once stepped, you can motor/sail down the Hudson. BEWARE of many floating logs, telephone poles, and other flotsam especially in the Spring. Also, the Hudson is navigated up to Albany by tug/barges and freighters. The normal river current runs 1 to 1.25 knots (maybe more in the Spring), there is a tidal component all the way to Albany which adds another 1 knot at least, on the ebb.

Havestraw is a fairly large marina, as is Liberty Landing and Lincoln further south across from New York City. Atlantic Highlands and Cape May for fuel once reaching the Atlantic Ocean.
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Old 27-03-2015, 09:59   #10
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

I sailed the Great Lakes from Chicago to the East Coast via the Erie Canal in 1999. I would not recommend single-handing since locking (I think there were 22 locks) will require at least 2 crew. Also, the locks do not operate at night. On my trip back I had the boat trucked to the Chicago area.
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Old 27-03-2015, 10:23   #11
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

Well CJ, lets just say I am in Port Huron (southern most end of Lake Huron) and it's 20 degrees and snowing right now! Most people don't start putting boats in the water until mid May.
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Old 27-03-2015, 12:42   #12
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

In an email the broker sounded a little bit out of line to me when he stated,"You are not sailing her back to Portland." After getting the low down from all of you I have a better understanding of where he was coming from. Thanks for all the helpful details! Being retired I have the time and the St Lawrence Seaway sounds like the less complicated, less challenging route were I to undertake this voyage. Another good point brought up is the required 2nd crew member. I have ideas, but no commitment. Maybe I should take different tack and give the trucking option more serious consideration?

I know the title says "MI to NJ" but the ultimate goal is to get to Portland, OR. Google maps tells me that is 2417 miles. The broker tells me it would cost about 6K, my quick estimate, at uShip I think it was, said $3500. It seems to me the boat has got to suffer from the whole ordeal. I know I have read many offhanded references to doing it, like it's no big deal, just costs a few bucks. If you can handle that, no problem! Anybody out there who has done it care to allay my fears? Recommend a shipper? Point out the dos and don't dos?
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Old 27-03-2015, 13:04   #13
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJsails View Post
Being retired I have the time and the St Lawrence Seaway sounds like the less complicated, less challenging route were I to undertake this voyage. Another good point brought up is the required 2nd crew member. I have ideas, but no commitment. Maybe I should take different tack and give the trucking option more serious consideration?
While the St Lawrence looks less complicated and less challenging, it is by far the more challenging route out of the Great Lakes. There is no need to drop the mast, but the Gulf of St Lawrence, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia can be challenging with fog, cold water, commercial shipping, commercial fishing, and frequent storms. If you go that way, you would want to enter the St. Lawrence River in early to mid June in order to get to the Chesapeake in the fall. The route is often referred to as the Downeast Circle Route. Check out these videos:
https://www.youtube.com/user/GoneSailingCA/featured

The locks on the Erie Canal could be done with one person, most are only 15-20 feet deep. Although 2 people make it much easier. The Welland Canal requires 3 crew up stream and 2 down. Down is easier than up as the draining water tends to pull you away from the lock walls, incoming water tends to push you against the wall.
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Old 27-03-2015, 13:08   #14
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Re: MI to NJ, First Post

Following to an earlier posting and my own . ..

Singlehanding through the Erie canal would be very difficult (not impossible but very difficult). There are 35 locks. There are two methods for stabilizing your boat on the lock wall.

First, most locks have lines hanging down. You position the boat to grab a line at the bow and a line at the stern, holding them. Then you fend the boat off in the center. The problem is, that some locks are in disrepair, and have large chunks of missing concrete on the lock wall. If one coincides with your fender, it will ride into the hole and cause damage to your side. So you need to be attentive to that. If you enter a lock that is filled (as in going west to east), you can't see those gouges because they are underwater. They will "open-up" as the water level drops.

Second method - aircraft cables. These are fixed at top and bottom and extend vertically up the lock wall. You position the boat with the cable amidships and take a line around the cable to your amidships deck cleat. The boat rides up the cable and you fend if off the wall at the bow and stern. As of 2001, my last trip through, only a few locks had these. Most had ropes.

Get up-to-date information on this. I expect that NY has fixed many of the locks, as they are a constant work in progress, and maybe more locks are using cables rather than ropes - either works. But it would truly help to take on some crew (two or three) for the passage.

Also, plan to take your time. there are many charming towns along the canal - and many of them are welcoming to transcients passing through.
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