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Old 29-12-2014, 20:30   #1
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How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

My boat (1982 Morgan 383, 6' draft, 50?' air draft) is on Lake Superior, my retirement could start about August, and I want to head out ASAP in September to get moving South on the Atlantic or ICW (depending on boat condition/readiness) by Oct 1st. I just read that the Erie Canal closes on September 1st. Does anyone know about this? Also, is it completely unreasonable for me to expect to sail and/or motor to NY from L Superior in 30 days? Here are some thoughts I am having for the Great Lakes Escape:
  • Get on Erie Canal at Niagara on Erie. So far my first choice but timing is the issue if the canal closes.
  • Get on Erie Canal from Ontario at Oswego
  • Drop into Lake Michigan, take the rivers (Illinois-?-Tenn-Tom?)through to Mobile AL. I don't know much about this route.
  • Go out the St. Lawrence and around Nova Scotia, then head south. Extra 1000+miles (at 8hrs/day@4.5kt = ??) I've heard there isn't much fuel up there either, I figure I have about 400-500 miles in my tank.
  • Truck it overland over the winter (put off retirement ) to Pensacola (retirement home is there), January eastward ho.
Where do I get my mast dropped, and when/where do I put it back up on the Erie Canal or Hudson? What about the Ohio/Illinois etc river system? Can I carry the mast or do I have to have it shipped? Anyone know anything about shipping a mast?

I REALLY need to jump on the boat, get some basics set up and fixed (bulkhead in my lazarette that needs re-tabbing - all other stuff is non-critical), and take off ASAP after I retire so I don't find myself in some limbo world of waiting for the "right time". I figure if I leave right away then that will be the right time, and if I need something I can get it taken care of on the way. A great goal I keep coming back to is to make it to Annapolis by the Oct boat show, I haven't been to that since I was about 10.

So if I must, I can leave earlier than Sept (wife not happy about that but I might have to man up), but I am wondering about the Erie Canal and its official closing date. Has anyone else done this route in the fall? What about trucking? Do I cause more damage trucking or sail/motoring? Its about 850 NM to the end of Erie, then 6-8 days for the canal and Hudson, then the ICW to FL or off-shore (1300? to St. Martin?). Boat gets beat up either way?

Thoughts and advice and information appreciated
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Old 29-12-2014, 21:18   #2
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Rolf,

Your question is one that shows up here frequently.

Information on the Erie Canal system is available on their website: New York State Canals Typcially the canals close in mid November, not September 1.

It is 8-9 days from Buffalo to Albany on the canal.

An alternative is to take the Welland Canal from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, sail to Oswego NY, take the mast down and then go down the Oswego and Erie Canal. Oswego to Albany is about 4 to 5 days. Weather permitting you can go from St. Catherines (Welland Canal) to Oswego in 24 sailing hours.

If you enter the canal system by September 15 you should be able to make the Chesapeake by mid October. Most insurance companies will charge a lot (or deny coverage) if you go south of Norfolk VA before November 1, the end of hurricane season.

Some boats pass through Oswego at the end of October, but the trip south will be cold and you have to make good progress each day. The canal will temporarily close from time to time if there is a lot of rainfall. Generally the canal system will not strand someone on the canal because the Canal Corp closed it, but if it is your fault (you left too late) you may be stuck on the canal.

Leaving Lake Superior on Sept 1 will put you in a position to keep moving daily and hoping for good weather the whole time. Giving yourself a couple of extra weeks will make the journey more pleasant and allow for the inevitable weather delays.
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Old 30-12-2014, 06:59   #3
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

NY State Canal System locks and lift bridges typically operate from early May to November, dependent upon weather.
This year the NY State Canal system, closed on November 19; and, subject to conditions, the 2015 Navigation Season is tentatively scheduled to begin Friday, May 1, 2015. .
https://wwwapps.canals.ny.gov/news/notices/
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Old 30-12-2014, 07:31   #4
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Hi RolfP, welcome to CF.

Mike and Rebecca from "Zero to Cruising" (Zero to Cruising!) did this trip several years ago (although during a different time of the year). They documented the process on their blog on a daily basis and you may find some of the information they posted pretty useful.

You can read the entire blog from the start by clicking on the box on the right column called "click here to start reading from the beginning" but their trip from Lake Ontario down south starts on page 85: Zero to Cruising! You can follow the trip by clicking older entries at the bottom of the page. Best.
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Old 30-12-2014, 07:50   #5
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Great news about the closing in Nov. Moving forward with the plan for the canal. Thanks for the links and knowledge. I'll be reading when i get of work :-)

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Old 30-12-2014, 07:53   #6
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

If you are on the far west end of the lake, that is a lot of miles in 30days to get to the Hudson River. With 3 big lakes to cross (it's around 1000miles just to get to Buffalo plus another 300 thru the canal), it will be a struggle resist traveling on bad days. Even with 60 days (figuring mid sept thru mid nov), it's not a leasurily trip. Chicago is around 200 miles shorter and as soon as you are in the river system, you are making headway south towards warmer weather.

Now if you are willing to do overnights, you can run each lake in a couple days if you get a nice weather window.

I would lean toward the Chicago/River system route. It's shorter and as long as the ice hasn't formed, the locks will be open. Several marinas in the Chicago area drop masts (as will marinas near buffalo).

You do have heat on board? If not, I would add it or consider trucking.

Another option if you are on the west end of the Lake would be to truck it over to the Mississippi and then it's a downhill run all the way to the Ohio River and unless storms are really bad, much more than a steep chop on the wider sections is unlikely to stop you from traveling on a given day.
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Old 30-12-2014, 08:01   #7
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Don't know if you have some time in the summer but your best bet would be to sail the boat to Buffalo during the summer with a coupe of buddies so that you can set off through the canal in early September. When I used to bring my boat down I always started in the canal just after Labour Day. The marina taking the mast down was always closed on Labour Day so I'd get there on the Tuesday. But again, get your boat to Buffalo, unstep the mast and keep her in the marina till you're ready to set off.

Search this site, lots of info on the canal and places to unstep and step masts. The rest is easy, keep heading south.
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Old 30-12-2014, 08:06   #8
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

We sailed from the western edge of Superior to the eastern side of L. Ontario this past season. I'd say it is possible to make the trip in 30 days, as long as you don't get closed down by weather. It won't be a fun trip though. And as you know, on Superior (and indeed all the Great Lakes) the weather gets more challenging the further you move into the Fall. On our journey we hit two week-long storms, and that was in July/August. I would start as early as possible.

I don't think the St. Lawrence is at all possible for your schedule. We are lining up to do this run next season, which is why we left our boat in L. Ontario this winter.

I don't know about accessing the Erie Canal from L. Erie. Oswego seems to be the major access point for sailors. I've read that you can take your mast down at the entrance. I know there are some yards on the Canadian side that will do it as well, but then you have to motor across the Lake with your stick on board.

The Welland is not too hard, although you will need at least two people on board to go down (three to go up). I would suggest having three, even for down-bound. It's not hard, but it is a lot of work.
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Old 30-12-2014, 08:39   #9
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Keel Stepped Mast right?
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Old 30-12-2014, 09:03   #10
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
We sailed from the western edge of Superior to the eastern side of L. Ontario this past season. I'd say it is possible to make the trip in 30 days, as long as you don't get closed down by weather. It won't be a fun trip though. And as you know, on Superior (and indeed all the Great Lakes) the weather gets more challenging the further you move into the Fall. On our journey we hit two week-long storms, and that was in July/August. I would start as early as possible.

I don't think the St. Lawrence is at all possible for your schedule. We are lining up to do this run next season, which is why we left our boat in L. Ontario this winter.

I don't know about accessing the Erie Canal from L. Erie. Oswego seems to be the major access point for sailors. I've read that you can take your mast down at the entrance. I know there are some yards on the Canadian side that will do it as well, but then you have to motor across the Lake with your stick on board.

The Welland is not too hard, although you will need at least two people on board to go down (three to go up). I would suggest having three, even for down-bound. It's not hard, but it is a lot of work.
Oswego Marina can take your mast down and they are well supplied with used lumber so you can build your mast cradles. The lumber is free and the cradles are DIY. Leave the cradles in Castleton outside of Albany at the end of the canal trip.

The advantage to entering the canal system in Oswego is more sailing and less motoring. Also, you can make the run from St. Catherines to Oswego in one overnight. From Buffalo to Three Rivers (where the Oswego Canal enters the Erie Canal) is 3.5 long days of motoring.
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Old 30-12-2014, 09:29   #11
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Yes, keel stepped mast. No time to respond but I'm sneaking peeks. Thanks for the great advice. I have done the Welland on a buddies boat.

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Old 30-12-2014, 09:47   #12
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Once to Buffalo I prefer the Welland Canal route through Lake Ontario to Oswego for reasons already mentioned. You can get the mast pulled there and head down the Oswego barge canal to Oneida Lake

Another interesting option I have seen is to sail the boat to Buffalo and then truck it to Annapolis. That is 400 miles so the truck can do that in one day, so with relatively minimal time and expense.
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Old 30-12-2014, 10:44   #13
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

I made the trip from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - Lake Huron side - to Tampa Bay, on my Catalina 36 (draft 5'-10"), starting on Sept. 21, 2012. We used the rivers route (Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, Tombigbee, etc.). The total trip took 35 days. Took the mast down in Grand Haven, Michigan & put it back up on the Dog River on Mobile Bay, Alabama. There were 3 of us & it was quite an adventure. I can give you a lot of particulars if you are interested.

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Old 30-12-2014, 10:58   #14
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

That time of year with time pressure I would be inclined toward going south via the river system.
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Old 30-12-2014, 11:18   #15
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Re: How do I escape the Great Lakes in Sept?

Mark and Caitie of optrop.com did the Erie canal in September this year. Check out their blog.
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