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Old 03-08-2012, 13:42   #1
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Sandusky to Erie Canal

We are looking at a 40' sailboat in Sandusky,OH to buy. The mast is not currently stepped, but immediately after purchase we would be taking it through the Erie canal to start heading south to cruise. Any thoughts on building a good cradle for the mast and motoring along the southern shore of Lake Erie to get to the canal?
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Old 03-08-2012, 14:13   #2
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

As long as build the cradle high enough to have head room when you stand in the cockpit you should have no trouble. Try to keep the bow end of the mast as low as possible, even slung under the bow rail if you can. I've motored a good bit with a mast down and as long as it's secured well, no problem. If a heavy swell is running you don't want the mast moving.
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Old 03-08-2012, 15:44   #3
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

I think it's a over a couple of hundred miles from Sandusky to Buffalo. I would not want to go that distance with the mast on deck, no matter how secure you think it is. Even if you take short hops Lake Erie can kick up awful fast. I once went across Lake Oneida (Erie Canal) on a day when I should have stayed in Brewerton. I thought I had the mast well lashed but most of that was lateral, to the toe rails. Bucking the steep, short seas the mast started moving fore and aft. Had to scramble to add a ton of lashings to prevent the fore and aft motion. At the time I had done the canal at least 20 times. I thought I knew what I was doing. But you can always learn, and I learned another lesson that day. Step the mast in Sandusky and un-step it in Buffalo. The guys there know how to build cradles.

In addition, when buying a boat I would want to see the mast stepped to ensure everything is ok. Until the mast is stepped and everything rigged you don't know what you've bought. You can have a good shakedown sail on Lake Erie from Sandusky to Buffalo.
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Old 09-08-2012, 18:02   #4
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There is a great place in buffalo called RCR. They took our mast down and placed it on the frame work that I had built. As already said I would have never done that on lake Erie. Also as stated make sure you have it tied well so it will not move fore to aft. As we had to also add more lines while going across Lake Oneida.
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Old 09-08-2012, 19:08   #5
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

I would agree, step it in Sandusky and then take down when entering the canal. Lake Erie can go from flat and calm to 6 footers or more in a heart beat (and if you are following the rhumb line to motor a few times you are a long way from shore, not to mention there is a few spots with no where to go-as example the 18 miles from Fairport Harbor to Geneva).
Especially on a new boat, its a great lake to test it, with lots of places to get those things fixed that will break, or not be 'right'. And lots of us to help along the way( except if the mast is on the bottom of the lake- can't help with that).
Really the cost is nothing- our marina charges like $100 ,my 30 was at Ashtabula and we stepped it there ourselves for free(No way was I going 85 miles back to Lorain with it strapped on).
If you need any semi-local input / help , let me know.
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Old 09-08-2012, 20:17   #6
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

A couple of 2x4 X frames with the bottoms wedged against the toe rails should do fine. Do lash the mast so it doesn't move fore and aft.

You will find that the boat has a much more violent rolling motion without the mast up, but it will still make the trip fine if you pick your weather.
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Old 09-08-2012, 22:59   #7
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I have a ketch so I built sawhorses covered with carpet on the top. One fits the cockpit seats and provides a frame for a dining tent to keep bugs out and the other is lashed to the foredeck. The masts don't move. The sawhorses are built using an I beam of 2x6 and then attaching legs. The design is on the net. I have survived those dam power boat wakes in the canal as well as lake Oneida. But I would not traverse lake Erie. The mast provides a shock absorber, and it can get very rolly without it. You cAn put an X style upright in the middle of you get flex. That is my experience. Also I unstepped at Rich Marine right by the federAl lock. Don't recommend because they charged me more than they quoted and the neighborhood is a war zone. Enjoy the journey.
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Old 09-08-2012, 23:25   #8
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

I agree that it is worth it to put the mast up for the few days it will take to get to Buffalo. Mostly it is just too risky as far as losing the mast. As others have said, Lake Oneida can also kick up to be pretty rough. Since the prevailing wind is from the west, going eastbound the lake can start out fairly calm in a stiff breeze but the east end gets very rough - and that will become obvious only when it is too late to return. According to the marina I stayed at there are quite a few masts on the bottom of Lake Oneida. So support the mast well from pitching and especially rolling with at least three supports, more if possible, and lash down in multiple places to prevent flexing. You can buy some cheap 2X6's and bolts at a lumber yard and make your own supports to fit the boat - just take a drill and saw along, and some scrap carpet or similar for cushioning.

Good luck,

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Old 10-08-2012, 05:03   #9
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, PSA.
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Old 14-08-2012, 14:25   #10
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

We just completed a similar journey this week from Lake Michigan to Chesapeake Bay on our 40'. First, don't even think about traversing Lake Erie with your mast on cradles. Bucking waves will have you cringing, even if the mast stays on board. You don't need to stress gear so violently in directions it wasn't designed to stress. Also, use extra care on your braces to support against forward-aft motion. Those waves, even on (esp. on) little Lake Oneida, impact the mast cradle more than some folks would imagine.

We pulled our mast at Rich Marine in Buffalo and that was the right decision. We draw over 7' and and over 65' mast; they did it very professionally for the price promised, and they were very accomodating of what I had to do to build my braces. Also, a FANTASTIC West Marine is just 2 blocks away. No disrespect to Wardell, but I felt much better with the setup at Rich. Similarly, very pleased with Hop-O-Nose on the Hudson River side. (And be sure to try their fried calamari!)

Finally, be sure you're up to speed on the canal re-opening. We got through Albion just 3 days before the wall collapsed. The western half of the canal was clearly the most enjoyable and I highly recommend it over the Oswego Canal. But you might not have a choice if they don't re-open this season.

Anyway, we had a fantastic trip. But be a little conservative in your plan...
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Old 14-08-2012, 22:16   #11
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

Thanks to all for the input. We're going to make an offer on the boat tomorrow and if we come to an agreement and the survey looks good we will step the mast for the trip to Buffalo(depending on the status of the canal). I agree that we should have the mast where it's supposed to be for safety's sake and the countering effect on the motion of the boat. It'd also be nice to sail a little before we get to the canal. I'm a home builder with 30 yrs. of carpentry experience so building the cradle won't be a problem.

Thanks again.
Our cruising dream is becoming reality! YEE HA!
Hope to see you all out there soon.
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Old 15-08-2012, 05:41   #12
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

I'm sorry . . . but . . .

If the mast is now unstepped, I'll venture the boat is not in the water.

IF the boat is not in the water, regardless of a survey report, I'd be somewhat leery of relying on a motor that hasn't been thoroughly tested out.

It's just the scardy-cat in me.

Maybe I'd put on an auxillary bracket for an outboard . . . just . . . in . . . case.
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Old 15-08-2012, 09:22   #13
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

The boat weighs 25000 lbs. That'd be one hell of an outboard bracket. The boat was hauled for the winter and never went back in this year. The owners are just to old, they are done sailing. The motor has less than 1000 hours on it but we would still have an engine survey done and run it extensively before we took off so we are not too concerned.

Thanks for the thoughts.
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Old 15-08-2012, 10:57   #14
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

I agree that sailing her to Buffalo or Oswego is your best bet. You'll spend more on mast stepping than diesel to go 200 miles, but if the engine dies....
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Old 15-08-2012, 14:12   #15
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Re: Sandusky to Erie Canal

I envy you . . .

I dock in Port Clinton and I'm not looking forward to haulout in about 2+ months.

Hopefully, I'll be making the same trip as a annual sojourn.
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