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Old 15-10-2015, 10:53   #1
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Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

I have a 40 ft. Derecktor sailboat with a 7'4" draft and a mast clearance height of just <64 ft. I am planning a trip in April to head from Maryland to the Great Lakes. I plan on going thru The C and D canal to the Delaware River to the Hudson River north to the Great lakes. My question is what do I need to know? Do I need to step mast at all, water depth problems, Erie Canal, Trenton-Severn canal? looking for any helpful advise.

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Old 15-10-2015, 11:02   #2
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

Trent-Severn is limited to about 6' draft afaik. If you want to get to Georgian Bay, you'll have to go the big-ship route.

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Old 15-10-2015, 11:30   #3
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

Mast will gave to come down for the Erie Canal (Albany or Troy), re step it in Oswego New York. Forget the Trent Severn, maximum draft is 5 ft, but I put my boat with 4'10" a foot deep into the mud this spring in the lower near Trenton. Luckily I was able to just power through.

You're definitely going to be going the long way around. Welland Canal, Detroit River, Lake St Claire, Lake Huron. In the great lakes, the main channel is dredged to 30' with very high air draft so won't be a concern.

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Old 15-10-2015, 11:40   #4
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

you wont be using the Eire canal either! they maintain a minimum depth of 6 feet. you've either got to rethink and go up the mississippi or take the LOONNGGGGGG way around and use the st.lawrence.
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Old 15-10-2015, 11:56   #5
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

I went through the Erie Canal last year and it was shallow in a couple of places , I draw 5 feet with my centerboard up and i was gritting my teeth a couple of times .

Having said that , I went through there 10 years ago with my last boat and it drew 7 feet all day , never had an issue that trip , I think you roll the dice and take your chances .

You could check with the new york canal system web site , they respond to emails, and you can sign up for the notice to mariners for the canal , they email you all the changes and disruptions in the canal .

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Old 16-10-2015, 08:29   #6
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

You might look at going straight at troy to lake champlain clear customs at rouses point and up the richileau river to the St. Laurence then head west on the st laurence.Unstep mast at Albany and restep at sorel or montreal. If you do not want to unstep Then outside route to st laurence is your other option.
Water depth at marina in sorel was low last time I checked under 6 ft.
On lake champlain at north hero Heading to the Bay de Chaleur in the Spring
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Old 16-10-2015, 08:54   #7
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

The best source of information about the NY Canal system is their website: New York State Canals Also sign up for their Notice to Mariners email to keep up to date on any issues with the canal. For $25 or so the canal guide is worth while. The services listed need up dating, but the charts and distances between locks and lift bridges is worth the money.

On the eastern half of the canal, the controlling depth is 14 feet with a 21 foot bridge clearance. It is lower on the western half of the canal.

To summarize some of the posts. There are 3 choices once you reach the Albany, NY area.

1) Continue north on the Champlain canal, through Lake Champlain, and into the St Lawrence River.

2) Enter the NY State Canal at Waterford continue west until Three Rivers (north of Syracuse) and then head north to Lake Ontario on the Oswego River Canal.

3) Continue west past Three Rivers until you reach Tonowanda (north of Buffalo) on the Niagara River and then enter Lake Erie.

Taking either of the first 2 options will allow for a visit to the Thousand Island Region of the St. Lawrence River. A truly spectacular section of the river. Clayton NY, Gananoque Ontario, Kingston Ontario are all worth a visit. The Bay of Quinte should also be visited, nice anchorages and well protected bays.
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Old 16-10-2015, 08:55   #8
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

You will have a lot of "fun" going up the Detroit river from Erie to Lake St. Clair. Our last trip (downhill) was about 5 knots. It is possible to motor up the river, but it will be SLOW.
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Old 16-10-2015, 08:57   #9
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

Check with the Erie Canal people and see what depths they have. In the spring you might be OK. Also note that their seasonal opening depends on the weather in the spring so you may need to be flexible. Unless you want to cruise in Lake Ontario you could take the main Erie Canal to Buffalo. This avoids the cost and hassle of going upstream in the Welland Canal. We did the Erie in June as far as the turn off for the Oswego Canal. You can take your mast down yourself at the Castleton boat club or you can pay more to have it taken down at a couple of marinas further south on the Hudson. We have gone up the river from Lake Erie to Huron, it is slow in places (especially at the entrance to Huron) but no big deal. You can use tides to really help you going up the Hudson.
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Old 16-10-2015, 11:14   #10
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

OK, I read the various responses and I'll highlight a few things for you to consider.

1) There is a 30' clearance bridge in Albany, so the mast must come down before that!

a) Hop-o-nose marina in Catskill, can unstep it, and then you must carry it on scaffolding that they will provide, and you will rig. Two challenges with this: living with all the bloody rigging everywhere - getting fore and aft, and Lake Oneida, which is shallow and can get very rough, has claimed many masts over the years.

b) Unstep it at Hop-o-nose, Liberty Landing (maybe) or Lockwood Boat Works (Raritan Bay) and have it shipped to one of the marinas in Buffalo, NY. Have it restepped when you arrive. If I did it again, that's what I would do. [Unless I were going to do the Oswego Canal to Lake Ontario - then I would take it along and restep it on Lake Ontario (south shore - as soon as possible)].

2. I took a 6' winged keel through the Erie Canal from end-to-end, no problem - but water levels were very high. Since you want a Spring transit, water levels should be higher with rain and snow melt. Advice to check with the NY Canal commission is sound.

3. The Erie Canal may not open until May 1st. It depends upon ice melting and planned maintenance. Check with the NY authorities - but they may not be able to tell you until closer to the opening date, depending on the winter.

4. Lock #1 of the Erie Canal is on the Hudson at Troy, NY. Locks #2 - #6 are on a quiet canal at Waterford, bypassing the Cohoes Falls. Lock #7 is fairly benign. Locks #8 - #13 can be tricky when the water is running high due to the proximity of the dam directly next to the lock. The dam effluent sets up strong whirlpools and currents in front of the lock entry. We watched a 68' steel ketch get crushed into the lock approach wall at #8. Probably would have sunk if it weren't steel. After #13 the dams are further from the locks and it's no issue.

5. Two types of "attachments" are provided. Most locks have lines hanging down in close enough proximity to handle two easily bow and stern. Wear gloves and hold the line and as the boat rides up, fending off amidships. A FEW LOCKS, have aircraft cables fixed top and bottom. They are spaced farther apart. When you see these, take the cable amidships and tie a line around it to your amidships cleat. The ride the cable up, fending off fore and aft. Don't try to grab two cables - it won't work (we know!)

Also, some locks are newer, some are in disrepair and have holes or gouges out of the cement sides, which your fenders can ride into if you're not paying attention. Your fender covers - whatever you use - will likely be destroyed by the end of your trip through - don't use the "good" ones.

6) 35 locks (33 up and 2 down, going west).

7) You need a permit to transit the canal. The permit won't provide enough time, so you will need to get an additional one in transit. You can get your first one at Coeymans Landing Marina south of Albany.

8) The Erie Canal is open from 7:00am to 10:00pm. Plan your trip to either stay at one of the town docks along the way, or tie up to the lock approach wall on the west (upper) side, after passing through your last lock. That way you can depart the next morning without having to wait for that lock. Max speed allowed is 10 mph (7 kts). Many local people have put out "no wake" signs where they keep their boats. Try to respect those when you see them.

9) If you carry your mast, you can have it restepped at Wardells Boat Yard in Tonawanda, just before entering the Niagara River (turn left on entering the river!) One more lock exists before getting to Buffalo.

10) Take time to smell the roses and visit the little towns along the way. Have fun.
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Old 16-10-2015, 12:44   #11
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

You'll also have to go around Cape May since the bridge is only 55 or so feet. This will add several hours to your trip. There are a few places you can pull into if necessary while going up along NJ. If you pull into NYC, let me know. I can fill you in on where to stay and what to avoid. I am based in NYC and have done the trip up and down the coast a number of times. Going through Hell Gate into the sound will also require planning if you are not going to go up the Hudson and through the Erie Canal. If you are going via the St. Lawrence, you may wish to bypass the sound, although if you are not in a hurry there are some nice places to visit. If you reach out to me directly I will help you with some local information.

Have a great trip.
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Old 16-10-2015, 13:25   #12
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Re: Chesapeake Bay to Great Lakes

A few more thoughts after reading more posts.

The first lock in Troy and the Black Rock Lock (say that 3 times fast) near Buffalo are run by the US Government, I think the Army Corp of Engineers (but don't quote me on that). They run on a different schedule than the NY State run locks. Spent some time practicing close quarter maneuvering while waiting for the Black Rock Lock to open.

The NY Thruway Authority (which runs the canal) changes its schedule from time to time. When we last transited the canal from Buffalo to Oswego (July 2014) the locks closed at 7:00 PM and opened at 7:00 AM. Budget constraints seem to dictate operation times. Check their website. To speed passage, try to lock through at the end of a day. That way you can get an early start the next morning without waiting for the lock master to arrive.

Various events happen along the canal, some maintenance, some local events. Subscribe to the Canal Alerts email so you will be up to date.

Weather is not much of an issue, unless there are significant rainfalls. The canal will close from time to time if the water levels are too high. There are several large reservoirs so the canal seldom if every closes because of a lack of water. However, from time to time sections of the canal will be drained for maintenance reasons. Check the email!

I lived on the south shore of Oneida Lake for 10 years. Got to know the lake in all her moods. While the lake can get really nasty, it is shallow with 20 mile fetch, her bad moods are fairly predictable. West to NW winds above 15 knots will kick up a 3-4 foot chop in the middle of the lake. The same will happen with East and NE winds, but then you'll be going down wind and it is less of a problem. Best bet is to leave Sylvan Beach early in the morning with a high pressure system. In the afternoon thermals can start up making the ride rather bouncy. If your mast is secure on deck, you should not have a big problem. The channel is down the middle of the lake, however, if you have a chart and a depth sounder you can go north or south of the main channel for most of the distance. This will mitigate any wave action due to N or S winds. Navigate carefully. Plan on 5 hours to cross from Sylvan Beach to Brewerton.

Opening and closing dates on the canal are always subject to change. This year the canal opened on May 15. Maintenance schedules, water levels, and who knows what else dictate the dates.

If you have never gone through a lock, the first few are daunting. Then you'll get the hang of it and they are a piece of cake. Going down is easier than up. When you go down, the water will tend to suck you off the walls. going up, it tends to push you to the walls. The lock walls get slimy, a cheap pair of work gloves are helpful. Have at least 2 boat hooks, preferably floating boat hooks, voice of experience here. A fender board may be helpful, but not essential.

The deepest lock is about 27 feet in Fulton NY on the Oswego Canal. If you go to Oswego, this lock will be a piece of cake after all your experience.

You can purchase and print passes ahead of time on the canal website. If I recall correctly, they come in 3 day, 7 day, and seasonal passes. The cost is pretty trivial as the taxpayers of NY and the drivers on the NY Thruway subsidize the canal. If going to Oswego, get a 7 day pass instead of 2 3 day passes.

Diesel can be a bit of a challenge to find on the canal. Make sure your tank is full when leaving Albany and fill up if you find a place along the way.

Good Luck and Enjoy the trip!

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