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.