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Old 20-04-2009, 15:26   #1
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NYC to Chicago Questions

I am considering purchasing a boat on the East Coast next year and I have a few questions. Approximately how long would it take to sail back to Chicago from NYC, via the Hudson and the Erie Canal. I would obviously need to motor up the river until I get to the Great Lakes, but from there I would like to primarily sail. I realize this is one of those questions that has no solid answer, but could this be done in a week? 2 weeks? A month? How many nautical miles is it?

My other question is about bridge clearance. What is the highest air draft acceptable for doing this trip without taking the mast down?

Thank you very much for your help. -Jake

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Old 21-04-2009, 03:43   #2
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You might make an express delivery (NYC to Chi) in as little as 20 days, but it would be brutal.
Because of speed limits, the Erie canal (Troy to Buffalo) alone, will take at least 5 days.

The clearances for navigating under bridges over the Canal System are:
New York State Canals: Excursions and Vacations: Boating on the Canal: Bridge Height Tables
Three Rivers Junction to Tonawanda 15.5 feet

The Cruising Guide to the New York State Canal System is available ($20) at:
New York State Canals: Excursions and Vacations: Boating on the Canal: Purchase the Original Cruising Guide

Check out the Free Guide (& links):
Main Page - NY Canals - Guide to New York's Erie, Oswego, Champlain, and Cayuga-Seneca Canal System

Distances between US ports:

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Old 21-04-2009, 03:52   #3
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The quickest I've heard of NYC to the Black River was ~7 days via the St Lawrence. Big boat and a pro crew running 24/7.
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Old 26-04-2009, 05:44   #4
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Thanks guys. Those links are great Gord, particularly the US port PDF. I'm sure I will end up consulting that a lot. -Jake
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Old 26-04-2009, 10:15   #5
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5 days is pushing it on the canal but you might be able to do it. on the other hand, there isnt much traffic and it goes through some nice places. Free places to tie up or with only a nominal cost when there is an electric hookup. But you cant go at night so that will slow you down a bit. And taking the mast down and putting it back up will take some time and money too.

also, if you need to do it, there are places you can leave your boat with no problem at all if you need to break the trip up. the canal never has rough water, most places are very safe and the towns are dying to have boaters use their facilities.
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Old 01-06-2009, 15:41   #6
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I've done the leg from Sandusky to Chicago

I've done the leg from Sandusky to Chicago, that's about 7 days with one overnight run on Huron, and one overnight run on lake Michigan. One thing we learned the hard way was that there are a lot of logs and tree trunks in lake Huron near the southern end as you come out of the Detroit River. We hit a 15 feet long tree trunk head on at 7.5 knots. It had about a 2 foot diameter, no joke. In our catamaran it made a loud noise for sure but amazingly no damage at all. It just rolled under the boat. We could not believe the size of the thing. Anyway if we were in a power boat it would have taken the props or the outdrive off. So keep an eye on the water for debris. We didn't see anything like that in lake Michigan.

I'd figure a solid 2 weeks for that trip.

Best of luck,

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Old 29-07-2009, 19:47   #7
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For us, from Rockport ME to Chicago was 3 solid weeks via the St Lawrence.
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Old 01-09-2009, 07:19   #8
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Hey Jake,

If you take the Erie Barge canal, of which I'd recommend, the mast needs to come down. There are several places along the Hudson to get it lowered. (The maximum air daft is something like 19 feet). I'd plan on a week, and enjoy this section some. It's a nice area with friendly, accommodating people. Once in the Lakes, wind direction permitting (somewhat difficult on Erie), I'd put in some overnights and just get it done. Yes, there is always the chance of debris in rivers as Chris mentioned. But if you're in a hurry, I'd recommend traversing the rivers at night. The ships and barges are actually easier to see at night, along with the shipping lanes. This would help maximize you're sailing time on the Lakes. Ten days overall on the Lakes should be sufficient, depending on your abilities and what you do with the weather that comes your way.

Good Luck,


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