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  • Lisa

2021 July - The Great Loop: Chased Across the Erie Canal by Lock Closures

Updated: Aug 8, 2021

Great Loop Overall Statistics to date:

Statute Miles: 2240.2

Average Miles/Day: 47.7

Total Hours Underway: 309.6

Average speed (mph): 7.4

States Transited: 9

Total Days: 113

Travel Days: 47

Locks: 40

Fuel Purchased: 472.9

Miles / Gallon: 3.4

Nights at Extra Days

Marinas: 26 59

Anchor: 13 3

City dock: 2 0

Free Wall: 7 3

Mooring: 0 0


Oneida Lake was calm this morning at 6:30 after a rainy day yesterday when a front moved past. By the time we got to the western end, however, it was blowing 15 to 20 mph. The winds were out of the east, though, and the 1-2ft waves were going in the same direction as we were. This was only a small problem for the auto pilot trying to maintain a perfectly straight course.

The next day there was a 3-4 knot favorable current on Oneida river to Baldwinsville. After Baldwinsville, there was one knot foul (against us) current on the Seneca River just after three rivers Junction. This made some of the lock timing and schedule planning difficult as it changed our overall speed over ground.

We met a guy rowing a canoe 400 miles from Lake George along the canal. He went through lock 24 in Baldwinsville just after us and tied up to camp along the town wall with us.

Travel day to Newark – early on we were barely making 5kn against Seneca river current. This was some of the most beautiful scenery we have experienced on the canal. The river levels are 2-3ft higher than normal, making bridge heights change from “typical”. Glad we put the mast down. At one railroad bridge we had less than a foot of clearance over the top of the dinghy. Newark has a free wall with free electricity, water, and laundry!

Newark to Fairport - Lock 29 was still closed on Thursday due to the flooding rains. We had been just ahead of the maximum flood for the week; locks were closing to boaters just behind us as we made it through each day. We are fortunate to be able to keep moving. We left in the morning anyway, though, in anticipation of the lock operating (according to a second-hand report). We would stay in Palmyra if it was still closed. The combination of floral and “earthy” smells along this part of the canal on a cool morning were really something.…..

Lock 29 was finally open when we arrived, but it was crowded due to the boats backing up while it had been closed to operation. This made for some long wait times before we could enter the chamber --- arranging boats, re-flooding the lock for boats coming from the other direction, and wading through much confusion. We finally made it through with many other boats including a sailboat that was being “drug through” by a tow boat – his keel was about a foot deeper than the mud/silt in this section of the canalway.

From Fairport to Medina things were more uneventful. Lock operators were courteous and timely, and we moved quickly along in grey (but mostly dry) weather. We are really appreciating a mid-ship cleat right at the helm for those locks where a pipe or cable is provided to tie off to. It makes the whole operation very simple. Also, from this point west, there are a number of lift bridges to open (upon a call on the radio) each day. These operate fairly quickly and do not slow us down very much at all.

A brief pause at “culvert road” just before the town of Medina -- where the Erie Canal goes over a highway – for some drone video and then on to the quiet town of Medina where the town wall is free with electricity and water included again.


Great Loop Travel Days (GLTD):

043: Baldwinsville NY from Sylvan Beach NY

044: Newark NY from Baldwinsville NY

045: Fairport NY from Newark NY

046: Brockport NY from Fairport NY

047: Medina NY from Brockport NY


Most travel days in a week: 5

Most boats in a lock: 7

Map of our Overall Great Loop travel:

GLTD043 Baldwinsville NY (from Sylvan Beach NY): We left Sylvan Beach early, before 6:30 am, since rain and winds were forecast beginning mid-morning. It was a grey day (again). Oneida Lake was glassy smooth.

Within 1.5 hours, whitecaps were developing on the lake as the winds kicked up to 15-20 mph from the stern. Thanks to weather planning and an early start, we were almost across Oneida Lake at that point.

We were now on the Oneida River part of the Erie “Canal”.

🚫 COVID Miss: Canada. Shortly after we transited the first of only two locks for the day, we arrived at the turn north to Canada (via Oswego Canal). Canada’s border is still closed, so we didn’t have to decide whether to take the risk of going in – and possibly not getting back out. 😊

After passing “Three Rivers Junction”, where the Oneida, Oswego, and Seneca rivers all come together, we followed the next segment of the Erie Canal, which now followed the Seneca River.

The Seneca River was beautifully green….

…and offered a look at interesting wildlife. This is the second area in New York where I’ve seen swans.

I had to zoom in on these white golf-ball-looking things to determine that…

…they were water lilies. The water lilies were perfect camouflage for the turtle (near the middle of the photo).

💲 Free Dock: We arrived and docked at the Village of Baldwinsville Docks by early afternoon. Dockage is free. There is a small charge for power; we paid $10 for the 50 amp service our boat uses.

We had already eaten lunch underway, so we got off of the boat for a walk.

We had just been discussing how nice it is that the villages offer free dockage – and some even have power, when we saw this sign.

Apparently, Canal Greenway Grants help villages supply power and water.

Of course, we had to photograph churches when we saw them.

Baldwinsville First Presbyterian Church, c.1865 (left). The spire on this Gothic design is nearly 100 ft. high. Ref:

Baldwinsville First United Methodist Church, c.1870 (right). Ref:

We got ice cream from Jessicakes for our short walk along the Canal Greenway.

We have seen so many Canada geese on this Erie Canal travel. Having passed up on the Oswego Canal because Canada is currently closed to visitors, every time we saw a gaggle of geese, we joked about how they must feel stranded – that they can’t get back “home”.

On the way back to the boat, we saw this canoe coming through Lock E24 alone. It was a strange sight.

He ended up docking right behind us to tent camp for the night on the town wall. Ray went over and talked with him. This is Al Freihofer. He plans to row 400 miles – on this rowing trip!

He has already rowed the entire Erie Canal on a previous trip in 2017 – when he was 57. You do the math! 😮

My internet search revealed that he has at least a couple of books published about his rowing adventures.

Food: We enjoyed a nice canalside view and tasty casual dinner of chicken nachos, at Sammy Malone’s. Note the high water levels and raging current!

We then turned in early, following the first notable sunset we’ve seen in a while.

GLTD044 Newark NY (from Baldwinsville NY): We left Baldwinsville early for a long day of travel -- 54 statute miles with 5 locks.

Along this stretch of the canal, we noticed an unusual trend – manikins. We’re not sure if they were used as ornaments, security deterrent, bird deterrent, or all three.

This osprey was looking right at me when I zoomed in (50-70x) for this “shaky” shot.

Ospreys have vision that is well adapted to detecting underwater objects from the air. Prey is first sighted when the osprey is 10–40 m (33–131 ft) above the water […]

The osprey is one of the few birds that can be found on every continent except Antarctica because they have few requirements beyond safe nesting sites and abundant fish. Adults are sometimes preyed upon by bald eagles […]

Ray captured this stunning photo of a uniquely red bridge. This portion of the canal was some of the prettiest we had seen.

I missed a photo of the biggest eagle I’ve ever seen! I was at the helm and couldn’t snap a photo. 🙁

My consolation prize was this photo of a falcon.

Although not perfectly focused, it was the first time I’ve seen one!

🧭 Navigation: Between photo interruptions, we planned our next few stops, although our plan may be impacted by lock maintenance on 2 of the upcoming locks.

Remains of the Montezuma Aqueduct, completed in 1857, are impressive. When in use, it was the second longest aqueduct of the Erie Canal -- over 840 feet long.

We “squeaked” under what is touted as the lowest bridge of the Erie Canal, E-93 West Shore RR bridge, just west of lock 26, at 16 feet of clearance under “normal” conditions.

The isolation of some portions of the Erie Canal is a welcome difference, compared with, say, the mega-yachts and fast weekend runabouts on the southern Florida Intra-coastal Waterway (AICW).

In Lyons, NY, we saw 2 artists working on a mural. Lyons is the “home of Mural Mania.” This is WINSTON'S DREAM 2007, at lock E27, created by James Zeger, duplicating a scene from a 1910 post card.

Another Erie Canal work boat, Syracuse, in her “dress blues.”

Between locks E28A and E28B, we approached what turned out to be the actual lowest bridge – at least on this particular section of the canal -- with higher-than-normal water levels.

It’s very pretty. We got a really long look at it, as we passed under VERY slowly!

This is bridge E-93, near Clyde – the previously noted “lowest bridge”. Which bridge looks lower (on this particular day)?

It’s heating up again; heat index is 112 degrees!

💲 Free Dock: We docked at T. Spencer Knight Canal Park in Newark NY, late afternoon. The volunteer said, “No charge. We just ask that you support our businesses.” “Great! We can do that,” I said. 😊

We got tied up and plugged in quickly to get the air conditioning started – just in time to walk to Parkers Grill & Taphouse before the heavy rain started. We ate there again, the second night – after learning that the next 2 locks were now closed for maintenance. My Savory Steak Salad was very good.

We got back from dinner just in time. The skies looked ominous before the rain started again. The pink cloud peeping through reminded me of cotton candy. 😊

💲 Free Laundry: The next day, we did a couple of loads of laundry – again, free! There is 1 washer/dryer set in the bath house building.

Then, we went sightseeing.

Hoffman Clock Museum is 0.5 mile away, in the library, has over 300 clocks on display. Augustus L. Hoffman (1856-1945) was a retail jeweler and a watchmaker in Newark, NY for 30 years. In his later years, he established a foundation to make their collections available to the public. Ref:

🍀Traveller Tip: Plan your visit to the clock museum so that it crosses the hour. You won’t hear all of the clocks chime, or at the same exact time, but you will hear lots of them!

A unique feature of this French Morbier pendulum clock, c.1820, (left) is that it strikes on the hour and again 2 minutes later – in case you didn’t hear it the first time.

Early clocks, like the wooden clock (right), made 1700s – 1840, had only one hand, and the marks between the hours allowed you to tell time to the closest 15 minutes.

Churches: We saw many churches within about a mile of the marina in Newark.

The oldest church building we saw was Newark First United Methodist, c.1854 (left). The most unique we found was Park Presbyterian, c.1915, a neo-Classical style that joined old & new buildings.

Of all the churches we saw, none of them had a traditional tall steeple. I could not find a documented reason. Ray suspects maybe a trend of church architectural “style” at the time.

St. Marks Episcopal Church, c.1901 (left). St Michael Catholic Church, c.1903.

There was an impressive dockside mural near the boater services building at the town wall.

Fellow Looper: We met sv Aurora, who said he and his wife were “stuck” on the Erie Canal due to shallow passage between locks E29 and E30. They had un-stepped the mast 51 days ago! (Sailboats transiting the Erie Canal have to temporarily lower their mast to transit under the low bridge clearances. The weight, height and structural significance of a sailboat mast makes the process more challenging the the lowering of SCOUT’s mast.

Locks E29 & E30 have been closed to deep-draft boats for over a month due to silting of the channel near the locks. The good news for sv Aurora was that they had arranged with Towboat to pull them through the area (their keel was about a foot deeper than the reported silting level), using a track the tow captain had used successfully on a few sailboats already.

Newark was a convenient stop, with several restaurants, and a pharmacy and grocery store within walking distance. The free laundry and pump-out are also a nice bonus if you need them.

GLTD045 Fairport NY (from Newark NY): Lock E29 was closed for maintenance the previous day. Though NY Canals had not yet posted an advisory that E29 is operable again, we left early for the 1.5-hour travel to the lock, based on a second-hand report, hoping to make it through Lock E29 before the deep-draft sailboat’s scheduled tow at 10:00 AM.

The shades of green on the narrowing canal were calming.

I didn’t know I should have captured this mental image to reflect on later that day.

“Lock”luster Day: As we’ve stated in previous blogs, we typically travel early, which is usually beneficial in eliminating lock transit waits (among other things). In addition, I think we are travelling behind the first major “pack” of looper boats, so traffic is a little more spread out now.

I guess it was time to “pay our dues”…….

What seemed like unnecessary delays were very frustrating for me. Temperatures in the 90’s didn’t help! 🙁

8:50: 10 minutes before we arrived at lock E29, Ray called lock again & confirmed the lock is operable. The lock operator said they are trying to get everyone through before the pre-arranged tow of the sailboat.

9:00: When we arrived at lock E29, we were told to hold-up while an east-bound boat (opposite direction), supposedly almost at the lock, locked through.

9:30: We were still waiting for the east-bound boat to exit the lock, so we tied to the wall.

10:00: The east-bound boat, mv BobNAround, exited the lock. Now we we're told to wait for the east bound tow boat (that would pull the sailboat Aurora through the mud) to arrive to lock through.

10:05: An empty lock was raised! Shortly, thereafter, a second east-bound boat – not the tow boat -- exited the lock.

11:00: By 11:00, 6 boats that were tied to the wall, finally got the “green light” to enter lock E29.

2 hours after arriving at the lock, we entered lock E29, west-bound, with 5 other boats, including sv Aurora. We were happy for them; they were about to clear a huge (or shallow) obstacle.

🔷 Boater Tip: Placement of lock signal lights is not consistent. Finding them may take a few minutes with the binoculars.

Before exiting lock E29, the lock operator gave us printed heat maps of the shallow areas just past E29 and just before E30, since we would be leading the “pack” of boats to the next lock E30. The least depth we saw on our track was 4.5 feet near E29, and 4.1 feet near E30.

We entered lock E30 with 6 other boats, including sv Aurora and the tow boat. Now, I guess the crew of sv Aurora is happy – maybe even celebrating the possible completion of the Erie Canal, westward! All went smoothly, with just a bit more shallow area just after the lock.

We arrived in Fairport later than we hoped but were happy to find wall space on the Village of Fairport dock wall, despite many boats “bunched up” heading west and others heading east. Dockage fee is minimal and includes 30 Amp power, nice restrooms and showers, and pump-out.

We had thought we may not find dock space since the lift bridge there was undergoing maintenance and had been stuck in the “down” position for several days. We decided that we’d worry about getting under bridge the next day, as we had planned to stay in Fairport for 2 nights.

Above you can see SCOUT in front of 4 European-style canal boats. ‘Tis the season! We began seeing a lot of these rental canal boats along the canal going forward. Most of the boats were from Erie Canal Adventures.

Not to Miss: Our first task was lunch, canalside, at LULU Taqueria + Mezcal. I have really been missing Mexican restaurants – especially fresh chips and salsa!

While we were there, we heard the warning bells of the Fairport lift bridge, and wondered if the workers were making a test “lift”. In fact, they were opening for a canal boat to pass through. Yay! The workers are still working – literally on the bridge – as it goes up, but we’re hopeful it will be ready for us to continue cruising when we’re ready. 🤞

After getting cooled off and showered, we had dinner on the boat, then walked about a block to Kennelley Park Gazebo, where an Army Band Brass Quintet (plus drummer) performed – their first performance post-COVID. We enjoyed the hour of relaxing entertainment.

Patriotism is alive and well in Fairport, NY!

Historic Food and Beverage “Tour”:

Donnelly's Public House, in a c.1920 building, has a cozy vibe and seems like a locals favorite. We were there on a Friday, and Ray enjoyed the “Friday fish fry”; he recommends the tater tots as a side.

Fairport Brewing Company is in the old 1934 Pure Oil Service Station. They use a brewing process that reduces (but doesn’t eliminate) gluten.

Triphammer Bierwerks is inside the old factory of American Can, who made the first beer can for Krueger Brewing in Newark, N.J. Canned beer made its debut January 24, 1935.

Exercise: We had a nice long walk on Thomas Creek Wetland Walk, which joins up to Rochester Syracuse and Eastern Trolley Trail. Cyclists have a lot of riding trails in this area of New York, and many cyclists use them!

Nearby the wetlands trail, is a butterfly garden and analemmatic sundial, created by Vanessa Sheldon using salvaged canal stones. Unfortunately, we didn’t notice the stone marker with instructions while we were there. (Photo in article.)

GLTD046 Brockport NY (from Fairport NY): We called the lift bridge as soon as they started operation for the day. Fairport lift bridge is an “irregular decagon”, a ten-sided structure, and crosses the canal at a 32-degree angle with a 4-percent slope. No two angles in the bridge are the same, and no corners on the bridge are square.

We arrived at Lock 32 early. The upper gates of Lock E32 were built incorrectly, creating a waterfall (fountain).

A bird nest hid an egg at the top of the cable we used to hold the boat in one of the locks.

This picturesque series of “arbor” bridges welcomed us to into "Rock Cut", some of the most extensive excavation of the entire Erie Canal – and on this rainy day (again), the canvas for many waterfalls.

The next best thing to a rainbow.

The next best thing to a double rainbow.

We encountered our first lift bridges with a shared operator.

🔷 Boater Tip: Several pairs of lift bridges on the Erie Canal are operated by a shared operator; one even operates three!

The bridge operator will advise you of their anticipated travel time to the next bridge when you call to request opening. They usually ask how far you are going for the day so that they can call ahead to the next bridge operator to be available on the correct side for you! For bridge information, we referenced a Skipper Bob publication for “Cruising the New York

Canal System”.

💲 Free Dock: We arrived and docked on Brockport Town Wall around noon, after transiting 2 locks and 3 lift bridges. Dockage is free, unless you need power (minimal charge). Pump-out is also free.

Steady rain kept us in the boat – except for venturing out for lunch and dinner.

I was happy to find out Jimmy Z's Plates & Shakes offered Gluten Free buns! That was the good news. The bad news was that I was too full for a shake after eating the bun. 🙁

We crossed paths with mv Blue Oyster again. We went through a few locks with them earlier and had met them in Fairport. They know owners of another Great Harbour boat, mv Blue Barnacle.

We had dinner with them at Custom House, then drinks at Stoneyard Brewing Company.

GLTD047 Medina NY (from Brockport NY): We called the lift bridge for an opening when they opened at 7:00 AM to continue west to Medina. Most of the lift bridges proudly wear a sign with the village name and fly 3 flags representing United States, New York, and New York Canals.

As I was cooking breakfast – eggs with leftover Greek steak salad -- Ray was greeting the morning walkers on the trail, just 20-30 feet away.

Just past the Knowlesville lift bridge, the Erie Canal crosses over “Culvert Road”. I piloted the boat while Ray flew the drone for some fun video.

We then passed under the Medina guard gate. Guard gates are placed along the Erie Canal to isolate sections of the canal in case of emergency, such as a break in the canal wall, accident, or extreme high water. They are also used when a section of the canal needs to be drained for maintenance or winter freeze protection.

Knowing our stop in Medina was just around this bend, I couldn’t wait to get out and walk a trail.

💲 Free Dock: We arrived and docked at Medine Terminal Wall before noon. This dock looks a little run down, but it was perfectly safe and secure. The boater restrooms are in the bottom of the old stone building (shown), and there were a few relaxing chairs along the dock (not shown - the other direction).

Zambistro: We enjoyed dinner at the rooftop patio, which has a view of the Erie Canal.

Not to Miss: Fitzgibbons Public House, c.1905,is a Celtic style pub that opened in 2017 after an 8-year renovation.

Inside, there is a mixture of beautiful old and new woodwork.

The shepherd’s pie was fantastic! Ray and I each had our own (so we could have leftovers while cruising).

810 Meadworks: There were no breweries in Medina, but there was a meadery. They offered flights, so we decided this was a good time to sample mead. Mead starts with honey, and is then fermented. Thus, the honeybee art using cans.

Not to Miss: History: Around town, there are a few original hitching posts and mounting blocks (steps to board horse carriages). We ran across this set while looking at churches.

Medina Sandstone: Medina sandstone, formed by nature 400 million years ago, has been the “cornerstone” of the culture of Medina, New York which gave it its name. Discovered in the 1820s, it was quarried here for more than 100 years and shipped worldwide. It can even be found in Buckingham Palace.

Medina sandstone was used to build 3 of the Medina church buildings, all with different colors.

St. John's Episcopal Church, c.1830, was built in the middle of the road; Church Street splits around it.

Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, c.1902 (left).

First Baptist Church, c. 1870 (right).

Medina Railroad Museum: There is a “looper favorite” railroad museum right in Medina. The HO-scale model train display is huge -- 204 x 14 feet!

Ray was impressed by the precision of the model villages.

There is an old locomotive, behind the building on old train tracks.

I was astonished by the number of lubrication points there are on a locomotive, as shown on this old diagram from Texaco Oil!

Medina Falls: We took a walk to see the dam and falls, but drone photos provided a better image.

Medina was a nice, relaxing stop. I enjoyed the colorful flowers in pots in front of the stores. The music playing from speakers atop the town’s lamp posts take you back in time. In one of the music tracks, we even heard a horse whinny, reminiscent of the horse-drawn carriage days.

Thankful: We enjoyed a couple of days of sunshine in Medina. This was a welcome chance for some of the Erie Canal flood waters to recede. Many loopers have been stuck for a long time behind locks that were closed due to flooding (some behind those guard gates we discussed earlier).

We are fortunate to have been just ahead of a lot of these closings. We feel like we have been chased west across the Erie, with gates closing behind us -- like we were in a new Great Looper version of the movie Maze Runner. The first few seconds of this movie clip expresses the feeling of “entrapment” we’ve been trying to outrun:

We are nearing the end of the Erie Canal locks and we don’t anticipate delays from additional lock closures. We hope locks begin opening soon for the loopers (“gate runners”) stuck behind us so they can continue their loop.

What’s next? We will finish our westward passage of the Erie Canal, leaving New York over a month after we landed here, and head south toward the Great Lakes.

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