Sunday, August 25, 2013

Canal Cruising

Passage slipped away from the dock in Tonawanda at 8:20 a.m. on Friday, August 23rd.  We motored the 18 miles to Lockport, where we shared the lock with two boats, one a large tour boat, which made the locking interesting.

Once through the locks we continued on to Gasport for a planned one hour stop for lunch and a quick look.

It only took ten minutes to see Gasport.  We had told the bridge tender we would be an hour, so he disappeared for two and a half hours!  We spent waaaaay too much time in Gasport.

Once freed by the bridge tender, we chugged on down to Medina, some 10 miles further down the canal.  This is the view from the helm as one steers the canal.

 Like most towns on the western Erie Canal, Medina offered free dockage  with power, water and showers.

  For 80 years Medina was famous for its sandstone quarry. 

The western portion of the canal is protected from wakes by sandstone.  It is lighter colored stone near Medina, and darker near Albion where their quarry produced darker sandstone.
Friday night is antique car night in Medina.  We were entertained by a DJ and checked out the old cars.  My favorite was a 1956 Chevy.

She was spotless.  A person could eat off her engine.  The show broke up early, and we had a very quiet night at the dock.

We cast off the lines at 9:33 the next morning, fresh with anticipation of things to come.  First was the only aqueduct on the Erie Canal.  Culvert Road passes under the canal at this point.

We made a short stop in Albion, which everyone knows is famous as the home of George Pullman, the inventor of the Pullman Railroad car.  It is also famous for its dark, reddish brown sandstone, which can be seen on many of the churches and other buildings in town.  I am not sure how many churches are right in town, so let's just say there are plenty of them.

Some secular buildings used the stone too.  Click on the pics to enlarge.

Even the sidewalks are sandstone, though I am not allowed to publish that particular photo.

Anyway, we jumped back onto the boat and continued down to Holley, one of the great secret treasures of the canal.  We discovered Holley back in 1999 when we took Journey through the canal.  The village is very tired indeed, but the park like setting of the waterfront is both beautiful and tranquil.  Holley was the first town on the canal to use a grant to develop its canal front.  They provided power and water, and beautiful octagonal bathhouse, and a well maintained park leading to their water falls.


It is very romantic down at the falls, and beautiful women can be found there.
Some even get married there.
The bride had a long walk from the RV to the ceremony!
On Sunday the 25th we travelled from Holley to Spencerport, a distance of 10.6 nautical miles.  We found a new wall here that was not around in 2011, as well as restrooms with showers under the adjacent Canal Museum: all free of course.  The village is small but very well maintained.  The new strip mall shopping is within a block of the canal. which is unusual.  The Tops supermarket is superb, as is Albert's Custard a short walk from the dock.

The locals are extremely warm and welcoming here.  I was forced to rest in the most amazingly comfortable rocking chair at the museum by two extremely charming mature women.  Folks stopped to ask about our trip often.  Interestingly, three days into the canal we have not seen one other boat travelling east.  If you are planning to visit Spencerport by water, stay at the west docks unless you have a shallow draft vessel like Passage, because we have only 4 feet of water here.  We only need 30 inches, so no problem, mon!
Well, there is a concert at the gazebo, so I have to go.  Feel free to keep in touch through the comments section of the blog. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

To Tonawanda

Passage cleared the dock in Dunkirk at 8:00a.m. on Wednesday, August 21st.  We sailed for the first hour, then the wind died down and went dead astern, so we motor sailed the rest of the way to Buffalo.  While approaching the harbor we counted 14 wind generators in the haze.

After pulling down the mainsail, we motored up the Black Rock Canal, under a lift bridge and past a swing bridge before transiting the Black Rock Lock.  We then motored into the Niagara River, running with the current at speeds up to 8.4 knots over the bottom.  We arrived at the Buffalo Launch club, America's oldest power boat club, in no time at all.

After checking in at the beautiful club, we got to work unbending  our sails and securing our battens to our boom.  It was hot work in the heat and humidity.

A long shower prepared us for a lovely meal in their beautiful restaurant.  After a stroll around the grounds of the BLC to view their pool, tennis courts and boats, we crawled exhausted into bed.

Thursday the 22nd we mopped the heavy dew off the decks and headed the four miles down the Niagara to the entrance to the Erie Canal.

We pulled into Wardell Boat Yard, purchased diesel fuel, and began prepping to unstep the mast.

Once the mast was down, we motored under two low bridges and tied up on the Tonawanda Harbor docks.  Docking was challenging because a day camp was engaged in a water activity in front of the docks.
 However, we are securely docked, have eaten lunch at Burger King, and Sue  has just returned from the grocery store.  Passage is ready for her voyage down the Erie Canal.
Our cruise from Grand River Yacht Club to Tonawanda was 159 nautical miles according to our GPS.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Leaving Lake Erie

After three days of delay due to weather and a leaking coolant reservoir, Passage finally pulled away from the Grand River Yacht Club on Friday, August 16th.

As we exited the Grand River, we took one last look at the construction of the new coast guard station, as well as the Grand River light house.

We hoisted sails and sailed for about one hour before before the wind weakened as we approached the Perry Nuclear Power Plant.

We fired up the motor when we saw the first of four water spouts out on the lake.

Fortunately, they stayed well out on the lake, and we arrived safely at Ashtabula after a voyage of 27 nautical miles.  The Ashtabula light house is in bad shape.

We motored under the bridge and were tied up by 1:10 p.m.  George and Pat Schlauch on Outlaw, who were returning from an eight week cruise of Lake Ontario, crossed under the 2:30  bridge and tied up in front of us.

We had a wonderful visit, learning all about their adventures during their first extended cruise, and filling them in on events at the club.  We enjoyed dinner at Hil Maks and breakfast at the River's Edge Diner the next morning before Outlaw set sail for their home dock in Grand River.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing and recovering from the frenzy of preparations for this cruise.

We cast off our lines to catch the seven o'clock bridge on Sunday, August 18th.  We sailed for three hours in south winds, reaching a high speed of 7.4 knots.  Seven miles past Conneaut, the wind died; and we motored the rest of the way to the Presque Isle Light.

During this leg our autopilot drive belt slowly crumbled away, until we were forced to hand steer.  We arrived at the Erie Yacht Club at 3:00 p.m.
We spent the next two hours scrubbing the coal dust off Passage, showered, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the yacht club.  The next morning Sue did laundry while Jack did boat maintenance chores.  At noon we motored across Presque Isle Bay and followed the range markers into Marina Lake at Presque Isle State Park.
Anchoring in the best anchorage on Lake Erie, we realized that the only other sailboat anchored there was Rosebud, skippered by Mark Whalen, a member of our yacht club.

We enjoyed a nice visit with Mark before retiring to Passage to relax and read before going to bed early.
We enjoyed a lovely sunrise on Marina Lake as we raised our anchor early the morning of August 20th.
With the wind almost dead astern, we motor sailed the 42 nautical miles to Dunkirk, New York, passing the light house at 1:30p.m.
Dunkirk harbor is the neighbor of an old coal burning power plant whose heated water flows into the harbor instead of out into the lake.  Because of this the harbor never freezes, despite the harsh winter weather in New York.  The hot water pipes can be seen in the second photo of the power plant.
Dunkirk Yacht Club is built on stilts in the harbor. 
The members are very welcoming, and we enjoyed our visit with them.  Sue also visited the local super market for groceries.  We celebrated happy hour with members of the club.  Tomorrow we will reach Buffalo and the Niagara River.