Little Falls….Maybe

We were up with the sun this morning to make our way from Brewerton to Little Falls. It’s about 75 miles which will be our longest day yet on the Erie Canal. And we will have 6 locks to go through today. Also the most number of locks we have done in one day on the canal. Generally, they say that it takes about an additional 30 minutes per lock that is added on to our overall run time for the day. So, an extra 3 hours to get through 6 locks.

First up, we have to cross Lake Oneida. This is one of the largest lakes in New York, other than the Great Lakes. The lake is 21 miles long by 5 miles wide and an average depth of 22 feet. It’s because of this shallow depth that with any sort of significant wind, the chop on this lake can get significant quickly. We timed our transit for the quiet of the morning. The sunrise was spectacular this morning:

Big open water after weeks on the narrow canal. We hardly know what to do. We are glad auto pilot is back in action. It was difficult to use the auto pilot in such a narrow canal. Now we can sit back, set the auto pilot and enjoy our morning coffee.

It took a couple hours to transit the open waters of Lake Oneida until we got to the other end where it narrows again into the continuation of the Erie Canal at Sylvan Beach. As we got closer to the Sylvan Beach area, there was a significant amount of debris in the water that we needed to dodge. This always reminds me of the movie Twister. You might remember the scene where a house rolls into the road way and then an entire tractor lands in the road. “Debris people! We have debris!” Yes, that was true in this case, not just a twig but an entire tree!

Coming into Sylvan Beach

We are still traveling in the company of John; Ed and Evelyn and Dave and Kendra. John decided to pull over at Sylvan Beach for the night and the remaining 3 boats decided to push on to Little Falls.

Today we actually have 2 locks that we have to go through in fairly quick succession that are up bound locks when heading east. All the remaining locks heading east are down bound locks. We hadn’t yet really experienced being raised up in the lock as yet. One real difference is waiting for the lock doors to open. As they drop the water level inside the lock, there is some water that leaks through the closed doors as this process happens. This creates a bit of turbulence in the water as we are waiting for the doors to open. We had always had this existing the locks but now we have it waiting to enter the lock. These 2 locks will raise us 25 feet each for a total of 50 feet in less than a half mile.

We still go in slowly and grab the lines hanging down, this time the slimier end of the line for sure. As the water action raises us up in the lock, the boat gets pushed into the wall. This is a real work out using our boat hooks to keep the boat pushed away from the wall as the water fills. These 2 up bound locks are locks 22 and 21. Decreasing numbers as we head east bound.

Shortly after we got through locks 22 and 21, we got a text from Dave and Kendra. “Is lock 18 and all remaining locks only open until 5 pm?” Mark and I both look at each other….say what? Now the sections of the Erie Canal we have been on so far, the locks and lift bridges have been open until 10 pm everyday, so it didn’t really dawn on us that all the other locks wouldn’t be open until 10 pm as well. Well, we didn’t double check and come to find out that yes, 20, 19 and 18 that we need to get through to get to Little Falls, close at 5 pm today.

Well, right now it’s only about noon, so we can definitely get through lock 20 and 19. Right now our ETA to lock 20 is about 1:15 pm. So we should be good there. We will also be able to get through lock 19 in time. However, lock 18 is looking questionable since our ETA to that lock is right about 5 pm but that doesn’t account for the added time we know we will need to go through locks 20 and 19.

We have 2 power boats ahead of us that we don’t know and then us and Dave and Kendra traveling in a loosely defined pack. Fortunately for us, the power boats got held up and had to wait for the lock to open a bit at lock 20. This allowed us to catch up to them and get to lock 20 with no wait for us and we simply just locked right through. Had we not locked through this lock with the 2 power boats and had to wait for another cycle of the lock, we would have had no hope of making it to Little Falls tonight.

After lock 20, the 2 power boats again got ahead of us, however it was only 5 miles until we got to lock 19. So once again, we were able to catch up at the lock and the lock master held the lock as we straggled in with the 2 waiting power boats. Again, had we not made this lock timely we would not get to Little Falls tonight.

Now the afternoon is wearing on and we are pushing our speed as hard as we dare to try to make it to lock 18 before they close at 5 pm. Ed and Evelyn are a full lock cycle ahead of us and they will make Little Falls easily today. We have about 11 miles between lock 19 and lock 18. Our ETA right now is 4:55 pm and we can’t run any faster.

Mark gets on the phone and calls the lock master at lock 18. The conversation goes something like this:

Mark: Yes, what time do you close today?

Lockmaster: 5 pm

Mark: What time do I have to be there to ensure we can still lock through before you close?

Lockmaster: 4:45 pm. You must be here by then to lock through today.

Mark: What if we were just 10 minutes later than that?

Lockmaster: You need to be here at 4:45 pm to lock through

Mark: What would it take to hold the lock? We have 2 power boats and 2 sailboats heading your way and will be there just before 5 pm. What would it take? Would beer help?

Lockmaster: Sure, beer always works!

Yes, we just bribed the lockmaster to hold the lock for us with beer! He agreed he would wait for us and we prepared a bag and emptied some beers from the fridge into the bag as a care package for our new favorite lockmaster!

As we pulled into the lock, we set our care package at the edge of the wall and thanked Dave the lock master profusely for the favor of holding the lock. Thanks again Dave! Cheers!

We texted Ed and Evelyn that yes, we would make it through the lock and we would be able to meet them at the wall in Little Falls. Ed was waiting to help us tie up.

Painkiller all tied up on the wall at Little Falls

Dave and Kendra behind us

We enjoyed a little happy hour with the six of us in Little Falls

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