Underway Again


Clear and calm on our first “carefree” day on the Erie Canal.

All these posts were written previously, but are coming out now because we finally have a little downtime at a hotel in Boston with great wifi. Also, as mentioned before, whenever Paul is with us his photos often appear here.

After the repair Wednesday morning we still started back across the lake before 8 AM. This time the packing was perfect on both sides, running cool with just a steady slow drip of water. The weather was even better than Tuesday, sunny but not at all too hot with maybe a slight wind at our back. I thought about how great boating can be when everything is working.


In one of the world’s longest state parks, approaching our first lock.

We took a longer ride this time, continuing past Sylvan Beach for 40 more miles, through 4 locks, E22 – E19, to the Village of Ilion Marina. Ilion is probably the first decent place to stop past Lake Oneida. We did pass Rome, but last year we found it to be a difficult stop. We’re in a small “resort” with a concrete wall along the south side of the canal. They get more business from the motorhomes and trailers than boats, but there’s decent power, water and restrooms. Our next few stops may not have that.


At another lock, our wait for down locking traffic is nearly over.


In we go under a bridge. 20′ height is guaranteed. We’re over 19′.

We stayed the next day to visit the Remington Arms factory museum in Ilion, but discovered when we got there that they whole factory was closed for 2 weeks to refurbish something. With that out we continued in our Uber ride (it works outside of NYC now, unlike last year) 10 miles away to Utica.


Like other cities along the canal, Utica has less than half its former population. There is a spur with a working lock off the canal that ends in a square harbor like a small version of Baltimore’s inner harbor. They are talking about redeveloping this old industrial area into shops, a marina, etc. I think boaters would love to come into such a place. I certainly would.


We’re past the summit. Paul ran ahead while we waited for this first down lock.

Just like in Baltimore, boater traffic could not come close to supporting such a place, however. It would take people coming in off the freeway as well as locals coming in for the waterfront – harbor atmosphere. We would help by supplying the boats. Hard to say if it would work. Today, 10 miles away is as close to Utica as we could stop.


False Start

With last minute fixes and shopping done on Monday, we started out Tuesday around 8:30 for a short trip through 21 mile Lake Oneida to Sylvan Beach at the east end. Along the way everything on the boat seemed to work except for the bearing, called the “packing”, where the propeller shafts go through the back of the hull on the port side. They were running way too hot even though too much water, which is supposed to cool them, was coming in.

We parked where we did previously with Keith and Gayle, on the wall at the Sylvan Beach city park on the canal. We walked over and ate lunch at Eddies again. We walked through the carnival area, which was deserted. I assume it was very active on the 4th, and maybe on weekends.

That bearing worried me, and if that shaft got messed up there are no places to fix or replace it until we were near Albany, and even then it could take a few weeks. It was only 4 PM, so we returned to Winter Harbor, getting there by 7:30. The marina people got on the boat at 7 Wednesday morning and found the bearing needed a lot more hemp packing. They put it in and gave me an extra amount for my spare parts collection.

So our first boating day was not entirely successful, but after sitting for 8 months it was certainly better than my worst expectations.


Back on the Erie Canal

Star Gazer was waiting in the water the morning of July 5

New replacement spare props. We lost two props coming out of Florida last year.

We are back on the boat after our longest time away from it by far. Nathan and Troy were with us last year and Troy needed to get to Sarasota to start school. We were into October and he was already a month late, so we just left the boat on the Erie canal at Winter Harbor Marina, where they stored it out of the water.  Now after 8 months we are back.

George Eastman’s living room. Thousands of pipes for the organ in several rooms behind this picture.

Star Gazer was in the water with just a few things left to fix when we moved back aboard July 5. Paul and Sharon arrived soon after and we spent the 7thand 8thtouring Rochester, including the George Eastman home and museum, the Susan B Anthony home and the Mt Hope cemetery, a great place for a Sunday walk.

Mt Hope cemetery has really varied landscape. Susan B Anthony & Frederick Douglas buried here.


Just and ordinary small headstone for Susan B Anthony. It’s all she wanted.


Kingston ON


We got off the docks into a small park with “The Spirit of John A.” Named after a corrupt but lovable mayor.

We’re up here in Canada now while Hurricane Irma bears down on our Sarasota home. Jordan is staying there awaiting some job interviews. Apparently the building is safe and has backup generators. It will be locked down during the storm with no one in or out. The steel shutters are all closed and Jordan’s got some books to read. We’ll see how it all comes out when we get there on the 16th.

Since we missed the opening of the LaSalle Causeway Bridge in Kingston we turned in to Kingston Marina just north of the bridge for Thursday night. Friday morning we moved the boat through the bridge and on to Confederation Marina which is closer to down town, although this time we were out on 1000 feet or more of dock just to get to shore.



We learned about that mayor and more in the city hall, which had several exhibit rooms.

Just about anything would be a big city after what we’ve seen on the Rideau, but Kingston turned out bigger than we thought. Its population at 123,000 is about the same as Ottawa and Gatineau combined. Ottawa did seem a lot bigger, maybe because all the government buildings as well as all the money that inevitably follows government power.


Princess St. is the main street of town running west from the waterfront.

Not too many big or important museums here. The old prison is perhaps the best known, but we didn’t visit that. Nathan, Troy and I did like the Pump House Steam Museum. There are many references to Steam power in this part of town since Kingston once was a major builder of steam and then diesel locomotives. It was pretty small, but had two huge steam engines that previously pumped water for Kingston, great working model steam engines and finally model trains.


Many scratch built engines and cars in the O gauge layout. All donated by a single old hobbyist.

There was an extensive O gauge layout with a lot of track and rolling stock although no scenery. In this case scenery would block the view of the many engines and cars on the layout. A lot of these were scratch built by the man who donated all the O gauge trains. There were also working HO and N gauge layouts as well as a hands on Brio layout. Troy certainly had his hands full and I always like well made models like the O gauge engines on display.


I wondered about that X on the top, but the sign lower right says “Presbyterian”. 

There were a couple of other Museums we didn’t get to, but we’ll probably be this way again next year. We also enjoyed the air show put on over the city and waterfront by Canada’s Snowbirds flight team Saturday afternoon.


The Canada Snowbirds did their aerobatics right over us at the marina.

Our original plan this year was to hang out in the Thousand Islands and then go on in some unplanned direction from there. The islands were not inviting due to weather when we reached them, and this year’s weather made the whole season not so good there, so we just kept going down the St Lawrence. We were certainly better off in Montreal, Ottawa and the rivers and canal. I think we turned be more city and town people than wilderness people. We did not go camping much in our younger days. Many boaters anchor out more than we do. Certainly we have enjoyed anchoring, especially the long stretches where there are no marinas or tie up places along the western river portion of the Great Loop.


Southern Rideau Canal


View out front just before we left the Kennedy Hotel dock at Jones Falls.


Looking back to the Jones Falls flight lock as we leave.


View to starboard as we leave the Kennedy Hotel.

Today the locks started on a new schedule, opening at 10 and closing at 4 as the boating season comes to a close. Since the first lock was 10 miles to the south we left a bit before 9 to get there as it opened. I forgot to check for bridges, however. The Brass Point swing bridge was only 5 miles away, and it didn’t start opening until 10 either, so we did wait around there for a bit. Finally the bridge master came out, raised the flag and opened the bridge.


Forgot this swing bridge didn’t open until 10 AM like the locks. He’s raising the flag at the right.

We’ve been traveling about 20 miles or less each day on the Rideau Canal. Our last day was a little longer at 25 miles. No really narrow passageways with trees and the banks a few feet from each side like we’ve been having. We went through many fairly wide lakes but with narrow channels the whole way. There were many red and green floating markers spaced close enough together that we were watching our rear did not swing out and bump them in the corners.


Farmland and more open country today.


Just around this corner to the last set of locks. That’s a 10 kph speed limit sign ahead.

Today’s trip had had fewer locks than we usually see, but the last lock was another combination single separated from a 3 chamber flight lock by a passing basin, just like at Jones Falls. Again we waited awhile for this one, just long enough that as we left they told us we’d miss the 3 PM LaSalle Causeway Bridge opening in Kingston. The next opening was at 6 PM.


He’s turning the crank to let water out through the openings in the bottom of the gate of our last lock.


Another 15 minutes and we would have made it. We went through at 10 AM the next day.

We’ll stay a few days and see Kingston, then we cross lake Ontario to Oswego NY. One more day of travel takes us to Winter Harbor Marina on the Erie Canal. We have tickets to fly home from there September 16, hopefully arriving after the hurricanes have finished coming through. That gives us 3 days to pack up what we want to take and get the boat ready for winter storage. Next year we’ll start out from this area.


Jones Falls


We left Westport on a wide lake, but soon went into idle speed narrow winding channels.

We left Westport allowing a half hour to reach the first lock when it opened at 9. Westport is at the west end of Upper Rideau Lake, which we traveled on for a few miles before entering a very narrow channel. We wound around this for awhile, fortunately not meeting other boats, before we came upon our first lock of the day. This was also the first time we locked down, now starting to drop to the level of Lake Ontario.

Today the pattern for meeting a lock was to be in a narrow channel, just rounding a corner and the dock with the blue line would be right there with the lock 200 feet further.


Slow going winding around. 45 minutes into the trip we hit our first lock. It was the first down lock.


Looking back from the first lock. They like to put locks just past corners.


Starting to see fall color. Not a lot, just here and there.

When encountering even a small boat going the other way, we stopped dead and pulled sideways to let them go by. We moved slowly enough so if we hit something it would just make a noise and stop us. We did just that for the boat and its follower in the picture below. Fortunately we didn’t hit anything today.


Came to a dead stop just short of the bridge to allow two boats (first shown) by. They just exited a lock.


Those two boats came from Chaffeys 37 lock, 100 feet past the bridge in the above picture.

In our Merrickville post I said we may have seen the best part of the Rideau on the way there. That was really great, but today and the way from Smiths Falls to Portland were easily its equal. Sue kept saying we have to return to the Rideau Canal next year. It will be easy to do, since we’re storing the boat on the Erie Canal this winter.


Deep part is very narrow, with markers a few feet from each side of the boat. More rocky banks now.


Waited almost an hour above lock 39 for upward locking boats in flight lock 40-42. We passed in pool between.

We arrived at the Jones Falls locks and had to wait 45 minutes while boats were locking up in the flight lock. They timed our locking down in the upper lock so we could pass the boats exiting the flight lock in the wide pool between. Water is high this year and usually spills over the gates at the low end as we entered the locks.

It started raining lightly as we entered the top chamber of the flight lock, but stopped before we entered the second chamber. The weather has not been great the last few trips, but has not been really bad either. It’s certainly good enough and warm enough to really enjoy the trip.


In topmost flight lock 40 with two more chambers below, and boats parked at hotel Kennedy below that.

We got all the way down and docked at the Kennedy Hotel at the bottom just in time to make it for lunch, which closes at 2:30.


In the last flight lock 42 with the hotel to the right. Just made it for lunch.

The Jones fall area and the park around its upper and flight locks were really beautiful. We hiked up to the stone arch dam, built in the early 1800’s. At 60 feet it was the highest in North America and 3rd highest dam in the world when built. They were learning how at the time and had a few failures in this area before getting it right with the stone arch. Nathan and Troy did some fish spotting, The water here is very clear, and often no more than the 5′ “guaranteed” depth for locks on the canal.


Watching fish in pool between upper lock 39 (upper right) and flight locks off to upper left.





If and island in these lakes is big enough for a house or two, it has a house or two, sometimes hidden in the trees.


Hand operated bridge at our only lock of the day. He started it and the wind helped blow it open.

(All pictures here are after we left Portland). It’s less than 20 miles from Smiths Falls to Portland through only 2 locks, so we could start out after 2 PM when Nancy left and still easily make it through the locks before their 5 PM closing time and arrive in Portland by 5:30. The weather was sunny when we left and turned overcast but not so cold as we traveled. There is nothing much to see in Portland except the nice harbor, but we spent two nights because it rained most of the time the following day.


Approaching Westport. We docked behind a low island stretching across the center of this picture.


Looking out from town.


The post office is across the first street up from the town docks.

The next day we went 10 miles with one lock midway to reach Westport. Westport has had a steady 700 population for most of its life, is more upscale than Smiths Falls and much more tourist oriented. We walked through most of the town and enjoyed a local museum filled with almost any household item from our great grandparent’s time.


Average homes in Westport are old but pretty nice.


Most homes are brick but some are wood. Most good sized but no grand ones. Saw no run down ones either.


Smiths Falls


The “pond”, looking in our direction of travel, as we readied to leave Merrickville.

Since it was an hour to the first lock past Merrickville we started out for Smiths falls at 8 AM. The weather was not great, but not really cold either. Everyone from upstate New York to here has commented how this summer has been colder and more rainy than usual. We realize now how fortunate we were doing the loop two years ago, when great weather was the norm. Still, we’ve had plenty of great travel days to offset the cloudy ones, and only 3 or 4 rainy travel days total.


Second to the last lock before Smiths Falls.

The forecast now is not the greatest, and with kindergarten waiting for Troy in Florida we are now thinking of running across Ontario and back to our Winter Harbor storage place once we have seen Kingston at the end of the canal.


With 28 feet of lift, this is the deepest lock in the Rideau and needs hydraulics for its large gates.


Click on picture to magnify for reading.

Today we went through 4 locks with the last one hydraulically operated and raising us 28 feet, the deepest lock in the system. After that lock we rounded the left lock wall and tied up on it’s other side, parking between it and the original 3 chamber flight lock it replaced in 1973. Canada had just started a modernization program when they realized the historic status of the old hand operated system and stopped it in the early 70’s. Operating lock gates, valves and swing bridges by hand also gives summer jobs to a lot of Canadian college kids.


Past Star Gazer is the high approach to the lock, then downtown. Near water is approach to the old flight lock.

The Rideau Canal Museum was the first thing we hit in town with exhibits and models showing how the locks work as well as the history. The Rideau system is older than the Trent Severn and Erie. The locks are all shorter, the shortest we’ve been in, as narrow as anything we’ve seen and with a few exceptions like the lock here, most have 11 feet or less of lift.


So many homes are small and very compact and efficient to heat.

Smiths Falls is the largest town between Ottawa and Kingston in the St Laurence at the other end of the canal, but still is a pretty small town. Sue and Nancy did some shopping at various stores which were less touristy and more aimed at locals than in Merrickville.


They also had a steam engine, several cabooses, a dentist’s car, and a boxcar all of which we toured.

Saturday morning we went to a small railroad museum a short walk across town. The homes along the way were small square brick two story houses, the most efficient shape to keep heated in the winter. We didn’t see anything grand, just small and old.

Nancy left us in Smiths Falls, taking a taxi back to Ottawa airport, which for all our winding about on the canal, was only an hour away by car.




The water was calm all day, but especially when we started out. Sun and great weather.


The channel often got narrow, as it is doing here. Sometimes confusing – but no time for pictures of that.

Rideau locks don’t open until 9, but the first one for us was two hours south of Hurst Marina. Merrickville is said to be the best town to stop at along the Rideau, so we left at 7 to get there early to find tie up space in the “pool” on the other side of the Merrickville triple flight lock. Merrickville is one of the harder places to find space, but there turned out to be plenty because we were traveling so late in the season.


As we passed the silos in the above picture on our left, this was on our right.


Taking it slow in another narrow channel. Shallow and marshy to the left.

When we got to the last triple flight lock at Merrickville boats were already starting to lock up in the lowest lock. The lockmaster told me on the phone that when those were finished several boats were waiting to lock down. He would get to us in about an hour. Longest wait by far we’ve had on the Rideau. Usually the gate is open or they see us coming and open just as we approach.


This bridge is just after passing through a hand operated lock. A guy behind it to the right is pushing it open.


More slow passage before the long wait at the last three flight locks.

There were no cleats at the waiting dock, only loops that appeared too small for our lines, so we floated in a small area while we waited. The worst thing about easing into mud is sucking it into various cooling intakes. We did that to our aircon in Philadelphia and had to get it flushed out. This time the worst was vast mud clouds kicked up when our tail and props got a little close.


One side of the main street. No single truly outstanding building, but taken together it was very nice.

While more than half the canal is before us, today may have been the high point. As often as not we were in very narrow winding channels close to the banks on each side. Other times our channel would branch and within 100 feet our chosen channel would branch again, and then again. I had the chart right in front of me but still had to slow down and convince myself that I had chosen the right way. As close to an Indian threading a birch bark canoe through a small stream in the northern wilds of Canada as we could get.


We crossed the lock gate to go into town. We’re parked to the right. Downtown is to the left.

Merrickville was a great stop with everything a block or so from the boat. There was a park on a small island extending away from us on the other side of the causeway. It had stone building ruins and a small museum. Troy was especially taken by an old steel water turbine he could push around like a small playground merry-go-round. This turned a vertical shaft which, through 4 other shafts and various large pulleys and leather belts turned a wooden spindle on a old lathe. He’s now on the boat trying to draw pictures of all that.


Out on the rocks at the far end of the small island park. Town and locks on the left, our boat at the upper right edge of this picture just through the trees.

We spent an extra day, found a Chinese restaurant with an entirely new take on hot and sour won ton soup (Nathan and I agree it was great). The women spent a lot of time shopping about the town and we all visited a better than average antique store with a lot of old toys from our childhood and before.


Leaving Ottawa


From our Ottawa parking spot, looking where we’ll be going. Not many boats this time of year. In July both sides are packed.


Sure looks like a drawbridge including what looks like a joint in the center. It lifts up about 12 feet.

We pulled away from the wall about 8:30 just glided at reduced speed through downtown Ottawa and into its suburbs. We passed through downtown and then park after park along with mid to upscale suburbs. It was an outstanding travel day, sunny but comfortable. Most of the canal has a speed limit of 8 mph or less and we traveled 20 miles total so there was no hurry.


The canal gets wide with bike paths on each side in the city.


Narrower with bike paths on each side, and parks on each side here.


Forest barrier on the left with homes behind.


Ottawa homes along the way.

In 15 minutes we reached the Pretoria Avenue lift bridge. You can’t call the bridges and locks here on the radio but they do supply phone numbers. How did the navigators of old ply these waters without cell phones? Anyway, the bridge master said there was a fire somewhere. Several emergency vehicles had already crossed the bridge and he was not sure if more were coming. After half an hour he got the all clear. It looked so much like a drawbridge that I didn’t even notice it had lifted very slowly until the boat waiting on the other side came through first. Since there are many 22’ fixed bridges on the Rideau it had to lift only 12 feet.


The first two locks were well within the city and the third was at its southern edge.


That swing bridge looks like a foot bridge but cars, no trucks, drive across it one at a time.


Toward the end of our trip, just outside of Ottawa we pass the only two boats of the day, the first a very small commercial cruise boat.

We landed at Hurst Marina to the south where we are still in the Ottawa city limits. Scenery could not have been better.

Tomorrow we head for Merrickville said by many to be the quaintest or cutest village on the entire Rideau canal.