Day 6 – Green Island to Lock 9 on the Erie Canal

DSC02152Starbuck Island Boat Club to Arrowhead Campground and Marina

What a fun first day on the Erie Canal/Mohawk River!

If someone told me I was gonna catch great swell on the Erie Canal I wouldn’t believe it. But I caught great swell only first day of the Erie Canal/Mohawk River stretch while heading to lock 7. It was actually a monster boat wake, but since this stretch is so flat,  the wake this good sized boat left went on and on. I just had to cut my fun and rather long ride a little short to keep from flying into the shallows, but the ride was fairly long until that!

The lock experience was one John Vargo, the publisher of “Boating on the Hudson and Beyond,” had warned me to avoid. In a 20 foot long outrigger canoe it is an adventure. The strength of water rushing in and the lightness and length of the boat kinda kills the option of tying up. It’s just too hard to keep the boat from swinging into the cement walls, so the best option, I felt, was to just hang out in the middle and paddle away from the walls which the swirls will push you into. It was far easier to deal with the swirling whirlpools of water in the canal from Union Lake in Seattle out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and another little one on the ICW going to Norfolk than these locks.  It really a surprise when you get in the lock and see the elevation you’re going up. It’s higher than what you have in the Panama Canal.

I wish I could have taken John’s advice, but the portage options for an outrigger canoe are really not options at all-it’s never good to haul out a long fragile boat over a high cement bulkhead, never mind that, especially for the first lock, there really were no take outs at all. So, it was the locks!

The lockmasters have been awesome tho. These guys just rock. Lock 1 on the Hudson was an easy novel experience, and the lockmaster opened right up. Number two had a bit of a wait, not bad, and I got to meet up with Don, the guy who paddled with me the day before. He gave me some good historic points of interest to check out, like the last remaining canal freighter at lock 7. I’m also posting as I go on Twitter (@slowpaddler) and Instagram (@1slowpaddler), as you can see my links on the right side of this blog.

The Erie Canal is full of surprises- I was under the impression that the canals close at 10, but really, they stop floating boats through at 5. This was a surprise-I got a call from Lindsy, my awesome logistics manager/ ground crew, that she was hoping I was at lock 8 since they quit at 5! Blast! I was paddling at a completely leisurely pace, chatting with the amazing folks who play and live along the canal, and really eaten up some time that way. So it was an all out sprint for the last 3-4 miles or so to the lock.

Apparently it was a pretty good size group effort to reach out to the lockmaster-I begged the help of a family on jetskis. Each parent had a kid along as well so the father and one of the children went zooming up to alert the lockmaster that I was coming thru while a passing boat load of folks stopped to call as well. I found out after reaching Arrowhead Campground that the owner’s son had also gone to the lock to alert the lockmaster.  Whew!

Next time, I’ll come back and camp with my family.  Seriously making sure I hit the water sooner than I did yesterday, which was well after 8. The locks open at 7 and I’ve got five on deck for today.

We even had a bit of press today! CBS Channel 6 did an awesome job covering what this paddle is all about. They even used a bit of my GoPro footage!

One surprising thing, well, actually two. I’m completely surprised how gorgeous this stretch is. Really had no idea-the cliffs, the hills in the distance, the way the river wends about, the homes on the water. And also-wow-there IS hope I think, for my home turf, which I’m sorry to say, is full of plastic debris in the water-while I find trash occasionally, it IS really occasionally. Yesterday’s few plastic bottles were the only ones I’d found in the water. I WISH I could say the same about the Rancocas, the Delaware, and the Mullica. I DO think one solution is education, certainly not the only one, but it sure helps!

I can’t wait til next weekend when my family comes with bikes to ride along the canal while I paddle. Love it that they can visit on the weekends and share the adventure

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