Category: 2017: Trent Severn & Erie Canal

Return to home port – Algonac, MI

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Yesterday we ran the final leg of our odyssey and headed northwest across Lake Erie and_DSC0013 (1) up the Detroit River back to our home port. Honestly, the trip was a bit melancholy for both of us; while we were looking forward to seeing our friends again, we were also a bit saddened thinking that a trip we had planned for for over a year (maybe longer) was actually coming to an end. We tweaked our thoughts about it as we got closer to home and changed from calling it the “end our trip”, to the “end of the first leg of our trip”, that will hopefully span several years to come. Now, that’s much better!

So some retrospective about this part of our trip.

Would we do it again? Absolutely. The scenery is really quite beautiful, and ever-changing as one travels from North to South then West as we did. Through the_DSC0014 (1)

entire trip we had a terrific time with navigation – which we both enjoy doing, and we met a lot of wonderful people along the way and were able to share stories with them and listen to some pretty cool trips and lifestyles that they were living. One thing for sure is that we are not alone on doing this kind of trip. There are a lot of people out there doing what we are, and definitely beyond. So our trip is just one of several we could do in the future.

We also heard about a number of alternatives to the Great Loop which I think are worth considering, for example, one being taking the Rideau and crossing the St. Lawrence, through lake Champlain, then down the Hudson to the Intercoastal – running south and then north, making stops in different locations on both legs. We might consider that over the traditional Great Loop trip of going to Chicago then down the rivers to the Gulf. Then on the other hand, we have a great boat to do the traditional “Loop” so why not?! More thinking to do on that.

We did decide that if when do it again we will plan on a fender along each side every 8 feet, and some large ball fenders under the port and starboard bow flare. While we didn’t encounter any issues with the 72 lock-throughs, we think that an extra level of comfort would be added with this approach. Sometimes wind and or current can make the stern swing leaving the bow vulnerable, the large ball fenders will address this potential issue. When you read the various guidebooks they can make you a bit nervous, about locks, about currents, etc. My take is that they are good to take note of and be prepared for, but if you are cautious and know your boat, you should not be overly concerned.

Comparison of Trent-Severn locks to Erie Canal locks: Trent-Severn are definitely easier to manage, mainly because the method to secure the boat is fixed at both the top and bottom of the lock where on the Erie they are typically not fixed on the bottom which can be a challenge to keep the boat from swinging away from the wall. The Trent-Severn locks are also in much better state of repair than many on the Erie Canal. They do fill and drain the locks more quickly on the Erie Canal system, that’s nice as there is less time in the lock, just need to be prepared for a little extra sway on the boat with quicker water movement. That being said, the people working both lock systems were great.

The Back Cove 37. Now that we have made an extended trip with the boat, I find that it has proven to be the perfect boat for us. First of all, it performed very well in all types of weather and wave conditions we encountered, without any feeling of discomfort or concern. Second, given the need for extended no-wake cruising in the canals and then fast runs on the lakes, the diesel and the BC37 hull design seems to pair very well, as we could “canal it” relatively fast without plowing and causing wake issues while the Cummins diesel just idled along – a very relaxing and quiet ride. When we did get on the lakes, we could transition to pretty much any planing speed we wanted, which made it fit our wants for that moment. In 3 – 5 on the bow we actually had a very comfortable 17 knot cruise.

The long trip had us tailor our storage locations on the boat a bit, and as such the fine tuning we did along the way made things a lot more accessible. We ran a lot with the back seating cushions tucked away in the Starboard stateroom, which allowed them to stay clean when you encountered lock demetrius, or “insect heavy” dockage. We had more than enough space for our provisions for an 8 week trip, and did not find us stepping on each other at all. We never felt claustrophobic as the topside lounge area provided great visibility, even during inclement weather.

No…this isn’t a paid endorsement by Back Cove! The boat just really fits our boating needs and desires. It was nice to have that confirmed on this extended trip.

Now…lets start planning the next trip…



Vermillion to Kelley’s Island, OH

The boat lifted up from astern and caught its first surf on a fifty foot wave. She prayed the bow wouldn’t bury itself in the trough. If that happened, the boat would pitchpole and land upside down. With its weighted keel and watertight hatches it would probably right itself, but she might not be alive to appreciate it…. She adjusted the boat trim to match the boat speed to the wave, finding the balance point by feel. She surfed the next wave for over a mile, her wake as clear as an icy contrail in the jet stream…..


Oops, wrong blog entry – that’s the book I’m reading, not our trip. Anyhow, we left Vermillion today, back to MnM SDT (Standard Departure Time), of around 11:00 am, and headed northwest to Kelley’s Island – around 18 NM. Seas in our story were around 2 – 3 occasional 4, but we cruised nicely at 17 knots, going to the island because Melodie had an appointment within someone named “Brandy Alexander” that she refused to miss. In any event, we went in at Portside Marina so that Melodie could make her appointment as efficiently and quickly as possible. Once landed we had a nice lunch dockside at “Dockers”, then rented a golf cart to take a ride around the island. I haven’t driven a wheeled vehicle now for seven weeks, so I had to drive it in lazy S turns to maintain the feel of our nautical life.

Anyhow, we’re here now for the rest of the day as Brandy is now waiting for us….

Vermillion, Ohio


Spent the entire day lounging around and exploring the town and the shoreline.  Vermillion is a really nice place with nice facilities and a very pretty harbor.  Melodie forced me up into town to buy pies based upon a recommendation from some people we met from Port Clinton who came here to spend a couple of days, part of their annual boating activities.

Melodie was suffering from a lack of shopping, so later in the day she forced me to walk up into town AGAIN to purchase home improvement items.  After that she treated me to happy hour and to dinner at ‘Touche Bistro’ which was really good.

We needed the walks, especially given how we’ve been enjoying our time on the boat and it felt really good to get a few miles in.

Assuming the lake is in the same mood we are, we are thinking about heading over to the islands tomorrow – which one is yet TBD.


We’ll keep you posted!!


And…the pie was great-peach!

Dunkirk NY to Vermillion, OH

Late last night we took a quick look at the weather for the rest of the week and decided to “eclipse” (yuk, yuk) our plans to visit Cleveland, and to go directly to Vermillion Ohio.  As such we got up early this morning and after a morning thunderstorm, set course for a run to Vermillion.

Morning at Dunkirk

Lake Erie was much nicer to us this morning, with 1 foot all the way.  So we made an

Eclipsing Lake Erie

extended day of it and went 179 miles from Dunkirk to Vermillion, stopping about 15 nm from Vermillion to enjoy the solar eclipse out in Lake Erie.  Great fun.

Dunkirk Lighthouse

We plan to spend the next couple of days here (or perhaps stopping by Kelly’s Island (as Melodie wants a pitcher of Brandy Alexanders for herself).

At this point we are within range of our home port, and are wondering if we should head that way or continue our journey…..  How far is Key West?



North Tonawanda and Dunkirk, NY


What can I say? Sometimes there is not a lot to post. We spent yesterday doing a quick cleanup of the boat, and then walked around town before heading back to the boat prior to dinner later that afternoon. North Tonawanda and Tonawanda are nice areas, but they do not have the "nautical" clientele in mind when it comes to shopping. If you want a vape shop or tattoos, plenty of choices. Otherwise its a town suited for those whose live here and need basic sundries.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed hanging along the river and just watching what happened throughout the day. Got a really good downpour late in the afternoon, then headed up early evening to the "Dockside Inn". Had some really good Clam Chowder here – some if the best I can recall (thinking of Bill), and enjoyed some ribs for the entree.

Sunday morning we headed out early to try to take advantage of the 1-3 footers forecasted on Erie. Hmm…. We planned to go through the last lock – Black Rock Channel and get on our way, but guess what – the lock does not open till 11:00 am on weekends, Seriously…11:00 am for recreational boaters on a weekend?! So we waited till 11:00 at the lock, locked through, then waited for a swing bridge to open, then waited for some skulling boats to clear then waited for a couple in a ~19 footer to idle along the canal in a lazy S pattern, as MnM, a trawler from Florida in front of us, and another trawler on our stern practiced shifting into neutral multiple times while the people in the 19 footer decided what they wanted to see next (never looking behind them, of course) before we could finally get out into the east end of Lake Erie.

Miss Erie of course, having her typical sense of humor, welcomed us with 4 – 6 on the starboard bow, but we proceeded southwest at around 18.5 knots. The boat got a good washing down as the spray was on our bow, and we proceeded to head across the lake to Dunkirk. Our original plans were Presque Isle, but we got tired of the waves and decided it was too nice of the day to spend another 2 – 3 hours continuing even though the lake was settling down a bit, we were tired of it. As such we stopped at Dunkirk. Filled up, pumped out at Chadwick Marina ($2.99 diesel and Boat US slip discounts), and had a very nice afternoon here. Dunkirk is a very nice stop as recommended by Jim. But on a cool note: we were in the Niagara River early today, and I turned the right way to avoid the falls.

While en-route to Dunkirk, we listened to a "Phan-Phan" man overboard event between Sturgeon point and Buffalo which, in reality, was a situation where they were having an open swim event, the spotting boat for one person had to go in for fuel and then could not find the person they were spotting. Why they were having a swim in 4-6 is beyond me but…. I'll say no more. Good news is that a charter fishing boat located the swimmer, and all ended well. We were too far west to be able to assist, but of course would have had we been closer. It was interesting to listen to to the Coast Guard correspondence and the communications between all the boats that went to work to try to locate the swimmer. Melodie and I were really happy when we heard of their locating him and that he was in good condition – probably just continuing the swim without realizing he was actually the subject of a search and rescue.

So…. tomorrow the lake is supposed to be flat, and as such we are planning to get an early start and head to Vermillion. Along the way the total solar eclipse should occur, so if all goes to plan we are going to shut MnM down in Erie during the event. Looking forward to that!

All the best to everyone following us. We enjoy the feedback, and look forward to seeing you soon.


North Tonawanda, NY


So on Friday morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny and clear sky. While drinking coffee we entertained ourselves watching the machinery in front of us pulling all of those logs out of the canal. And I mean a lot of logs!! We learned from the lockmaster that these locks are the first obstacle in the canal system from Lake Erie and as such they get a lot of debris – of all kinds in the very spot we were tied up!!

Anyhow, after that we went up to “Steamworks Coffee” and had another coffee, a cinnamon roll (had to do it) then went on to the cave tour we stayed over for. It was pretty interesting as it was the original tunnel that was used to power early factories in the area, and used water power – not to generate electricity, but to drive the equipment.

After that we immediately headed back to the boat, cleared out a few more logs behind it, and backed up ~ 70 feet back into the main canal, did a 180, and continued on.

Loons are…. a bit looney? We had a Loon in front of us for about 4 miles, As we approached, it would take off, fly about 100 yards, and land right in our path. We’d approach, and it would repeat and do the same thing. Anyhow, it may have gotten tired, and finally just swam off to our port as we passed.
The rest of the trip today was pretty uneventful. A couple of things – the magenta line in Navionics is wrong around the first island on Tonawanda creek. Pass on the North side, not the South, unless you want to polish your props. On our travels we have found a lot of inaccuracies on the electronic chart – IMO most likely due to adjustments made in the aids to navigation based upon current conditions. Basic rule I’m following – trust the buoys and markers, use the charts as general guides. If you look at the track of our vessel in the Erie Canal compared to the chart you would think we were traveling over land about 1/2 mile south of the canal for a good part of the trip.

We arrived in North Tonawanda around 2:15 PM. WE HAVE TRAVERSED THE ERIE CANAL FROM OSWEGO TO HERE!! Yahoo!!
In total we have traversed 71 lock events so far, 16 lift bridges. Only one lock left – Rock Island, which we will use to enter the canal to avoid the rapids on the Niagara River, provided I turn south instead of north (which would be a bad idea, Niagara Falls and all!).
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We’re going to stay here till Sunday as Erie is forecasted to had 5 – 9 with occasional 11 today, just a little better Saturday, and is to settle to 1 – 2 on Sunday.

Maybe I’ll clean up the MnM tomorrow AM……


Holley to Lockport, NY


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Had a great cruise from Holley to Lockport today.  We passed the Dewitt-Clinton Tug with barge in tow…. twice.
We passed it the first time after we passed through Albion, NY. It was great as it was relatively tight and gave me a chance to put to use some of my “Seamanship Rules of the Road” readings. We went through the procedure of overtaking on the port side after confirming with the tug captain what would be best for him as his maneuverability was much less than mine.

After that we went along and stopped in Medina for lunch. Had a good lunch there and admired all of the Sandstone architecture, dating back to the 1860’s.


We took a walk after that across the canal to view the 70′ waterfalls on the other side. The cool thing about this is that the Erie Canal actually goes over the river where the waterfall is.

While we were sightseeing we watched the Dewitt-Clinton and the barge it was towing go through town. So…. shortly thereafter I needed to call the Dewitt-Clinton to agree on how I was to pass them, again.

  • Dewitt-Clinton, Dewitt-Clinton, Dewitt-Clinton, this is the MnM… again
    • Hello again MnM
  • Dewitt-Clinton, we would like to overtake you on your port sidE
    • Please proceed to do so on my port side. I will slow down (again) and hug the canal as it gets narrow ahead (again).
  • Roger, Dewitt-Clinton, and thanks… again.
    • Glad you are enjoying our canal system
  • We are, MnM out, standing by on 13
    • Dewitt-Clinton, standing by 13

So… twice in one day. As we passed, the crew and captain waved at us, all with a bit of a smile. Darn Tourists….

After that we proceeded through a series of lift bridges and made good progress. The New York Canal system people knew we were coming, and as we approached each bridge, they lifted it up in just enough time, where we would pass under the bridge when the light turned green to do so. They obviously have their timing down!

So we continued on to our final destination – Lockport, NY. As we approached, we were looking for a place to tie up for the night as Melodie had heard about a cave tour related to the canal system from our friends in Holley. The guidebooks were a bit misleading as we did not find the walls and tie ups referenced.

We rounded a corner…. “MnM – This is the Lockport lock master for flight 34 and 35. We have the gates opened for you. Please secure your vessel midway in the first lock.” Creepy…. they knew our every move, and we were used to calling the lock master first (probably heard about us from the Dewitt-Clinton crew) 🙂

We entered the first lock of a flight of two, ~24.5 feet each for a total of 49 feet. We made sure we got it right as this area also has the original flight of five locks from the 1800’s and is a tourist area. Suddenly we had dozens of people watch US as we proceeded to “do the lock” thing. So, all went well and as we completed the first lift, the gates opened and there was a tour boat directly ahead of us in the other lift on the same side we were. So we moved from port to starboard and did the second flight on starboard. Lots of people on the tour boat taking pictures of us maneuvering, not a good time to mess up!

After that we asked the lockmaster about tying up for the night. He was very helpful and said, come out of the lock, make a U-Turn and tie on the other side of the lock. We did so – a spot for one boat, just ahead of the flight of five. Cool! We walked up into town and had a really good Pesto Chicken pizza at “Lock 34/35 Grille”.

Right after that the skies got cloudy, and we had a good downpour. Not a bad thing as the boat really needed a cleaning (still does).

It was a “pretty good” night there, until around 1:30 in the morning when we heard a bunch of kids alongside our boat (4 or 5). Whether they tried to board or just pushed on the rail I don’t know, but the noise and movement woke me up and I came out of the back of their boat, much to their surprise. I think I kind of shook them up as they immediately apologized and skedaddled.

At that point I also took a look behind the boat to find the canal loaded with LARGE tree branches and other “stuff”. I took to working that past the boat to pick up the current and to get it away from us, then went back down. At that time we also realized that the bar on the south side had a live band, and so that, along with what just happened kept us up for a while, until the band stopped playing, and we went back to sleep – I’m guessing around 3:30 AM

In any event, no damage was done, and we just wrote it off as a tying up in a bigger city, and a commercial lock space.