This is a placeholder page for all the links I’m collecting, as I’m still researching cruising the Erie Canal. This includes my currently reading Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation (on the history of the Canal with a lot of interesting parallel histories of canals in general), watching some really bad (and often repetitious) YouTube videos, and lots of searches.
The State of New York has a lot of information on their canal system. (They are also happy to sell you a massive canal cruising handbook which just arrived today with a bunch of maps and pamphlets. It was worth the $20.)
I subscribed to their email list which includes their Notices to Mariners, so I am officially a Mariner now, I suppose.
Here are the most easily found companies that will rent houseboats for cruising the Erie Canal:
The boats all seem similar – they’re English canal boats (which is lucky, since I only speak English.)
I asked houseboating.org for a Captain’s manual, but I don’t think they understood the request. I really would like a guide to cruising from a Captain’s perspective – a driver’s manual. They sent some proposed itineraries, which were useful for generating Google Maps, but they don’t explain how the boat works. I’m still looking for that information.
It seems surprising to me that companies will give you a rather large boat after a couple hours of training and assume they will see you back home and dry in a week. I guess it shouldn’t, since I was once given the controls of a three-quarters of a million dollar Caterpillar tractor and told “Have fun. Dig a hole.”
The two hours of training does seem to be consistent – it’s virtually the same for the Le Boat rentals in Europe.
Le Boat is how this whole journey started, since I would really like to sail the Shannon River some day. The Shannon rises near my ancestral home (if one can refer to a very small farmhouse that my Grandfather fled as an “ancestral home”), so we could see family and then cruise. The Erie Canal requires less flying time and no passports. Plus, I’m pretty sure our cell phones would work the whole time. It would be a good dry run, if anything on the water could be considered a dry run.
I’m in the planning (very early planning) stages of an Erie Canal cruise. This will take more planning than usual, mainly because there is no Captain or staff. We’re the Captain and staff. This is renting a bare-bones boat and sailing up and down the Erie Canal – through locks, under raised bridges and the whole schmeer.
I think this would be great fun, and my wife actually agreed. Many of the YouTube videos show couples older than us, so if they can do it, we can do it.
Here’s one possible route, with ports (you may have to expand the map to be able to actually read it.) The ports are lettered in order – you depart and return from Macedon. It’s a one-week cruise. Except for North Tonawanda (the termination of today’s Erie Canal), all of the ports are overnights. (I think you have to see the end of the canal, so you sail to North Tonawanda and then head back.)
We’re probably talking 20 miles per day (or so), at about five knots. You need to add time for traversing the locks.
There’s a minimal kitchen onboard, but the itinerary I mapped (which is a suggestion from houseboating.org) has you overnighting in towns, so you could always just have dinner in town and grab coffee and something on the way out. I don’t think you’re ever far from a town, so you could stop for lunch if you didn’t want to bring food along.
This is a cruise where your cell phones would always work, everyone would speak English, and if the boat stopped, you could probably just walk to the nearest town. (The original Erie Canal was four feet deep, so you could just wade to shore, but it’s deeper now.) It should be simple. (I always fear anything that should be simple.)
I’m starting to collect all the information I can – but I don’t think my request was understood. I now have the brochure on the rental boat and I have the planned itineraries, but I really wanted a Captain’s guide (like LeBoat in Europe has.) I would like some specifics on how you actually drive – it’s a diesel-powered boat, so that should be simple enough. It has bow thrusters for getting in and out of ports. The electrical systems are battery-powered, but it’s not clear how you charge the batteries – unless they charge while you’re connected to hotel power in port.
Much more research to follow. I will document as I go, so I don’t forget anything.
I always wanted to do a LeBoat tour in Europe – mainly on the Shannon in Ireland or through Loch Ness in Scotland. This is a lot closer to home for practicing.
The interesting thing to me is that all the rental companies are pretty much similar in their restrictions: you don’t need a license, we’ll show you how to drive the boat, you have fun, be back on time. (They require insurance and deposits, so they don’t expect it to always go smoothly.)
The tricky part to most of the routes would be the locks, I think. You’re always promised that the lock-keepers are friendly and happy to help, but they must get tired of the same questions all the time. Also, on parts of the Erie Canal, you have to remember to contact the bridge master to have the bridge raised.