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Erie Canal to buffalo? Anyone done it?

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by Capt J, May 16, 2018.

  1. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    im taking a 68’ yacht to Chicago right now, and have done the Oswego canal several times, but have never gone to buffalo on the Erie Canal. This yacht I can get down to 15’ very easily. How is the canal west of 3 rivers?
  2. Wl3175

    Wl3175 Member

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    15 ft height is no problems I went through in August with 17 ft height and I was fine
  3. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    I would not think twice about taking the Erie Canal to Buffalo.
    The Welland Canal is now fully automated there are no linesmen on the locks when a commercial vessel go through it.
    When a pleasure craft comes to the canal now they have to get linesmen to get you through canal. There is a 45' sailboat arrived at 7 am this morning at Port Weller and as of 20:00 hrs tonight he is still waiting.
    I now tell anyone that calls me if you can get air draft down 15' 5" go that way.

    To Welland or not to Welland

    If you are already on the Great Lakes (and planning to remain on the lakes), then the use of the Welland Canal when transiting between Lakes Erie and Ontario is probably your best (although not your only) choice of routes.

    The problem of making a route decision comes into play for those entering or departing the Great Lakes via the Erie Canal.



    Should you enter or exit the Erie Canal at Buffalo, NY on Lake Erie and avoid the Welland Canal altogether or via the Oswego Canal at Oswego, NY on Lake Ontario and make use of the Welland? For those bound to or from Lake Ontario, the question is moot.

    In an effort to outline the differences, let’s set up a scenario of a voyage from NYC to Buffalo. Regardless of which route you choose, your decision will have to be made on or before your arrival at Three Rivers Junction on the Erie Canal.

    Factors to Consider:
    1. Cost
    2. Crew
    3. Cruising Speed
    4. Weather
    5. Distance
    6. Operating Day
    7. Mast Head Height

    Mast Head Height
    This is the first thing that you should take into consideration and is the major "GO / NO GO" factor in the decision making process.

    If you cannot get your Mast Head Height down to 15.5 feet (4.72 m) or less, the decision is made for you. You will not be able to meet the vertical clearance limitations of the Western portions of the Erie Canal and will have to divert at Three Rivers Junction and make use of the Welland Canal via Lake Ontario.


    Operating Day
    The operating day is restricted to a maximum of 15 hours on the Erie Canal, while you have the option to run 24 hour days when using the Welland via Lake Ontario.

    Distance
    From Three River Junction on the Erie Canal to Buffalo regardless of the route you choose the distances are within approximately 17 NM of each other. Using the Erie Canal the distance is ≈166 NM versus ≈183 NM if you choose the Welland Canal. For those bound for ports other than Buffalo such as the western end of Lake Erie or the upper Great Lakes, this minor difference in distances disappears.

    Since any distance must be factored together with your cruising speed to have any relevance, we will look at that next.

    Boat Speed
    The western end of the Erie Canal is pretty much restricted to a 10 mph speed limit (8.7 knots). The Welland Canal's speed limit varies between 6 and 8 knots. The difference being, by using Lake Ontario and the Welland you have ≈137 NM (254 km) of unrestricted speed available to you compared to ≈7.4 NM (13.7 km) when using the Erie Canal.

    Let’s look at two different possibilities of U/W time; a power boat that cruises at 20 knots and a sailboat that cruises at 7 knots:

    Via the Welland Canal
    Route Leg
    Distance Speed/Time Restrictions Sailboat @ 7 kts. Power Boat @ 20 kts.
    3 Rivers Junction - Oswego, NY
    20.6 NM Yes 6.44 Hrs. 4.53 Hrs.
    Oswego - Welland Canal 121.1 NM No 17.3 Hrs. 6.0 Hrs.
    Welland Canal 23.4 NM Yes 11.0 Hrs. 11.0 Hrs.
    Welland Canal - Buffalo 17.5 NM No 2.5 Hrs. 0.87 Hrs.
    Totals: 182.6 NM ***** 37.24 Hrs. 22.4 Hrs.
    Via the Erie Canal
    3 Rivers Junction - Tonawanda
    155.0 NM Yes 28.14 Hrs. 21.5 Hrs.
    Tonawanda - Black Rock Canal 7.4 NM No 1.01 Hrs. 0.4 Hrs.
    Black Rock Canal - Buffalo 4.0 NM Yes 1.1 Hrs. 0.9 Hrs.
    Totals: 166.1 NM ***** 30.24 Hrs. 22.8 Hrs.
    Last edited: May 16, 2018
  4. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    If your goal is Buffalo then it really comes down to air draft. Now, for a recreational boat, this does ignore one factor and that is Lake Ontario is an incredible body of water and staying on the Erie you miss it. I see so many loopers miss Lake Ontario and Lake Superior.

    We do want to one day do the Western Erie, but we still will do Lake Ontario when we loop.
  5. Caltexflanc

    Caltexflanc Member

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    You made it through to Buffalo on the Erie with 17' ? Really?
    If I were the OP, I'd check with the canal system.
  6. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    At normal water levels 15.62' is the maximum clearance and there are 80 bridges that can't be cleared with 17'. You can't clear the western Erie at 17' unless there's a severe drought through the entire area. As July and August combined had above average rainfall in 2017, I think he's badly mistaken. Now, the Eastern Erie and Oswego, you're ok.
  7. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    I agree
  8. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    I have checked with the canal system, and shortest bridge is 15’6 right now. I’m at 15’3 just by taking the masthead down. I might take the scanner off of the radar for another 3” to be on the safe side.

    What I was mainly concerned about were stops, if it was worth going that way to save time, or if it was a lot more hassle. Any things to look out for, etc. local knowledge per say. Given the height restriction and the fact I’m in a 70’ yacht.
  9. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    Not sure if you have started the Erie yet but there is a lot of crap in the water I have had four clients hit logs and had to change props and they say there are a lot more, delays are bad in the Welland up to 24 hours going back down at 6 am this morning to try and get through will let you no how I make out there will be 6 boats.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2018
  10. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    Yes, we’re at mm 211. We hit 2 logs, but don’t have to change props. We’re going west to buffalo but it is slow going on this route versus going up to Oswego.
  11. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    just to let you no I took up a 45' Viking S/F yesterday who could have went that way which he has done twice but he said he would rather go the Welland Canal. He only had to wait 12 hours to transit the canal.
  12. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    Now you tell him.
  13. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    We’re 70’ and I’m realizing it’s a lot of concentration and there are NO marinas that can accommodate us, and towns are few and far between.
  14. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    Just curios what make of boat it is.
  15. Just Cruisin

    Just Cruisin New Member

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    Roger, how did you make out in the Welland with the 6 boats? How long did you wait and how long did it take to transit the system? Will be in contact with you in a few weeks as I am bringing Brava up from B'more.
  16. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    A 68’ searay. A 50’ azimut was going north and we pretty much were on all of the same stops. They’re took the Oswego route and are now waiting for the welland and hoping to go through with roger tomorrow. We’re in Spencerport and one day or just a tough more from the Erie Canal as well and saved a ton in fuel. So far we’ve only burned 200 gallons of fuel since brewerton, ny. It’s scenic on the western Erie, but no charts at all, no marinas that can fit us, but every town has free Seawall’s with electric, but it’s tedious and takes more attention than open water. Plus all of the locks.
  17. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    The 50' Azimut would had been up canal today and would had cleared canal around 23:00 Monday night, but had to lay over in Wilson NY as I had eight yachts to take up canal today which was not a nice trip as we had to raft 3 - 3 - 2 . We started at 13:00 hrs cleared canal around 23:30
    The Azimut will be at canal Tuesday morning around 7 am we will see what happens tomorrow
  18. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    Spoke to them and they’re hoping to get through tomorrow as lock 7 is broken. We made Lockport and stopped early at 3:30pm as we’re exhausted but could’ve pushed to tonawanda today if we wanted and would’ve been at Lake Erie for tomorrow. We’re going to take a short day to buffalo tomorrow, put the masthead backup, change primary and secondary fuel filters on everything, laundry, and then make Cleveland the following day, then port Huron the next, etc. etc. we’ve been pushing hard for 2 weeks straight so far.
  19. MBevins

    MBevins Member

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    J...Am I to understand that your planning Cleveland to Port Huron in one day? That's really pushing.
  20. jsschieff

    jsschieff Member

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    Isn't Buffalo to Cleveland in one day pushing it? I did a reverse trip five or six years ago from lake St. Clair north of Detroit, across lake Erie, the Erie Canal and the Hudson River to NYC, finally ending in Jamestown, RI. I recall we took 3 or 4 days from Grosse Point to Buffalo, and our boat could cruise at 17 knots easily.

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