I was very much prepared to write a sweet little blog today about how easy our trip has been so far. Thursday’s blood pressure raising moments changed that. It was probably our toughest day so far.
But let me start at the beginning. Our three boat pod (Wild Horses, Sensai, Brise) stayed last night at a cute little marina in Ilion, NY. Our plan for this morning was for each boat to leave in succession at 0800, with Wild Horses leaving slightly later as we wanted to take advantage of the free pump out 😊.
Wild Horses was off the dock by 0830 and all started well except our alternator belt gave a bit of a squeal until it warmed up. Hmmmm, odd but we put it down to the cool 10 degree morning.
By 0845, Brise, one of our pod boats, was turned around and passing us as they returned to dock. Huh? As it turned out they had a blown engine impeller that needed replacing. No worries, Wild Horses continued on but with updates from Brise as they fixed their impeller.
Separated from our pod mates, we proceeded along the Erie Canal, and finally arrived at our first lock of the day (13th overall) at Lock 18. All went smoothly. Our crew of three have found a great system for managing the boat in the locks. We are now avoiding getting lock slime all over ourselves and the boat, while also keeping Wild Horses safely off the rough lock walls. Ocean’s job? Well, she sits on the bow and has great discussions with the lockmasters. She sure gets a lot of attention!
Next came Lock 17, this is the highest lift lock in the Erie Canal and is only one of two locks in North America where the entrance gate is lifted above the boater (the other one? Well, in our beloved Ottawa, Canada of course!). Even though Lock 17 was impressive, it was actually the lead up to the lock that got our hearts pumping. We had called the lockmaster upon arriving and were told that it would be a 30 minute wait. Uh-oh. The currents and wind were strong and keeping the boat steady wasn’t easy. We narrowly avoided drifting into a rock and finally ended up securing to a cement wall outside the lock. Whew! Compared to that, actually transiting the lock was easy!
After Lock 17, we started towards Lock 16 when the alternator belt began squealing once again. Ugh, the belt obviously needed tightening but we would have to wait until we could get to a dock to fix it. In the narrow Erie Canal, anchoring to fix such a problem is not an option. But the belt was definitely slipping quite a bit and really slowing down the engine. We needed a dock before we had a complete engine failure. The next possible place was 6 nautical miles away (about an hour) so we kept chugging along, holding our breath.
Now, in the Erie Canal, we are getting used to seeing very odd vessels, equipment, and dock-type setups so it didn’t cause us too much concern when we started to go alongside a vessel type apparatus that seemed to be dredging the canal way (i.e. getting rid of built of silt and mud). We went alongside the vessel with the intention to pass until, at the very last minute, one of the crew gave us a panicked “STOP” signal. Yikes! Their operation had strung a thick cable right across the canal way and Wild Horses was seconds from running over it. Thankfully, Mike quickly hit the boat in reverse and we….stopped…on a dime. Wow. A few minutes later the dredging crew had removed their cable and Wild Horses was, again, on the move.
We finally made it to Lock 16 and secured ourselves to a wall so Mike could fix the alternator belt. Brise caught up with us and docked on the same wall. Their impeller was fixed but they also had an exhausting day avoiding hazards and dealing with boat problems. We are spending the night here, just before the lock. Engines will be fired up at 0730 tomorrow morning as we hope to make Amsterdam, NY before the locks close at 5pm.
What to know exactly where we are? You can find where we have been and where we are going right here. Click the "view all tracks" in the top right hand corner of the map to see our whole route so far.
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.