Israel Hands

Ever move a sailboat from Great Lakes to East Coast by water?

Recommended Posts

I've now expanded my search for a particular 40' sailboat to the Great Lakes region. Has anyone here ever sailed the Great Lakes then motored the Erie Canal, or better yet, gone up the St. Lawrence Seaway and down through Lake Champlain to the Hudson River?  I am wondering about cost and practicality, for example, of removing and shipping a mast from one end of the canal system to the other and re-stepping. 

It may be more practical to haul a boat from the Great Lakes to NC, but seems like a good adventure for the wife and me to move it ourselves. She's originally from Montreal, and over the years we've seen a bit of the St. Lawrence from 1000 Islands to Quebec City (but not navigating it ourselves).  My work would probably require us to do this in at least 2 parts early next summer. First trip to move the boat to lower Hudson, second trip to move it down the east coast. 

Experienced advice appreciated-

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've taken a boat from Newport RI to Chicago and back in one summer up the St. Lawrence - definitely doable, especially if you're going just downhill from Chicago - going up the Welland Canal sucked (dangerously turbulent, even for us on a 72' 100K lbs boat and the 100' schooner locking with us, and lock tenders looking over the sides down at us and just laughing), and going up the St. Lawrence between head of tide and first locks is slow without a lot of horsepower.  Once you get out cruising down through Cape Breton / Newfoundland / Maine is spectacular.  Haven't done the Erie Canal side of things, but would definitely do the St. Lawrence again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We've gone up and down the Welland, up bound is tougher. We've gone out the St Lawrence through Nova Scotia, beautiful but long.  Sailing down the coast is generally hard upwind work in a southwest breeze. We timed our jumps for 80 miles if going upwind, downwind when possible we would try for 150-200 miles.  We may go north next year after the winter in the Caribbean.  It would be nice to take the time to explore some of the beautiful areas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Erie Canal is actually a pretty nice trip. You can take the mast down at several places for not much money, build some sawhorses to carry it on deck, and the re-step it at the other end. It's a bit of a pain maneuvering into locks, and having it in the way on deck, but lots of people have done it. You will get a great chance to thoroughly inspect your rig.

The St Lawrence would be a lovely trip (except for the Welland Canal... you could do the Trent-Severn Waterway instead) but it's very long.

FB- Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Put it on a truck if you can. Seaway is ok but takes forever. Barge canal required that the spar comes down. A truck gets you there at 55 mph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would have no concerns about going by water. Going down the Welland Canal is quite easy or you enter the Erie Canal at Buffalo. Going out the St Lawrence is terrific but it is a very long way and can be coolish even in mid-summer. I have done the Oswego-Erie Canals with the mast on deck many times and it is not really a problem. We put the mast high enough that you can stand under it easily and depending on the height even have the Bimini for sun and rain protection. One lock you must take on the starboard side down bound so you can set everything up accordingly with a clear deck on that side. I think it would be much cheaper to keep the boat for a time in the upper Hudson rather than near NYC which is very pricey. With the tide it is a quick trip down the river.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some friends took a Hunter 34 from Stamdord to Chicago via the Erie Canal and some  Canadian canals. There are at least two, maybe three, feasible routes, so get some advice. The mast came down as they left the Hudson and was restepped at the north end of Lake Michigan.  Some places, even on the Erie Canal, are marginal with respect to draft, and there were even a couple places that were tight with respect to beam when meeting oncoming traffic. It all depends on the status of maintenance which, in turn,  depends on uneven funding. You will want last minute intelligence. 

I think it took about two weeks. Four people aboard.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, Israel Hands said:

I am wondering about cost and practicality, for example, of removing and shipping a mast from one end of the canal system to the other and re-stepping. 

There is a yard at the north end of the Erie that specializes in lowering masts for southbound sailboats. Some 2x4's make up an X shaped cradle at bow and stern and away you go. When you get to the Hudson, there is a yard there too.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you aware that as a US citizen, you are not allowed in Canada?    You can possibly hire Canadians to take your boat thru and deliver to US, but you can not.  Have a friend who did this.

Lots of people here in NY can not get to their summer homes or boats in Canada since March.  No end in sight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can to the Hudson River from Lake Ontario in two ways:

1. Oswego Canal (SE corner of lake) to Erie Canal to Hudson

2. Down the St Lawrence Seaway and then into the two canals either side of Lake Champlain. You still need to drop the mast for this route. One year when we were going to Bermuda the Erie Canal was closed because of flooding and debris. We went through Champlain. From Whitby (east of Toronto) to Albany was exactly twice as far as #1.

If you are in Lake Erie or above you can either take the Welland Canal to Lake Ontario and then above, or go from Buffalo in the Erie Canal. Someone mentioned canals in Ontario. The Trent-Severn goes from Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario but 5' draft restriction. It is also mast down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back in the mid 1970's I left Chicago on a 60' sloop with the rig on sawhorses in October. Down the Chicago River to the Illinois to the Mississippi and all the way to New Orleans before stepping the rig again. The following spring we returned via the Hudson River / Erie Canal. The Mississippi was interesting but long and hard. we could not motor back upriver against the current. A year later, I took another boat out via the Erie in late October and it was quite beautiful with Indian Summer. I strongly recommend it. 

Wardell's Boatyard in Tonawanda was where we stepped and un-stepped the spars at the west end of the Erie. He had a tow truck he backed up to the guardrail of the bridge next to the yard. He would lower the hook over the side and then hang cinderblocks on the bottom of the rig to get the balance right since he couldn't lift high enough. Scary as hell as the boat captain, but we never had an issue.   

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Bristol-Cruiser said:

You can to the Hudson River from Lake Ontario in two ways:

1. Oswego Canal (SE corner of lake) to Erie Canal to Hudson

2. Down the St Lawrence Seaway and then into the two canals either side of Lake Champlain. You still need to drop the mast for this route. One year when we were going to Bermuda the Erie Canal was closed because of flooding and debris. We went through Champlain. From Whitby (east of Toronto) to Albany was exactly twice as far as #1.

If you are in Lake Erie or above you can either take the Welland Canal to Lake Ontario and then above, or go from Buffalo in the Erie Canal. Someone mentioned canals in Ontario. The Trent-Severn goes from Georgian Bay to Lake Ontario but 5' draft restriction. It is also mast down.

Thanks for answering the distance question in my mind - route 2 versus route 1.  While 2 is longer, we were thinking that the St. Lawrence Seaway through Champlain next summer might be a fun way to visit wife's family in Ontario & Quebec (with some of them coming along for part of the transit).  The tradeoff is the extra distance and requirement to take the Welland locks.

It's all a pipe dream at this point, but it widens our search for a retirement boat, and a lot of the listed Great Lakes boats from the 80s appear to be in good condition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would carefully check the available depth in the canals as part of your planning. IIRC the Chambly Canal, is limited to 6.5 feet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Israel Hands said:

Thanks for answering the distance question in my mind - route 2 versus route 1.  While 2 is longer, we were thinking that the St. Lawrence Seaway through Champlain next summer might be a fun way to visit wife's family in Ontario & Quebec (with some of them coming along for part of the transit).  The tradeoff is the extra distance and requirement to take the Welland locks.

It's all a pipe dream at this point, but it widens our search for a retirement boat, and a lot of the listed Great Lakes boats from the 80s appear to be in good condition.

The Welland downhill is quite easy. Also if you go to Montreal there are eight more locks but again downhill.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Israel Hands said:

...   ...

It's all a pipe dream at this point, but it widens our search for a retirement boat, and a lot of the listed Great Lakes boats from the 80s appear to be in good condition.

I would a hell of a lot sooner buy a boat on the Great Lakes than one in Florida, price & equipage being equal.

FB- Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Steam Flyer said:

I would a hell of a lot sooner buy a boat on the Great Lakes than one in Florida, price & equipage being equal.

FB- Doug

And I'm finding that even here in the Mid-Atlantic a large number of the offshore boats listed locally turn out to have long histories in Florida or the Caribbean.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Great Lakes boat can be it pretty good condition because of the fresh water and short season.

I've been up and down the Welland, going down is really no problem, only takes 2 people. Much easier than going up. If you have the time, do the St. Lawrence. A lot of the Seaway is like any ditch run, but once to the Gulf, there is a lot to see along the way: Gaspe, PEI, Cape Breton, the Bras d'Or, Newfoundland is only a day sail away, Nova Scotia, Maine. If you are in a hurry, put it on a truck. The Erie kinda skips all the good parts. And if you have even more time, do the North Channel while you are in the Lakes. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chicago to Providence via St.Lawrence is a nice voyage. took us  6 leisurely weeks doing it some time ago.  Note, you'll be motoring 1/2 the time. And also note, even at the height of August summer heat - you'll be wearing heavy fleece and wool caps. 

 

The Gulf and Mouth of St. Lawrence are extraordinary. Makes the trip worth it. 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, 6924 said:

Chicago to Providence via St.Lawrence is a nice voyage. took us  6 leisurely weeks doing it some time ago.  Note, you'll be motoring 1/2 the time. And also note, even at the height of August summer heat - you'll be wearing heavy fleece and wool caps. 

 

The Gulf and Mouth of St. Lawrence are extraordinary. Makes the trip worth it. 

 

 

If you go that way you really need to find at least a few weeks for Newfoundland's south coast. We have circumnavigated and no cruising area we visited was as interesting as Nfld. Not warm but otherwise perfect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We took Salazar from Toronto down the St. Lawrence to Cape Breton Island (Bras d'Or Lakes) in 2010.  We took two weeks so we could do some sightseeing along the way.  Great trip. We motored probably 1/2 the time as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We do the Seaway from the west end of the city to lake Ontario eand back every year.  Thats  4 of the big locks, 5 if you count Iroquois, with its very impressive 12" lift. True, locking through downbound is easier than up l and we have had the odd rough ride going up but in general its not that bad.  My wife and I usually do the trip alone on our IP31.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The locks on the St Lawrence typically have floating bollards to tie to which would make going up less stressful. Nothing like that on the Welland, just 60 ft of rough, dirty concrete wall and lines dangling straight down. But hundreds of yachts do it every year. The experienced ones hang a fender board outside of their fenders, it slides better on the rocks and takes the abrasion and abuse. Then toss it at the top - don't need it going down. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Only two of the locks going from the Great Lakes out have floating bollards.  The Schnell and the Eisenhower.  Very nice system!  Can't say much about the US online payment system though.  Pay online but you still need to print a receipt on your own computer to give to them when you enter the lock.  I thought the idea of online was to get rid of paper?  The Canadians just check is off the list upon entry but alas no floating bollards for the folks up north.

I think there are 18? locks but by the time me and the missus got to Canso we were pretty tired of them.  The romance was gone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, DDW said:

The locks on the St Lawrence typically have floating bollards to tie to which would make going up less stressful. Nothing like that on the Welland, just 60 ft of rough, dirty concrete wall and lines dangling straight down. But hundreds of yachts do it every year. The experienced ones hang a fender board outside of their fenders, it slides better on the rocks and takes the abrasion and abuse. Then toss it at the top - don't need it going down. 

The really experienced folk carry fender boards all the time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
38 minutes ago, Bryanjb said:

The lock in Quebec was cool, staying downtown in the old city of Quebec should not be missed.

https://www.portquebec.ca/activites-et-loisirs/marina-du-port-de-quebec/informations-generales

I'll agree 100% with that, I stayed there a week and I never stay ANYWHERE a week. And the boat wasn't even broken. 

Carrying a fender board isn't a bad idea on the Right Coast as floating docks have yet to be invented there many places. At least they have invented cleats, unlike Canada. I spent two days in Ramea blowing against a rough dock in 35-40, 20' or more tide, have to get up every 2 hours and tend the lines. A fender board would have saved wear and tear on the inflatable fenders, which remarkably survived. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Blue Crab said:
9 hours ago, DDW said:

The locks on the St Lawrence typically have floating bollards to tie to which would make going up less stressful. Nothing like that on the Welland, just 60 ft of rough, dirty concrete wall and lines dangling straight down. But hundreds of yachts do it every year. The experienced ones hang a fender board outside of their fenders, it slides better on the rocks and takes the abrasion and abuse. Then toss it at the top - don't need it going down. 

The really experienced folk carry fender boards all the time.

Lock walls will quickly chew them to the point where you don't want to stow them on board, don't want them laying on deck, and I would be embarrassed to be seen with them in a marina.

Well, a little. I actually don't have much of a sense of shame, but a display of slovenlyness about the boat is distasteful for me

- DSK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Canadian locks , have nothing to help a pleasure boat.  The lock staff will drop a line for the bow and stern and you are expected to tend them as you go up the lock. The US locks, near Massena / Cornwall do have floating bollardsrecessed onto the walls.  As for fence boards, we haven't used them ever and I don't know anyone who does.  Neither we nor our friends have ever punctuted a fender, although they do get a workout

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Steam Flyer said:

Lock walls will quickly chew them to the point where you don't want to stow them on board, don't want them laying on deck, and I would be embarrassed to be seen with them in a marina.

Well, a little. I actually don't have much of a sense of shame, but a display of slovenlyness about the boat is distasteful for me

- DSK

A well-chewed fenderboard is just evidence that you have actually gone somewhere and done something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Bristol-Cruiser said:

A well-chewed fenderboard is just evidence that you have actually gone somewhere and done something. 

They also get oily and slimy.

FB- Doug

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, Bristol-Cruiser said:

A well-chewed fenderboard is just evidence that you have actually gone somewhere and done something.

Yep, and a 2x6 is a buck forty a board foot. Fender boards are consumables. 

 

10 hours ago, py26129 said:

The Canadian locks , have nothing to help a pleasure boat.  The lock staff will drop a line for the bow and stern and you are expected to tend them as you go up the lock. The US locks, near Massena / Cornwall do have floating bollardsrecessed onto the walls.  As for fence boards, we haven't used them ever and I don't know anyone who does.  Neither we nor our friends have ever punctuted a fender, although they do get a workout

No naked pilings up yer way I guess. Must be nice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now