Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Great Lakes!

We are underway across a glass-calm Lake Ontario, bound for Henderson Bay. We locked down through our last lock, number 8 on the Oswego, early this morning after spending a pleasant night on the free bulkhead between locks 7 and 8 in the city of Oswego (map).

Headed out of Oswego Harbor, the West Pierhead Lighthouse off our port bow.

Shortly after my last post I went for a spin around the very small town of Brewerton. Even with stops at two of the nearby marinas to check on fuel and pumpout prices, I was back in twenty minutes. In the evening we walked a few blocks to a Mexican joint called Mariachis. We had low expectations -- we're a long way from Mexico -- but found it surprisingly good.

Neither of the marinas I looked at had the best fuel price, and so Monday morning we called nearby Winter Harbor marina, in Central Square across the canal and a bit west. They had three boats on their fuel dock already, with the best price on this leg of the loop at $2.89, and suggested we hold off for an hour. We dropped lines a bit before 10 and headed the short distance to their fuel dock.

As luck would have it, two power cats arrived just ahead of us, but they managed to squeeze all three of us onto the dock. The diesel hose just barely made it to our fill. We topped up the water tank, pumped out our waste for an additional $8 in cash (plus tip, of course), and put in another 250 gallons of diesel, about all we could take and still maintain trim. Normally we would never stop to put in such a small amount, but this is the best price we will see until somewhere on the Tennessee River, and we want the tanks as full as possible going under the bridges west of Chicago.

Henley Park in Phoenix, NY from our flybridge.

From where we were on the dock, we could do all three things simultaneously, and we were done and out by 10:45, with another looper already hovering off the fuel dock waiting to come in. In just another half hour we were locking down through our final lock on the Erie Canal, E-23. They asked for our documentation number here, just as they had done on our first couple of locks in Waterford.

Not long after lock E-23 we came to Three Rivers Junction, where we turned off the Oneida River onto the Oswego River. The Erie Canal continues along the Seneca River, and the bridges along this western section of the Erie are too low for Vector, even with her mast lowered.

Vector squeezed in between boats at Henley Park, Phoenix.

A short distance north on the Oswego is the small town of Phoenix, which has a lovely park with a free dock. We opted to stop here, saving the entire flight of locks for later, rather than press on to the larger city of Fulton, where the docking situation was unclear. We arrived to find exactly enough room for Vector, in between the stern of a steel sailboat and the bow of the town police boat (map). I had only a few feet at either end, but fortune was with us and there was no wind or current as we were docking. The sailboat skipper did come out to offer a hand, which we declined, and watch us slide in behind him.

We ended up having our evening cocktails with them; Jim and Bev from Stealaway. He's a towboat skipper for SeaTow and had many funny stories. Before cocktails I had explored the town on foot; this place is not even big enough to warrant the bicycle. The park area is very nicely kept by a local youth group that calls themselves the Bridge House Brats; their HQ is in the old control tower for a long-gone drawbridge. The new drawbridge is downstream of the lock and operated by the lockmaster.

For such a small place Phoenix has gone all out with its parks.

There are perhaps three restaurants in Phoenix, but only one has a bar (not counting the local Lock 1 Distillery, which also serves snacks). And so it was that we ended up having burgers at Duskees sports bar just a couple of blocks from the dock. After dinner we walked around the lock to the little island park and then called it an early evening. We discovered that Henley Park has water and a free self-service pumpout, too, so I could have saved myself $13; live and learn.

Yesterday morning we dropped lines early for a long day of locking, doing six of the seven locks on the Oswego in a single day. Lock 2 was an interesting experience, as there is a swing bridge across the chamber right in the middle of the lock. Presumably they open the swing bridge for large vessels, but for us we had to just stop short of the bridge, and then pass under it after the chamber was emptied.

We had this lovely sunset in Phoenix; that's the old bridge tower to the right.

Going through Fulton we found plenty of canal wall to which we might have tied if we wanted to; our guide only shows a marina basin with slips too small for us. Those docks were not even in place yet for the season. I'm sorry we did not get the chance to stop, but today was our best window for the lake crossing, and we needed to get all the way to Oswego last night.

We would have locked all the way down to lake level and tied to canal bollards just before the harbor, but control of that bulkhead has been handed over to the Best Western hotel on the waterfront. They want $1/foot to tie up overnight, even though there is no power, water, or any other service. We stopped shy of Lock 8 and tied the canal wall there instead for free, at the nice city park.

Helpful signs keep you from hitting this swing bridge. Still below eye level as we descend in the lock.

When we arrived there was already one other boat at the wall, At Ease, and we were happy to meet Ben and Chantale. By the end of the evening there were at least four boats along with us, at least one of which had locked all the way through, then came back up. Either they were expecting free wall, or else they hoped for a berth in the marina, which filled up.

I put the e-bike on the ground and set out in search of M8x20 stainless bolts. Somewhere in the last few hours of operation, the bottom of the generator air cleaner, held up by two of these, came off, with the bolts nowhere to be found. Louise noticed the generator rattling more, and I noticed the ER smelling like crankcase vent.

The graceful spillway at Dam O-5.

I struck out at DoitBest, Oswego Industrial, and Tractor Supply, and ended up riding a couple of miles out of town to Lowes. That was just a little farther than my other scheduled stop, at Walmart to get Louise some extra quilt batting and also pick up a few provisions. I ran into Ben and Chantale again at Walmart. After I got back, Louise walked over to the salon for a haircut and I did a bit more exploring. I met her back at the salon and we walked across the river to the cute little downtown for a nice dinner at Red Sun Fire Roasting.

This morning we locked through our final lock on the New York State Canal System, O-8, and then just barely squeaked under the bridge. Lake Ontario is up five feet or so (down from a record high just a week ago), and we were a bit concerned about this final low-clearance obstacle. We cleared it by less than a foot.

Vector tied up at Oswego with several others. The canal is actually higher than the river here.

I was prepared to tie up just downstream of the bridge for an hour to raise the mast and antennas, but the lake was so flat calm today we decided to just head out and do it under way. Our mast and antennas are now back in position and I am happy to have my radar back online and two usable radios in the pilothouse.

The views from the lake have been serene and beautiful, and we are very happy to be headed toward the Thousand Islands region. This afternoon we should be anchored off Sackets Harbor, New York.


  1. We love Oswego. If you rode all the way out to the Lowes you where only steps away from the world famous Oswego Speedway up on the hill. We travel there many times as its one of the last places to run Supermodified races. And you would have ridden right by Garafolo's a great little Italian market that we love the meat cuts from. Looking forward to your adventures in the 1,000 islands. Very touristy area but also very picturesque.

  2. Have had great food and good times at the Barracks Inn at Sacket, Niles

  3. Really enjoying reading about the Erie Canal towns since we transited the whole canal several years ago. Looking forward to reading about more of your experiences and adventures.


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