From the Erie Canal, to Lake Erie, to the City of Erie. Three Eries in two days.
Tonight, we sit in a marina – our first marina in almost two weeks — in steamy Erie, Pa. We left the Erie Canal behind yesterday and entered Lake Erie this morning after spending the night at a wall in Buffalo, N.Y. Today’s 83-mile cruise from Buffalo to Erie was blessedly calm and smooth. But hot! The thermometer read in the low 90s out on the lake, but the “heat index” reached above 100. The boat doesn’t have A/C when under way so we devised ways to stay cool during the 10-hour cruise. I doused my head
and my shirt under the faucet to facilitate the natural air conditioning of evaporation, and sat on the bow periodically until nasty biting flies sent me in again. Jeff spent the day shirt-less. We took turns driving in front of the small fan above the helm. The south wind is what made the cruise calm but it also brought the heat. And flies. We know this phenomenon on Lake Superior.
Pennsylvania is the 18th state on
Many Moons’ journey on The Great Loop. (I didn’t even know we were going to touch this state. That’s how little I understood the geography of Lake Erie.) The last lock of our journey, and the beauty of the Peace Bridge near sunset, are already fading in memory as we plunge into unpredictable Lake Erie. That’s one reason I keep this blog: to keep those memories alive. (And why I’m writing now at midnight, as the temperature has finally cooled. Memories can fade pretty quickly, have you noticed that? I’m determined to “root” these ones.) Photos and captions below…
This was our morning view across the Erie Canal from our wall at West Canal Park, where we spent the night after cruising 55 miles from Brockport. We left this wall at the leisurely hour of 0800 for the brief 5-mile cruise to…
…another wall, in Tonawanda, N.Y. This was the place we agreed to meet Stephanie, who lives nearby and offered to take us to Niagara Falls. (See previous post.)
We took a short bike tour in Tonawanda while waiting for Stephanie. This sign on the canal waterfront reminded us where we’ve been and where we are going.
This curious bridge with a counterbalance was right behind our boats at the wall in Tonawanda. It’s a working bridge!
Stephanie took us first to Buffalo, just 12 miles from Tonawanda, for a look at the waterfront there (in case we wanted to stay on it) and a quick visit to this maritime museum where they are building a canal boat replica.
Woodworkers leave their signatures on the boat while building it.
This map in the museum reminded me of the 350-mile tour of the Erie Canal which we just completed–“from Albany to Buffalo.” (Yes, we did play that song while under way. The “Erie Canal Song.” I know it by heart now.)
After our quick tour of Buffalo and 2-hour visit to Niagara Falls (see previous post), we decided to leave the wall at Tonawanda and go about 13 miles farther to Buffalo, which would shorten the long trek on Lake Erie the next day. As we pulled off the wall about 6:30 p.m., Jeff had to dodge paddle boarders and kayakers.
Rachel Ann was still with us as we left the Erie Canal behind and entered the active waters of the Buffalo and Niagara Rivers. We’ve been in calm canal waters for over a week and it was a reminder that those “easy-water” days are behind us.
We passed this strange industrial contraption on the waterfront en route to Buffalo.
The Black Rock Lock was our 59th and last lock of The Great Loop (until the “Soo Locks” to re-enter Lake Superior). It was a short lift, just six feet or so, but old and odd. The lines were short and thin and present only on the starboard side. We could have avoided this lock and navigated the Niagara River under the Peace Bridge instead, but there is a very strong current there that would have slowed us down a lot.
Right after the lock…surprise! A low swing bridge. Somehow I missed that one on the chart…maybe because I’m not used to getting under way in the evening. We quickly called to ask it to open for us.
Passing under the swing bridge after Black Rock Lock as the sun gets lower. (This is a week before the summer solstice, so there’s no danger of losing daylight before we get to our destination.)
Approaching the Peace Bridge (but inside a calm channel on its south bank) which connects the U.S. to Canada at the source of the Niagara River.
Passing under the Peace Bridge. (Such a lovely name!)
Secured to a wall (called Canalside) in downtown Buffalo alongside Rachel Ann. A park is just above us here, and some rowdies awoke our boating neighbors at midnight, but we didn’t hear it. A security guard patrolled the dock regularly and rocked the floating dock as he passed by. Some kind of night birds made themselves known all night. I didn’t sleep soundly here, but was glad Jeff decided to get us closer to “the big lake” for our planned all-day cruise the next day.
We “parked” right next to a few Navy ship museums on the Buffalo waterfront. Behind this retired littoral combat ship (one of the stranger classes of ship that my Navy produced) is the USS The Sullivans, a retired Navy destroyer named for five Sullivan brothers who died on the same ship in 1942. Because of that incident, the Navy stopped assigning family members to the same ship until the war ended.
A pleasant nighttime surprise: the industrial building across from us, so ugly during the day, was beautifully lit at night.
And, this morning…into Lake Erie. It has a reputation among Loopers for being moody and causing long weather delays. That’s why we struck out on a long cruise on this calm day. (“Go while the gettin’s good,” as old-timers used to say.)
We spent the day in the company (sort of) of the Ranger Tug Rachel Anne and a sailboat named Moxie, as shown here on the boat-tracking app Nebo. Moxie has a young family on board, including two kids.
After fueling up ($5.36/gal., which is a better than our last fuel stop but it still cost more than $500 to fill the half-empty tanks), we found our Pennsylvania marina by passing under this walkway between a convention center and a hotel. That’s a first!
My fellow Navy officer Mel Sundin, on left, lives in Erie. He met us at the marina and took us out for a drink. It’s so fun to meet friends and family members along the way. I think this is our 10th (?) such encounter.