Lock On…

We had some excellent tacos at the LULU Taqueria in Fairport. And we had breakfast sandwiches, and just enough beer… Wow! All this waiting around for the canal to open might turn this into a restaurant review blog. I’ve definitely put on a few pounds and not getting much exercise. Lots of boats have bicycles stowed on the deck, and if you’re inclined, you can bike the entire, mostly flat, 350 mile length of the canal. Duly noted for next trip.

LULUS Taqueria – Tacos on the way!

We woke to news of more closures up and down the canal due to high water, low water, debris in the water, and mechanical difficulties at the locks. It’s never been this bad before, so we’ve been told. The situation is making headlines along the canal towns. Boaters are getting antsy. Many are doing the Great Loop that takes them through inland waters and along coast lines of the Eastern U.S. and they need to move if they’re going to make it through the Great Lakes before winter gets too close. But communities are building as we all circulate, talking story, sharing news and restaurant recommendations.

The Great Loop

I’ve probably seen a thousand boats this summer and don’t think I’ve seen two that are alike! Every boat and every owner has a unique story to tell.

No two boats are alike!
Looking out to the canted lift bridge

One story I was surprised to hear more than a few times is about people (mostly couples) who sold everything of their land-based lives and bought a boat to explore the whatever part of the world they were interested in exploring. The boat and the journey are everything. One example of such an inspirational story is Karrie and Roan – The Wayward Travelers – who periodically pare down their lives and dive deep into a new adventure. They tell the story of having good jobs, nice home, kids, and stuff. Lots of stuff. They got tired of tripping over things they never used and started selling those things. The benefits piled up. More space and less clutter brings peace of mind, while selling stuff and not buying more stuff means more money. And when you don’t have a lot of stuff, you don’t need a big space, so that saves money too. And when you don’t have much stuff, you have less to be attached to and that makes it easier to leave behind whatever you once thought was important and gain experience rather than stuff. Eventually, most everything was sold and that’s when the adventures began!

Karrie and Roan, The Wayward Travelers!

It looked like we’d be in Fairport for another day or two. The unanticipated extended time I’ve taken for this voyage has been a double edged sword. I’m not yet ready to sell everything and buy a boat – I carved out a defined period of time to help Gordon lock through the canal and then get back to work; but nobody could have predicted the problems ahead. It’s hard to leave in the middle of something, especially when others might be counting on you, and while it’s not exactly my thing, the boating pace kind of grew on me. But a 10 day commitment was now pushing up against 20.

The weather was good for Silas to fly out to a small regional airport and pick me up later today. All I had to do was find a ride to the airport. He’d arrive by 4PM, and with mixed feelings I packed up and began to anticipate dinner at home tonight. After the morning feed we made the rounds and heard rumors (again, the owner of the tour boat company can get some inside intel) that the locks ahead would be open in a couple of hours. If there’s one thing we’ve learned on this trip is to jump at the chance to move ahead, if even just a little. If we had waited a day before making our last move, hoping for more than what was immediately offered, we’d still be stuck a couple locks behind and wouldn’t have this next potential opportunity present itself. There were two locks ahead and it would take only a few hours to get through them, leaving Gordon to figure out how to manage the last 2, some 60 miles and several days ahead. The way the canal curved, it wouldn’t be that much further to the airport from the tie up at lock 33, and Uber had a presence there. It didn’t take long to prep, launch and be on our way and under the first lift bridge.

heading under the lift bridge at Fairport. A simple call on the radio can stop traffic!

I anticipated the travel time and called an Uber to meet me at the tie up at Lock 33 at 3:30, a time that offered ample margin of error all around. Lock 32 delayed it’s opening and then had to lock through the tour boats before us. Commerce before pleasure in a capitalist world. I was getting antsy now, suddenly concerned with time and the logistics of schedules. We waited an hour – longest wait ever. Lock 33 took a long time too. They were locking through a few boats in the opposite direction and while we couldn’t see what was going on, we could hear it on the radio. Some noob boater couldn’t manage the lock and kept getting pushed and twisted around inside. He complained a lot about it too. After 30 minutes of this, the lock keeper finally had him wait outside so he could keep things moving. It was 3:30. The Uber was in the parking, about 100 yards away, on the other side of the lock. I contacted him to ask if he could wait. “Yes.” Great. I texted him a few times as we slowly progressed through 33. By the time we were out of there it was 4PM and uber was gone. Silas texted me from the airport saying he was there. Argh! I missed the boat! And I miss the boat already (heh heh). Long story short, be wary of the Uber drivers in Minden NY.

Moon Dancer tied up at lock 33
Last time I saw Gordon – and my stuff!

Silas and 150VT (a Cessna 150 that he can rent at a reasonable cost through his flying club) were a sight for my sore eyes. He thinks this whole boating thing is crazy. “5 MPH? Two weeks? Why?? I can fly you there in 2 hours!”

Silas and 0-Victor Tango (still working on my selfie technique)

We had to re-do the weight and balance because despite having shipped 30 pounds of stuff home from Fairport, I still had too much weight for the plane. That meant it would be too heavy for take off and flight control would be poor, so we couldn’t fill the fuel tanks all the way. That meant more fuel stops. We were airborne at 6:45. 15 minutes later we flew over Newark town dock where some of my boat buddies were still stuck, then on to the east and home to VT!

4,000 feet over Newark NY, near lock 28B

The air was hazy with smoke from western forest fires ad visibility was substantially reduced, but the air was quiet and it was smooth flying. Until it wasn’t. Rain and thunder moved in about half way through the flight and we had to wait it out at the Potsdam airport. Landed in VT a little after 1AM. We stopped at the closest all night convenience store for sandwiches, and my head finally hit the pillow a little after 3AM. Haven’t seen that time on the clock in many years!

it’s good to have a pilot in the family! Though they are a stoic bunch ;>
Nothing like a home-field landing!

Like any good adventure, my time on the canal presented me with new, unexpected, and lasting experiences and perspectives. Gordon’s decisions to press on into unknown territory and situations have put him ahead of the pack in many ways. Frankly, I’m surprised at how outgoing he’s been on the canal, he won’t have any trouble meeting boat buddies to help him with whatever takes more than one. Sadly though, he won’t continue this blog, and photos and texts aren’t the same as being there in the experiential moment – and that includes all the writing I’ve shared here. If you have the slightest itch, inkling, or opportunity to do something different, have a new experience or adventure, or simply go visit a neighbor you haven’t seen in a while, Just Say Yes!

If you enjoyed reading this, and you have younger readers in your life, please check out my book, “The Biggest Bear”, it’s a great story and a pro production! If you want a free e-book copy, just leave a comment and I’ll send you a download link. All I ask in return is an honest review on your favorite book review/purchase site.

Just Say Yes!

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#eriecanal #fairportny #greatloop

Published by Paul Jay

Author, hands-on, minds-on, off-grid

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