Mini Loop Log




May/June 2003


In one month we traveled 1300 miles of inland waterways covering an average of 40 miles per day, on our 32-foot boat, an Island Gypsy trawler named "Summertime". We also passed through 59 locks! (see photo below) We started in Old Saybrook, where the CT River meets Long Island Sound, headed up the Hudson River, across the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal into Lake Ontario, the St Lawrence Seaway, and up to Montreal and Sorel in Quebec. We began heading south on the Chambly Canal, cruised down Lake Champlain, the Champlain Canal, back down the Hudson River, across Long Island Sound, and finally back to Old Saybrook. Most of the 59 locks we passed through have lovely park-like settings with flowers, picnic tables, grills and secure places to tie up for the night for free. We also spent some nights in marinas (most were only $1 a foot compared to $2.50-3.50 a foot on Long Island Sound) or tied up to free town piers. A few nights we just anchored out.  

We stopped for the night in Bridgeport on Day #1, and in City Island, NY on Day #2. The next day cruising through Manhattan on the East River and Hudson River, was one of the highlights of our trip. We first glimpsed the Statue of Liberty just as we passed under the Brooklyn Bridge - what a marvelous sight!!! Navigating the waterways of NYC was far worse than the driving in NYC. We had never seen such a mayhem of activity all around us. There were tour boats, tugs, barges, DEP boats, Coast Guard boats, NYC police boats, water taxi's, and assorted pleasure craft - all crisscrossing the waterways at the same time, and going as fast as they could get away with. The wakes were incredible! Meanwhile, planes and helicopters (private, military, police and Coast Guard) constantly circled and patrolled above us! It was truly a sensory overload!  

For the next few days, we cruised up the beautiful and majestic Hudson River. Clouds covered the top of Storm King Mountain as we passed by. West Point Military Academy stretches across two miles of the Hudson River in the area of the river's greatest depth - 216 feet. The stretch of the river known as the "Hudson Highlands" is spectacular. It was the inspiration for the Hudson River School of landscape painting.  

We had to drop the mast on "Summertime" before entering the Erie Canal on Day #6. Some of the bridges on the canal are only 15 feet tall. (We need 21 feet with the mast up.) The Erie Canal was completed in 1825, becoming the gateway for westward expansion in the mid 1800's. On Day #9 we crossed Lake Oneida and the Oswego Canal. In Lake Oneida we reached the highest elevation on our trip - 420 feet above sea level. 

The next morning we headed north across 45 miles of Lake Ontario in heavy fog (we have radar) and ended the day at the beginning of the St. Lawrence Seaway. We spent the next few days travelling the St Lawrence Seaway, beginning with the Thousand Islands - a really beautiful area! See photo below of "Summertime" in front of the yacht house to Boldt Castle in the 1000 Islands. Almost into Ontario is Lock #12, the Eisenhower Lock (see photo below). It had a 50 foot lift, the largest we encountered. We arrived in Montreal on Day # 15, a wonderfully friendly and very clean city. Next, we continued north to Sorel, Quebec.  

At Sorel, we started heading south on the Chambly Canal/Richelieu River. It takes about four hours to travel the Chambly Canal, which consists of nine locks and seven swing bridges that are mostly hand operated! The canal is very narrow and only between six and ten feet deep. The same lock keepers work all the locks and bridges. After they crank open one for you, they race ahead to the next one in a golf cart that follows alongside the canal, arriving before you so they can have the lock or bridge open for your passageway through. (Speed limit on all the canals throughout our trip is 10 mph.) We arrived in Rouses Point, NY which is just over the border from Quebec, on Day #18. Rouses Point is where the Richelieu River turns into Lake Champlain.  

The next day we began cruising south on Lake Champlain. Valcour Island, NY was a fabulous stop. It is 1000 acres of campsites, walking trails, and boating anchorage's on pristinely clean Lake Champlain, parts of which are 400 feet deep! We also stopped at the beautifully restored Fort Ticonderoga. Whitehall, NY (the birthplace of the U.S. Navy) marks the end of Lake Champlain, and the beginning of the Champlain Canal. The Champlain Canal was built between 1817 and 1823. During the 1800's, boats were pulled by mules or horses on a tow path alongside the canal. The first steam tug appeared in the early 1900's.  

By Day #22, we were back on the Hudson River. We stopped for the night at Catskill, NY where boats that travel the Erie and Champlain Canals have long used this stop to raise or lower masts. It felt good to put our mast back up and look "ship shape" again!

We reached Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, NJ on Day #24. There are amazing views of Manhattan (especially at night, see photo below) across the water. The next day we took the tour boat ride to Ellis Island (great museum) and Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty.  

For the last few days, we were back on Long Island Sound, following the New York shoreline. We stopped at Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Mattituck before ending our great adventure back in Old Saybrook, CT. The real bonus of this trip was all of the wonderful people we met - some were traveling from Toronto to Newfoundland, or from the Bahamas to Chicago, and others were doing the Great Circle Route (a 5000 mile inland waterway cruise). People offered us rides when we needed to shop, and one marina owner even did laundry for us while we explored the town of Alexandria Bay! The trip was an excellent adventure that we'll never forget.