Of Locks and Lakes

We continue up the Hudson River to the Fork In The Loop at Waterford, where the Erie Canal begins.  The Erie is the most common Loop route, but we take the road less traveled and continue north on the Hudson along the Empire Trail and up the length of beautiful Lake Champlain.  The stops come fast and furious as we travel almost every day, so we cover a lot of ground….er, water…in this blog post.

Click the Google Map button below to open the map  in a separate window.  There you can zoom in/out, and click on the icons to see pictures and more info on the various places along our route.

Troy, NY

June 23, 2022

Departing from Coeymans on a gray but calm morning, we began our foray into the northern reaches of the Hudson River.  The crew of Inconceivable had convinced us to stop in Troy for a night, and are we glad they did!  The Troy Downtown Marina is recently reopened after the whole waterfront underwent an impressive redevelopment following total destruction by Hurricane Irene, including lots of restaurants, shops, and old historical industrial buildings turned into stylish condomimiums.  Matt the Dockmaster met us, an older gentleman who was a wealth of information and Troy history.   

Docked at the Troy Downtown Marina. That's a very modern drawbridge behind us.

Exploring Troy was filled with nice surprises. The Troy Public Library was our favorite; an Atlas Obscura find, it had a large Tiffany window behind the circulation desk.  The young woman at the desk shut off the surrounding lights so we could see it better!  The small library also had a vintage staircase, glass floors, and a ginormous fireplace in the main reading room.  Other sights we enjoyed were Paine Castle, the RPI campus, and all the varied architecture throughout the downtown area.

This is an actual Tiffany window behind the circulation desk, made specifically for the Troy Library. Gotta love the fans and flanking office right in front of it.
Those are glass floors Dave is standing on.
Paine Castle is not quite a true castle, but during the Gilded Age it was billed as the Grandest Home in Troy. It was used as the set for filming The Age Of Innocence.
A hike up a steep hill brought us to the campus of Renselaar Polytechnic Institute, with eclectic buildings from modern glass to an old Catholic Church whose Gothic facade belied the modern interior of their computer science lab.
And of course, our afternoon coffee break.

Waterford, NY

June 24

Short trip of only three miles from Troy, but included the first lock of many to come.  Technically they consider this the first lock of the Erie Canal – but I think that’s mostly because it would otherwise be an orphan lock so Erie adopted it.  Like most of the NY Canal System, this one had large recessed pipes that you loop a line around and then back to the boat.   When you are going up in a lock, there is a little more water turbulence especially when they first start pumping the water in, so the boat can surge in weird directions depending on where you are relatively positioned in the lock.  Dave brings the boat up to the wall of the lock chamber close enough that I can get the line around the pipe and to a cleat on the boat but do not cleat off.  If you cleat it and the line gets under pressure, you can’t adjust it as you go up or down and that is a very bad thing.  You hold the line and feed it through as needed.  The lines at the lock get quite nasty and slimy, so we wear gloves.  For that matter, everything in a lock gets slimy, so we use an old set of lines dedicated to use in locks only that we will toss when we are done with the 150 or so locks we will be going through on The Loop.  Same for our fender covers. 

Shortly after the lock, we turned up the Mohawk River for a short distance to arrive at the Waterford Free Dock.  This is just before the ‘other’ first lock of the Erie Canal, and by the evening we were among 10 Loopers there. 

Loopers docked at the Waterford free dock.

With the afternoon free, we:

  • bootered across the bridge and through the town of Coohoes to see the falls at the dam, passing several buildings of former textile/dry goods mills in their heyday that had been converted to very nice condominiums.  Had to appreciate the ‘reuse/repurpose’ concept with these vintage buildings. 
  • stopped for a short hike at Peebles Island just before crossing the bridge back to Waterford, a former industrial site that had been donated to the state as a park.
  • found a shady spot in the park alongside the free dock and all the Loopers gathered for docktails.  Most were going through the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario, following what is considered the traditional Great Loop route.  We – along with Inconceivable and new friends on Long Recess – would be continuing north on the Hudson River into Lake Champlain.
The boat at the dock beneath the bridge leading over to Peebles Island.
The falls that we bootered up to.
Sunset over the first lock of the Erie Canal.
Fellow Loopers entering the beginning of the Erie Canal. We didn't go this route.
Remants of the old Erie Canal, with the little red tug waiting to enter the present day lock.

Fort Edward, NY and the Champlain Locks

June 25

The three of us heading to the Champlain Locks had coordinated to travel together, as the  lockmasters like it when boats come through as a group for efficiency.   It was a short trip to the lock, and our leader Tony on Long Recess hailed the lock at 9:20 – only to be told that the next opening would be at 11:00.  Wait – when???  Apparently they have reduced the number of lock openings to a set schedule, rather than on demand, to stave off the invasion of round goby into Lake Champlain.   We had all independently missed this notification.  (In our defense, it was published in early May but not updated on the several navigation apps we used between us.)  *SIGH*.  So we tied up at the wall just before the lock to wait for 90 minutes, pondering Invasive Round Goby as a great name should we want to start a punk rock band.

The crew of Inconceivable waiting for the next lock opening.

Another part of the Invasive Round Goby Plan is that in the first two locks, you go up, then back down, then back up a second time like an amusement park ride – what they call a ‘double wash’ — to flush out any goby hitchhikers.  It is kind of cool to start out staring at cement walls and then slowly come up to eye level with the lock wall to see the river and spillway come into view. 

We had six locks to traverse over 32 miles, all going up.  Going up requires a little more work, because of the jockeying of the boat. So I was getting a workout each time as the linehandler, plus scurrying around the deck both before and after the lock getting lines and fenders ready for the next lock.   But in between, the scenery kept getting prettier and prettier with the canal meandering through a lush landscape.     

Long Recess entering one o the Champlain Locks ahead of us.
See Level rigged for locks with fenders. (Photo by Karen Long of Long Recess)
Long Recess leading the way along the Champlain Canal

We turned off the Hudson to go the short distance to the Ft. Edward Free Dock for the night.   Many towns on rivers or lakes will have free docks, usually right downtown in park setting.  Some even install electrical hookups.  This is also a great way to meet locals, as a popular pastime time is to stroll through looking at the boats there.  The one at Fort Edward was off a quiet creek, had power and  water to hook up to, and the park had very nice bathrooms and showers available. 

The town itself was small and didn’t have a lot to offer within walking distance of the park; there were many shuttered businesses on Main St.  But the houses were fairly well kept and flowers blooming in containers and hanging baskets from the light posts brought life into the appearance of the town.  We found Slickfin Brewery open, and our rule is that if we’re staying at a free town dock, we try to eat out or otherwise spend some money in town.  Since this was the only place open, it won.

Spillway along the Champlain Canal. The concrete is probably remants of a previous bridge.
Just turning off the main canal to Ft. Edward, located just on the other side of the bridge here..
Downtown Ft Edward, NY

Whitehall, NY

June 26 - 27

We continued our run of gorgeous weather for traveling, with blue skies, calm waters and maybe a little bit hot – which only mattered to me because I would be out on deck a lot as we ‘locked through’ four more locks.  We were still traveling as a threesome with Long Recess as our fearless leader. 

Dave noticed the starboard engine running warm shortly after we left.  He checked on it and noted coolant was leaking – but couldn’t tell the source.  We were already planning on cruising at a slow speed, so he decided to just drive on the port engine only and turn starboard on only as we were driving into and out of locks.  There were no marine services anywhere nearby so we didn’t have much choice.  The first two locks were up and then we would start descending into Lake Champlain. Going down in a lock is much easier on the line handler (me) as it’s much less turbulent as they just open gates at the bottom and the water flows out.  

The Champlain Canal in this stretch was narrower and tree lined.  We saw almost no other boats the whole way to Whitehall, and enjoyed the ride even with the nagging problem of the bum engine hanging over us.

Long Recess in front of us in the lock.
In a lock waiting to go down. Note the blue and white float on the ropes Dave and Gary on Inconceivable (behind us) are holding. In these locks, you hang onto these to keep the boat in place as you descend.

Whitehall had another long free dock with electricity and water, and Dave almost immediately went to work figuring out the coolant situation.  Within a couple hours he had figured out that it had something to do with the water heater and how the engine heats the water while we are underway (not the engine itself)  and did something that prevents this from happening until we can get a new water heater.  We do still have hot water, so never fear.  That is the limit or my ability to explain anything to do with the engine. But the real take away is that Dave can trouble shoot anything on this boat. 

We needed a down day, so we spent two nights in Whitehall, encouraged by some rain heading our way or the morning.  Whitehall has the slightly controversial claim of being the birthplace of the US Navy, when Benedict Arnold (yes, THE Benedict Arnold, before he was a traitor) took on the British Navy in Lake Champlain.  He lost miserably, but managed to delay the British Navy long enough that it had to regroup and leave before winter set in. When they returned the next year, they faced a very different Rebel force.  Truly a case of losing the battle but winning the war. 

The Whitehall free dock.
The town park.
If you've got the sign that says so, it must be true.
Whitehall had this thing about Bigfoot sightings, which we never got the story on. We walked past this tree half a dozen times before we realized it was a carving.

Whitehall’s history as a strategic Naval asset has not kept it from becoming yet another struggling small town.  The most happening place on the tiny Main St was the cigar lounge and offsite gambling establishment.  Yet on the hill overlooking the rather rundown town was a beautiful mansion-now-museum, a symbol of what the town had once been in its heyday. 

Cigar Lounge -- one of the few places open when we were there. We did not partake.
Buildings that were probably grand in their heyday. Note the mansion perched high above.


June 28

Long Recess had moved on the day before, so it was just Inconceivable and us headed into the final Champlain Lock.  Upon exiting, we were in Lake Champlain.  Almost immediately the scenery changed to tree-lined banks and rock cliffs as we wound along, emerald green water, and very few towns.  We dropped anchor around the bend from famed Fort Ticonderoga about midday.  


We quickly launched the dinghy, took Roxy ashore, then returned to drop her off and pick up Patty and Gary.  We tried walking up to the actual Fort Ticonderoga, but it was $25 a person and none of us felt that was worth it.  So we decided to go to town by dinghying the few miles up the creek.  This proved an adventure as the entrance had a lot of grass and a sandbar to get over, and at one point I had to raise the engine and Dave was paddling at the bow with our single emergency oar.  Once successfully beyond that we slowly cruised up the creek, past several large beaver houses, only to be stymied by a large tree blocking our way and forced to turn around. 

Dave on lookout and manning the oar as we tried to get upstream to the town of Ticonderoga..

Undaunted, we threw bikes into dinghies, went back to the boat ramp, and the four of us bootered into town.  First stop was Burleighs Luncheonette, where we sat on stools at the counter to have lunch.  It was quite vintage, complete with jukebox, sky-blue vinyl upholstered booths, and checkered linoleum floor.    An abundance of autographed photos of Star Trek cast members on the wall seemed odd…until we bootered up main street a couple hundred yards and came upon the Star Trek Original Series Set.  Apparently some guy got the blueprints and built it in an old storefront as a tourist attraction, and they have regular cast member visits.  It was too late in the afternoon for the tour, but that would have been an interesting tour even if potentially kitschy.  We followed the bike path along Le Chute (that we had tried to dinghy up) stopping at the visitor center to learn about The Pencil Wars between Ticonderoga Pencils and European manufacturers.

Back at the boat, there was enough daylight left to go for a swim off the boat.  We took the opportunity to clean the hulls as well.  I sat on a couple of pool noodles and bobbed around doing the waterline, while Dave donned his sort-of scuba gear and took care of the parts below the waterline.  It was tough work, but the water was refreshing. 

Inconceivable at anchor in the late afternoon.
See Level in the anchorage at Ticonderoga. (photo by Gary Oldham of Inconceivable)

Westport, NY

June 29

Seems like we’re being rewarded for our multiple gray drizzly days in the lower Hudson River with near-perfect weather on Lake Champlain.  Transiting from Ticonderoga to Westport was no exception. 

Westport Marina is a small family-owned marina – our favorite kind.  It was a short walk up a hill into town.  A path leading along a stream ran under the one main road in town, and we found a beautiful mural on the underpass.  Following the stream a bit further brought us to a place with water access.  Roxy didn’t hesitate and went straight in to cool off.  She lay down in the shady shallows for a long time. 

The town is small, but nice.  Many of the homes looked like they might be summer homes.  There were a few shops, and we did find a local coffee shop for our traditional afternoon repast in the towns we visit.  The best thing was a large expanse of lawn that had a big outdoor stage; it looked like it was the community gathering place and very inviting. 

Burlington, VT

June 30 - July 1

Walking Roxy before departing, we passed some stairs down to a small beach right by where the boat was docked.  Dave and I walked past, but Roxy suddenly stopped at the top of the stairs and gave us a sideways “Please – can we?” look.  She bolted down the stairs and into the water the second Dave unsnapped her leash.   For a dog that doesn’t like to swim, she sure likes to wade.  And then roll in the sand when she gets out.

So after a quick emergency dog washdown, we headed out to cross to the Vermont side of the lake.  Steep, rocky cliffs that reminded us once again of Lake Superior and there was even a Split Rock Point Lighthouse on the NY side.  As we approached Burlington, we saw water depths over 300 feet!

Approaching Burlington, VT

Burlington – what a great town!  The Boathouse Community Marina was right downtown, with a lovely park and bike paths right along the waterfront.  Ice cream stores abound, and we found an old-fashioned garage refurbished as a coffeehouse called August First.  With three major colleges in town the feeling is young, active, and hip.  Tons of bicycles, mostly of the pedal kind  and plenty of restaurants, especially along a nice pedestrian mall called Church Street Marketplace.  We noted many of the signage in French throughout the town, a nod to their past history as well as the proximity of Quebec.  One quirky find was this creepy looking thing on top of the peaked roof of the train station that looked like a Flying Monkey and turned out to be….a Flying Monkey.  There were originally two years ago, but one must have followed Dorothy back to Kansas

Traditional coffee break at August First, a converted old garage
City Hall at the start of Church Street Marketplace
Quirkiest drinking fountain award.
Hummingbirds always make us think of Dave's mom, JP.
Union Station with its lone Flying Monkey on the roof.

Rouses Point, NY

July 2

Crossing back to NY at the northernmost tip of Lake Champlain, our last US stop was just shy of the Canadian border at Rouses Point and also our last chance to refuel before the even higher diesel prices in Canada.  Along the way, we noticed a significant increase in the number of sailboats as well as boats of all types flying a Canadian flag.  Considering that the last two years had seen ZERO boats crossing the border, this was good to see.

We did our fueling, laundry, and filled our fresh water tanks as prep for several days on free walls with unknown access to all this.  We explored the town, but it’s small and not much to see.  It really is a border town;  they had both Canadian and American flags flying on every street lamp, possibly because it was the joint Canada Day/Independence Day weekend.  We also noticed all but two of the cars in the marina parking lot had Quebec tags.  We did find ice cream on our evening walk, though, and watched fireworks off in the distance from the boat. 

Next up:  we cross into Quebec, Canada!  Very excited for this next chapter, experiencing not only new waters but a new culture.  We will be going up the Richelieu River and the Chambly Canal locks to get to Montreal, then to Ottawa and down the Rideau Canal to rejoin the ‘traditional loop’ in Kingston, Ontario.  We will then continue  to the Trent-Severn Waterway.  Our plan has us in Canada for all of July and August, cruising areas that most Loopers say is the highlight of their loop.

Domain on roule…ummm, navigeur!

Pops’ Stats Corner*

  • This blog:
    • No of days: 10
    • Travel days:  8
    • Miles traveled:   176.6 nm / 203.1 sm  
  • Locks this period/total locks on loop:  12/ 13
  • Cumulative Loop Miles:  1557.8 nm / 1791.7 sm
  • Total states visited (added this period):  11 (+2)

*Pops is what the family affectionately called Dave’s dad.  He had a mind for sports statistics, earning him the nickname Numbers from the coaches of several Stillwater teams with whom he worked.  This regular section of the blog is in his honor, because it’s the kind of thing he would love.

At anchor in Ticonderoga, NY. (photo by Gary Oldham of Inconceivable)

8 thoughts on “Of Locks and Lakes”

  1. Marge Sagstetter

    I love reading about all those small towns on your journey and seeing their unique features! I also love to see you taking afternoon breaks and enjoying ice cream along the way. Some great photos in this post. Thanks for sharing and wishing you safe and happy boating. xoxo

  2. Alien Predator

    Dang those invasive gobies! I suspect their foul play with three starboard engine and hot water heater…

    Loving the photos and travel sites. Keep up the great blogging.

    Bon Voyage, Mis Amis

    1. Hmmm. You might be onto something. Perhaps they should be called Invasive Stealth Gobies – no need to comment on their body habits anyways.

  3. Roberta McElroy

    Hi there, let Dale and I know when you travel the Mississippi to the Gulf. We are in Gulfport, MS now at the Armed Forces Retirement Home located right on Beach Drive. I am in awe of your travels. I love your blog…and love to see you.

    1. Hi Roberta! We won’t be going all the way down the Mississippi, I’m afraid. Lower Miss River not hospitable to small pleasure boats. We will go through Mobile Bay to get to the Gulf – that’s the closest we will get to Gulfport. But will be in Western FL coast for DEc-Jan if you go out to visit the family.

  4. Lovely photos and stories, though I’m puzzled why anyone would put a fan in front of a Tiffany stained glass window. Have a wonderful time in Canada. Had the cigar place had a pipe, you could have gone in just for homage to pa Prescott. I used to love the smell of his pipe….

    Happy travel!

  5. As a woman who spent over 20 years driving from SECT to Buffalo to see family these towns are familiar friends of mine along the way. We all prefer Ticonderoga pencils as the are the BEST! And of course Benedict Arnold was born and raised in Norwich, CT (across form Backus Hospital). The Hudson River Valley is so beautiful and it’s been so nice to follow your adventures and see this magnificent area shared, highlighted and enjoyed…continued safe travels friends!

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