Yup, still anchored here at the State Park inside Presque Isle Bay, Erie PA. It truly is a protected area. I can tell when Lake Erie is rough because boats start taking refuge here. The weather (wind) is finally going to be favorable to leave and head west to Ashtabula, Ohio around noon on Thursday August 30th. The State park is quiet and too far from town to walk and the bus service stopped last week. I have spent the past four days cleaning Katrina II, organizing the cabin space, fixing the bathroom sink drain and faucet, drying out the anchor line, repairing the seat on the dinghy, cleaning its hull at the boat ramp, scrubbing Katrina’s hull, washing my laundry in a five gallon pail with a Tide pod and plumbers helper. Drying the clothes on a line strung along the port railing, wiring up my portable HAM radio, scrubbing the decks, and installing a 3 outlet 12 volt power pod for charging all the electronics. Started reading a book called “Two Years Before The Mast” It takes place in the 1800s about a young man who spent two years aboard a clipper ship and learned to be a seaman. Before the mast literally means the living quarters in the front of the ship.
I have been hanging out at the fuel dock of the Presque Isle State Park Marina. When I want to get off the boat for a while. A father and son took over the business. The son, Max, is in his twenties and runs the business. Dad and friends pitch in to cover the 12 hour 7 days a week schedule. One of the friends, John, explained to me how to fish for walleye and brought me a setup to put on my fixing pole. Lake Erie happens to be the largest commercial perch (fish) industry in the world. Well, the walleye fish heard about that and moved to Lake Erie. You see, walleye like to feed on perch. Guess what happen to the walleye population in Lake Erie? Not sure how it is going to turn out for the perch.
Departed Dunkirk, NY on the morning of the 25th and motored against a south wind forty-five miles to Presque Isle Bay in Erie, PA. The seas were one foot or less and wind was under 10 knots which made for a pleasant trip the whole way. I stayed close to shore in case the winds shifted to the west. Presque Isle Bay is a natural harbor and large enough for commercial traffic. A few freighters were tied up to the piers in the harbor. The waterfront has a Maritime Museum and Commodore Perry’s reconstructed Flagship the U.S.S. Niagara which is also Pennsylvania’s official ship. Lots of artifacts and history about the battles of 1812 that was fought on Lake Erie at the museum. I spent the first night at the Transient Marina (not free but very nice). The next day, I hopped a bus downtown to a hardware store called West End Hardware. Wicked good hardware store with a very helpful staff. It seems each week something on the boat needs some loving. Sure glad I brought tools with me. Nothing major has broken just little things that I can’t seem to ignore and have to fix it. I left the transient marina late afternoon on Saturday and motored across the bay to a cove that is completely protected from the wind. The cove is part of Presque Isle Bay State Park and Marina. I dropped anchor in the cove and will be here until Thursday morning. The weather forecast has strong winds from yesterday until Wednesday night with up to 20 knot winds with the word “west” in the wind direction. Local sailors here shake their head and say, “stay put” and wait for the winds to change. I have plenty to do and can row into shore with my dinghy. I may walk around the State Park over the next several days.
Two things that have followed me everyday, since I left Vermont, are spiders and train whistles. Not sure how the spiders are getting on board but they do. I flick them off when underway and let them swim ashore. Yet more spiders show up each morning making webs in the railings and rigging. I hear train whistles everyday. Since I anchored in the Presque Isle State Park, I have not hear a whistle so far today. It’s likely because the train tracks are on the other side of the harbor.
Here are photos from Erie, PA Presque Isle Bay harbor:
The local mariners will suggest not to venture out on Lake Erie if there is wind from the west, southwest, or northwest say, 15 knots or higher. Even 10 knots will cause choppy seas. I departed Buffalo, NY the morning of the 23rd with a southerly breeze around 8 knots and 1 foot waves. I motored since the wind was mostly on the port bow of the boat. It was a 30 mile run to Dunkirk. About two hours from Dunkirk, the winds shifted to the west and increased to 18 knots. Lake Erie is shallow and has a west to east orientation. The west wind causes waves to build quickly and only 2- 3 seconds between each wave. Let’s just say the last two hours were very unpleasant before reaching the harbor at Dunkirk, NY. I did not spend much time in Dunkirk since I wanted to get to Erie, PA before the weekend. The forecast was calling for five days of strong winds from the west Saturday through Wednesday of next week.
I spent four days in Buffalo holding out for favorable winds and weather before venturing out on Lake Erie. One of the first things you notice as you come into the harbor at Buffalo is the long piers, warships, and a grain elevator with the Gold Medal Flour and General Mills symbols. The more you look around, the more grain elevators you will see. They are huge cylindrical structures usually made of concrete that look like an 18 pack of beer cans. The General Mills complex is where they make bulk cereal such as Cheerios. Pillsbury flour is also located here. If you were to Google the history of grain elevators in Buffalo, you will find the Erie Canal is responsible for these structures. Before the Erie Canal was built, grain producers, out west, had to ship their grain to New Orleans and then load it on to ships. The ships had to sail around the Gulf coast and up the eastern seaboard to distribute the grain to Eastern cities. The Erie Canal shortened that route considerably from Buffalo to NYC via the Hudson River. As a result, grain from out west would be shipped to Buffalo, NY, off loaded, and stored in a grain elevator. Barges from Buffalo would be loaded with grain and sent over the Erie Canal to Albany and then down the Hudson River to NYC for distribution. Buffalo prospered from the Erie Canal immensely. As usual, I hopped the public bus and rode around the city for a few dollars. As in all cities, the architecture of some of the structures is fabulous and Buffalo is no exception. During my stay here, I talked to local sailors, marina operators, and charter boat fishermen. You can learn a lot about when not to venture out on Lake Erie from the locals.
Just a side note. The staff at RCR Yachts Marina was exceptionally hospitable with my stay there for four days. They were so accommodating that I was a little sad leaving my comfortable stay at their marina.
Here are photos from Buffalo, NY on Lake Erie August 20-23, 2018.
Please check below this post For August 18 & 19 post about Tonawanda, NY. I’m fine. I have been tied up at RCR Yachts Marina in Buffalo, NY since Monday afternoon. Had the mast put back on the sailboat and am ready to sail along the southern shore of Lake Erie headed to Lake Saint Clair. Unfortunately, the winds and the thunderstorms have kept me in port since Tuesday. I will be leaving this morning heading southwest along the shoreline of Lake Erie to Dunkirk, NY. Hopefully, I can publish the photos of the past few days of Buffalo, NY this evening.
Once the rains stopped, I left Middleport, NY late morning on August 18. A course heading west on the Erie Canal to Tonawanda, NY. A twenty-nine mile run with the last two locks to transit and the terminus point of the Erie Canal ( 338 miles). I stopped at the Nelson C Goehle Public Marina in Lockport, NY for lunch. The dock master there was very helpful with information about the area. This was the only stop on the canal that had its own beach. The Wide Waters Drive-In Cafe was a nice place for lunch. Locks 34 & 35 are back-to-back locks that lift you up twenty-four feet and another twenty-five feet. As you motor out of one lock you enter the next lock. You can see the old five locks that were replaced by the two new locks. I arrived in Tonawanda, NY in the early evening and tied up for the night. Tonawanda is the end of the 338 miles Erie Canal when travelling westward. It’s the largest port on the canal with a lot of weekend boat traffic. The canal divides Tonawanda, NY from North Tonawanda. I spent the weekend here waiting to find out which day RCR Yachts could put my mast back up over in Buffalo. I hopped on the bus and went to downtown Buffalo for two dollars. The architecture of some of the buildings were amazing as well as the some of the schools and churches. While I waited for the bus on my return trip, there was a park across from the bus station with a lot of homeless people of all ages. A pickup truck had set up a table and chairs in the park. Good Samaritan’s were handing out bottles of water and providing free hair cuts to the homeless people. The park was a busy place that day.
Left Spencerport, NY while it was raining lightly. Destination today is Middleport, NY. A thirty-eight mile run. I passed by the Lois McClure schooner at Brockport, NY. One of the crew members said they were there for the weekend and then at some point were headed to NY City. They left Vermont back in May. I didn’t stop at Brockport because thunderstorms were expected in Middleport, NY later in the afternoon. I reached Middleport, NY early afternoon. Tied up to the public dock just beyond the Main Street lift bridge for the night. I needed some wood glue to fix my binoculars holder. There was a restaurant called the Portside Cafe & Bakery, next to the dock, and a worker was out back smoking meats. He mentioned they give boaters free ice if you bring your own bag or cooler. I asked if he had any wood glue or where the nearest hardware store was in town. Nada, no glue on on hand per the meat smoker, but the dishwasher could give me a ride to the hardware store four miles away. So the dishwasher drove me to the next town (Shelby, NY) to get some glue. On the way, Sandy (dishwasher) mentioned her husband died of cancer recently and she moved back to the area where she grew up. Her family and friends are still here. There is nothing better than experiencing the goodness and kindness of others. Back on the boat, I repaired the binocular holder and fixed the wiring on the automatic bilge pump that was causing the pump to operate intermittently (not a good thing when the boat is not occupied for long periods of time). I have thirty miles to go to reach the end of the Erie Canal. I have travelled four hundred and fifty-five miles to date.
Left Fairport, NY near noon time with a destination of Brockport, NY. A 32 mile run. I wanted to catch up to the Lois McClure Canal Schooner that is on tour with the Corning Glass Barge for four months. You can read about it here:
The journey west on the canal to Lock 33 at Henrietta, NY was mostly farm fields and bike path that follows along side the canal. As I entered the lock, I noticed lots of debris from the last night’s rain floating in the lock. Again, my engine started to overheat while waiting for the doors to open and let me proceed west. I had to shut the engine down and have the lock master crew pull the boat out of the lock and tie it up at the dock. An hour later, I was one my way again after unplugging the water strainer to the water pump. At least its an easy fix. You passed through a section of the canal known as the “Cut”. It’s about a four mile section where the canal had to be cut out of solid rock. You also cross the Genesee River that intersects the Erie Canal. The current can be as strong as eight miles an hour after a lot of rain. The Army Corps of Engineers will shut down traffic on the canal at this junction- if the current is too strong. Once pass this point, the canal water has very little debris and is much cleaner since you are west of the Genesee River that dumps a lot of debris and silt in to the canal. I ended up in Spencerport, NY for the night- seven miles short of Brockport due to pending thunderstorms. Spencerport is a nice town with a very nice public dock area. An old trolley station has been moved near the docks and restored as part of a museum and visitors center.
After two days rain, I left Lyons, NY in the morning with a destination of Fairport, NY. A twenty-six mile journey. There was lots of debris in the canal from all the rain. Newark, NY received four inches of rain and Fairport, NY received six inches of rain. The lock master at lock 30 advised me that there were trees across the canal near Newark at day marker 741. A microburst occurred the day before and snapped a section of trees across the canal. There was a maintenance crew clearing the trees when I approached the area. I had to squeeze through the cut-up floating trees as they bumped along the hull of the boat. There are no navigation charts for the Erie Canal from Lyons, NY to the western end of the canal where it terminates in Tonawanda, NY. The reason is because it’s a man-made ditch that is twelve feet deep and it was never charted. I use Google maps to navigate by roads and bridges but it’s really hard to get lost going west or east. I arrived in the town of Fairport, NY in the early afternoon. It’s one of the nicest town to visit on The Erie Canal. Everything you need is within a five minute walk of the beautiful public dock area. Train traffic here is relentless at all hours of the day and night. Lots of restored historical structures to see. Across from my boat was a boat from NH. The lady on a rented canal boat, next to me, grew up in Bradford, VT and her family was one of the first settlers in Fairlee, VT.
Left Baldwinsville, NY the morning of August 13 with a destination of Clyde, NY thirty-nine miles west on the Erie Canal. The weather was overcast, warm, and no wind. It must have been National Fish Jumping Day because Carp fish were leaping out of the water catching insects. The sound was similar to a rock being thrown in the water. The fish were jumping everywhere all morning except where people were fishing along the banks of the Seneca river. I passed the ruins of the Montezuma Aqueduct. In the late 1800s the old canal at this location actually passed over the Seneca River. Boats and barges floated across the aqueduct from one shore to the other. Some of the structure still stands today on both shore lines. I passed through locks 25 & 26 and arrived at the public dock of Clyde, NY. When the boat was within two feet of the dock, my depth meter started blaring a warning that there was only three feet of water beneath the keel. I turned the boat away just as the keel touch bottom. Katrina draws four and half – feet of water due to her keel. I need five feet of water to keep from hitting the bottom. Of course, the skies opened up at that moment and a downpour of rain commenced to make matters worse. The next dock was in Lyons, NY nine miles west. I arrived in Lyons, NY after eight hours of motoring and forty-miles behind me for the day. I tied up to a very high concrete wall only to realize later in the night the storm sewer drain was directly broadside to the boat. I had read not to tie up near the drains when it rains. I moved the boat and watch the storm drains gush water the next morning.
August 14, 2018
The Lyons, NY fire department is right near the public dock. The fire house hosts bicyclists and boaters. You can use the restrooms and showers at the fire house. Believe me, these are some of the nicest public bathrooms and showers you can find anywhere. The firemen are pleasant, helpful, and can give you lots of local information. The town of Lyons is known as the birth place of mural mania. Lots of history regarding the changes to the canals and the locks that cut through the town. Mac’s Philly Cheese Steak Diner has the best breakfast in town. Plenty of historic plaques with photos describing the history of the canal. It rained so hard today that I decided to wait until the afternoon to leave for Palmyra, NY. Unfortunately my GPS chart plotter had an issue downloading the charts I needed and I ended up having to stay another night. The town has lots of interesting architecture and well worth spending a day or two sight-seeing. Last note, Lyons, NY used to be a major exporter of peppermint oil. People here celebrate “Peppermint Days” in July.