Extreme Boat Makeover: Erie Canal Edition

Monday August 27, 2012

I don’t know what it was about last night, but I got the best sleep I’ve ever had on this boat. 10 hours of it and it was spectacular. We didn’t know if Dennis would come to us or if we should find him so we just hung around on deck working on things. It didn’t take long for him to come over and let us know the steps we’d be going through that day to get the mast down. First we undid a few of the side-stays and the backstay before he came back and was lifted up the mast and attached his rope that the crane hook would grab on to, eventually lifting the mast. We undid the rest of the stays, tied everything together and it was time to go. We were told it was and easy procedure. We believed it would be an easy procedure. And it was for the first five minutes, until some of the lines from our mast got caught in the crane hook and we could not find a way to get them out. Extremely long boat hook? Nope. Raising the mast again in hopes it would find it’s own way out? Nope. Then you hear the words anyone doing anything difficult loves to hear: “Well, this has never happened to me before”.

 After another 30 minutes of raising and lowering and twisting the mast we finally had it free and could continue on. The top of the mast was rested in it’s cradle at the stern and the butt of the mast rested lightly on top of our pulpit, still slightly suspended by the crane, until we could get the bow and mid-ship cradles just right. Through all of this it had been raining on and off and while it turned to a downpour Dennis called for a rain break and went inside while the two of us perfected the cradle and attached more lines than we could imagine to the mast to keep it secure. If you ever make this journey, bring more lines than you think you could ever use, because you will use them. We had the mast tied down at the stern, mid-ship, and bow and were still worried about it being secure. Only time will tell.

After we did all that we thought we could do it was time for a lunch break and walked just up the road to McDonald’s. They had free wifi and Matt had brought his laptop so he could order new rigging to arrive at the marina where our mast will go up before we got there. He had however left the paper with all the information back at the boat and while he had to run back to get it I was able to enjoy the first internet I had access to in 72 hours. 20 minutes is not near long enough to check emails, check Facebook and get a blog post in. Soon I had to hand it back over and stare out at the rain while our parts were ordered. When we got back to the boat we found out that Dennis had finished while we were gone and the crane was now unattached from our mast and we were done. We filled up our diesel and were ready to get moving.

Now you are ready to travel the Erie Canal. If you’re like us, this is how your fist day down the canal might go:


  • You will be told by your spouse that we’re leaving right now and have only 3 hours of daylight to make it to your next destination 18 miles away.

  • A few miles down the river your chartplotter will tell you that you must have evolved and grown legs because you’re now traveling on land. Your back up charts will tell you the same thing and have you panicking and scouring the internet looking for any kind of charts possible, trying to verify that you are actually on the Erie Canal.

  • You forget that all the wires have been unattached from the mast and ask why the radar isn’t working.

  • You’ll remember that a few years ago another boat scraped up against a nice big rock in the canal and start treating everything in the water suspiciously, even seaweed.

  • Every bridge you come up to you’ll ask, ‘Are you sure we’ll clear that?’. You will be able to. Then you’ll see a bridge ahead that you’re 90% sure you can’t clear. Don’t worry, you also didn’t see that the river bends and you don’t actually have to go under it. Good thing, because there is 100% certainty that you would not have cleared.

  • Of the 150 ducks you see along the way you notice they all appear to be female and wonder if like in Jurrasic Park, life found a way.

  • While the rain beads up on the vinyl windows of your dodger you’ll wish for just a moment that you had a Hallsberg Rassy with a hard dodger and wiper blades.

  • You’ll look at your trip meter and see that you’ve only gone 10 miles in 2 hours and worry how you’ll navigate in the dark. Watch for shadows to grow closer and quickly steer away? Have your spouse stand at the bow with a flashlight? You hope it doesn’t come to either of these.

  • The sun pokes out of the clouds and you start to enjoy yourself a little and appriciate the beautiful scenery around you. You might even dance a little to the classic rock playing through the speakers.

  • The sun sets and you grab the spotlight out. Damn, you didn’t want it to come to this.

  • While there’s just a little bit of light left in the sky you see the lights of a town. Phew, you made it before it got dark. What you didn’t see though is the wall of a lock a quarter mile ahead of you while you’re coming in hot at 6 knots and you need to stop asap. And guess what?, boats don’t have breaks.

  • You throw it in neautral and then reverse and hand the wheel over to your spouse while you run to change fenders from port to starboard.  Remember, there is now a mast and 800 feet of lines in your way.  While getting the fenders to the proper side you don’t tie a proper clove hitch and one of your fenders ends up in the water. There is much yelling and swearing from both you and your spouse, but eventually you are tied up and the fender has been fished out with a boat hook.

  • Looking around the lock you notice that you are litterally fenced into the lock area but want to explore town. You climb under one gate and up the steep steps that have no railing and then hop the fence at the top and are now on Main St. It’s 8:45 and all of the shops are closed.

  • Searching maps on your iPhone you find there is a 7-11 just up the block and grab a slurpee since you haven’t had one in 10 years. Then you go back to the boat like you never left and end your night with a few episodes of Modern Family.

  • You will have survied your day.

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