Our end of the Erie Canal, Lake Oneida, Oswego Canal and fellow boaters

One of our goals of this trip was to meet new interesting people and have meaningful conversations. Dean has taken this challenge fully to heart, and introduces himself to everyone as we travel. And we’ve met some fascinating people along the way and heard many an interesting story. And kindness, lots of kind, curious, and generous people.

We’ve been blessed to travel with several boats that we’ve made friendships with. Some are fellow Loopers, and some are travelers with different itineraries but going through the canal at a similar pace. We often spot each other in different places as we decide where to dock for the evening – some people prefer marinas with towns and restaurants nearby, and others tend, like us, to find the quieter docks away from the hustle and bustle. As they say, “ you do you,” meaning do the boat trip that you want. Today, we travelled in a group of three boats together across Lake Ontario for ~ 40 miles, ready to support each other if the need arose.

Hesperus leading the way out of the Ottowa Canal; with us is also Sonya and Duane aboard Trinity
Our new good friend, Steve

One new friend is Steve on the boat, Hesperus. He’s not doing the Great Loop, but is soloing (meaning he’s traveling alone) from Virginia up to the Thousand Islands (New York side). We met him at the start of the Erie Canal in Waterford NY, when he introduced himself on the dock. We bonded immediately, not only because he’s a very like able and interesting guy, but because he’s a “fellow Monker,” an owner of Monk 36’ boat similar to ours. He’s the kind of guy who just hugs after the first hello. We’ve enjoyed many conversations, cocktail hours, and shared info on boats, motors, cruising and more. Like Dean, he runs a neat and efficient and well maintained boat – they have much in common – and we see some upgrades to our boat that may be in the future from seeing his newer model. As we have ascended and descended the 29 locks to date, we’ve marveled at Steve’s ability to single hand the locks and more.

The evening boat talk

It’s a wide mix of boaters we’ve traveled with. De-masted sailboats (mast taken down and laid along the boat to clear the bridges), large and small motorboats, several Monks like ours, men single-handling (reportedly women as well but we haven’t met yet), older couples, and several families. From all parts f the US (including Alaska!) and were hear about others from Australia as well. Boat experience has varied greatly from those who “just bought the boat and off we go” to those who boated on small lakes to those who’ve sailed or boated for decades. It is wonderful to see the sense of adventure in us all! Dean loves walking the dock, chatting with fellow boaters about everything boat related – this is his social scene.

About 160 miles into the Erie Canal is the junction called “Three Rivers,” from which the Oswego Canal branches off in a northward route. Three Rivers Point was a meeting place historically for the Indians, then for the military during the Revolutionary, French, and Indian Wars because it was so easily identified as the junction of the Oneida and Seneca Rivers that form the Oswego River. Because we are heading towards Montreal and not the Great Lakes this year, we said goodbye for now to the Erie Canal, and started our way north up the relatively short Oswego Canal.

Three Rivers Point

The Oswego Canal was dug and built just after the completion and opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and was open for traffic in 1828. The Oswego Canal runs from the Lake Oneida NY northward to the city of Oswego, NY on Lake Ontario, about 25 miles. There are 7 locks, interestingly numbered 1-3, 5-7 with no lock number 4. These are all descending locks, meaning that we step down in elevations at each one from a high of 363’ above sea level, at lock #1, to 245’ at the entrance of Lake Ontario. Descending a lock was different, and somehow seemed easier as water exited the chambers and we lower down. I still find locks fascinating after 29 of them!

Check out the size of Lake Ontario!
Fresh water – Oneida Lake

We had a calm and easy crossing of Oneida Lake (part of the canal system), with less humidity and a light breeze – such a welcome after several weeks of 90s with high humidity. We hoped for a swim to further cool down (and rinse off all our sweat-grime) but the water was tinted green several feet down with some kind of questionable algae….

Can you see the green algae?

We opted to spend the one night midway through the Oswego Canal locks as we were waiting for a calm weather window to cross Lake Ontario (at the end of the Oswego Canal), and the “good weather day” was still several days away. We were on a free dock just below the lock, which turned out to be a busy place with small boats day-tripping between the two lakes and lots of families enjoying the park and fishing. The next morning, a fog was on the water as we waited for our friend Steve to come through the lock for the 7 am opening, and the waiting was lovely.

Loved seeing so many families enjoying the parks and fishing
Foggy spiderwebs

We continued through the locks, descending, then stayed between the last two locks in the city of Oswego, on a free town dock with 5 other boats. Many other fellow travelers went through the final lock to the marina, their preferred stepping off point early to cross Lake Ontario when the weather was “just right,” meaning calm. Because the lake is so large, the seas can really build and the passage can be really rough. Not fun in a rolling trawler!

Oswego is a beautiful city and I was able to explore by foot for a long walk on both sides of the river. First found one of my favorite places, a bookstore! River’s End Bookstore was a delight, well-stocked, and seemed to have fun events all summer. I could have browsed for hours…

The final lock on the Oswego Canal in Oswego
Lake Ontario awaits!
Love the marked walking trails that are accessible for all – movement matters!
A walking bridge over the canal

Our dock just below the lock paralleled the river dam, and had a connecting spillway.

Seagull feasting while balancing on the spillway between the canal water and the fast moving dam water

Thanks for sharing our adventures with us! If you are curious where we are in real time, clink on this tracking link and you’ll see our latest GPS track.

We’ve been told (thanks, Al) that Oswego was rated by National Geo as one of the best places for sunsets in the world
and the red sky at night is a good boater omen
Matthew 16:2

For awhile, we are done with canals and locks. Open water on the large Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are next steps as head closer to Canada, specifically Montreal and Sorel. We look forward to exploring the 1000 Islands, castles, quiet anchorages, and new towns. And more wonderful people.

By the grace of God we go,

~ Karen and Dean

Locking through the Oswego Canal!
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  1. Such enjoyable reading! I feel like I’m there with you! Continue to enjoy your adventure. 😘


  2. What great pictures! Looks like you are having a lovely time. Trust it is everything you were hoping for! Miss you around here, though!


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