Go west, trawler Clare, go west

After two days of cleaning, provisioning the boat, unpacking and storing, doing planned (installing rollout drawers, rewiring the DC buss and new battery charger), unplanned projects (new water filter, new faucet), and filling the tanks with water and fuel, by Friday 8/7/2020 we were ready to cast off and officially start our trip. I actually worked in the morning doing teletherapy from the shade in a nearby field so we didn’t set off until noontime. Short trip to go through Lock #23/Brewerton NY then spent the afternoon and night on the shaded lock wall. We had experienced this lock last year with friends (remember, Steve?) but thankfully it wasn’t quite as hot and humid as last year. We took a walk around the area to stretch our legs then back to the boat for dinner. Local families come to the lock park to BBQ and fish, and the night was very peaceful and silent when the locks closed at 9 pm.

Next morning 8/8/2020 we enjoyed our morning drinks “on the deck” and watched the fog lift and the herons fish opposite the fishermen. We headed off for ~20 mile trip at a slow pace to enjoy the travels. We are noting a significant difference in the boaters this year. We’ve seen very few “travelers” like us, but the canal and rivers are busy with small motorboats, jet skis, and LOTS of pontoon boats. We’ve only met one other “Looper” so far, and people seem reticent to visit on the docks like last year, when Dean was Mr. Social. COVID-19 concerns perhaps?

At 3 Rivers Junction, we officially entered the western portion of the Erie Canal and new territory for us. Last year we branched north here, up the Oswego canal and into Canada toward Montreal and eventually Lake Champlain. This year, we go west toward the Finger Lakes and Buffalo. We curved past small towns, summer cottages and year-round estates, marshes and marinas, fishermen and, again, many pontoon boats filled with families.

Mid afternoon we locked through Lock #24 in Baldwinsville and grabbed a spot on the town wall. Baldwinsville is a lovely little working town with beautiful town dock walls and a small park. Love the (not open due to COVID) Visitor Center and the little book library – such a treat for travelers to be able to exchange books! Walked the locks and a portion of the town, and watched the comings and goings of many small boats (pontoon boats and jet skis mostly) going back and forth through the lock, their wakes rocking us. The bridge over the dam and the lock wall is lined with families fishing. Grilled dinner, and chatted with a local boater to glean some must-see stops as we head west and a family of 4 aboard a 25’ demasted (mast down on the deck to clear the bridges) sailboat, on their third week of adventures. Spoiled ourselves with a quick rinse shower to cool off and de-stick before bed. Thankful for sunny and dry weather!

Unexpectedly quiet night on the dock- surprising after the noisy boat traffic and people of the day. Awoke to a clear sky and rising temperatures. There is a park and amphitheater across the lock channel, the “Bud Light Budweiser Amphitheater” which is typically alive with concerts and festivals, but, COVID…This Sunday morning a local church held a physically distanced, masked outdoor church service and it was lovely to hear the music. I walked over (with my mask) and stood well away but enjoyed the sermon, “Get out of the boat,” from Matthew 14 – a favorite passage and an applicable teaching.

I then took a long walk along the shaded neighborhoods and cemetery before returning to the boat. So much is within walking distance of the dock for boater’s access: quaint coffee shops, a bakery, restaurants, playgrounds, churches, and stores of all kinds. Dean had spent his morning time in the engine hold, working on a battery rewiring project. A happy place for him when it goes well and before the area gets heated up. And, great news, he succeeded in identifying the source of an oil leak that he was concerned about and resolved. Yahoo!

We headed further west, no locks today, and cruised the canal for about 20 miles, in and out of neighborhoods and farmland, and entered Cross Lake. Most transient boaters cross straight through Cross Lake (maybe hence the name?) but we opted to turn down into the southern bay and anchor for the night. Anchoring is our favorite when the situation and weather allows. The lake is still silty but so much cleaner than the canals so we were able to swim – so refreshing on a hot summer day! Swam, went kayaking, and Dean saw two eagles. Read, chatted with family, and watched the little boats wakeboarding and the swimmers off the pontoon boats until the sun slowly set over the horizon…and the bugs and bats emerged! Quiet, peaceful night.

More heat and humidity on Monday, 8/10, and thunderstorms looming so we pulled anchor (mud!) and headed off the lake, back onto the more protected canal toward Seneca Falls. Along the way, we saw few boats, but many birds, especially as we cruised through the beautiful 10,000 acres of the Montezuma Wildlife Preserve. At one point, we saw a siege (yes, that’s what a group of herons is called!) of 12 herons! They were just flying ahead of us, landing, then flying ahead again for about a mile. An incredible sight. The herons blend in so easily with the bleached downed trees on the edges of the canal and often look like a branch of the stripped tree. Clever!

AND, most amazing of all, we saw 7 eagles! Such majestic creatures.

Seneca Falls is located at the top of Seneca Lake off of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. The canal actually is two short canals joining the Erie Canal with Cayugu and Seneca Lakes, the largest of the Finger Lakes. From the 1830s until the 1870s, boats could continue to Keyuka Lake by way of the “Crooked Lake Canal” or to New York’s Southern Tier and northern Pennsylvania by way of the Chemung Canal. These waterways carried Pennsylvania coal and the fruits and gran of the Finger Lakes region to factories, homes, and tables across upstate NY.

The #s are the lock numbers- blue for Erie Canal
and black for the Cayuga-Seneca Canal.
We are close….

This canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, challenged us with it’s height restrictions with low bridges. We are ~ 15’ 6” tall (measured above the water) and just squeaked under the 16’ bridges – truly 🎶 low bridge, everybody down, low bridge, ‘cause we are coming to a town 🎶 . Dean rigged up this meter stick so we could make sure we’d make it under. Option B was to dismantle our bimini (upper deck covering) but it was nice to make it without having to do so. We cleared by an “easy” 6-8 inches. Phew!

Our last two locks of the day were a flight of two locks, lifting us 25’ each lock in a staircase fashion to raise us up to the level of Cayuga lake, ~ 300’ above sea level. We entered C&S L2 with 3 other smaller boats, then waited for the lock doors to shut behind us so they could fill the lock and raise us up the first 25’ but…the lock door jammed partially open due to a submerged log stuck between the lock sill and the bottom of the door. We were in the super hot chamber for ~ an hour or more while the mechanics tried to free the log. Finally, to great cheers and boat horns, success!

Clare is the closest boat

Super hot when we arrived at the Seneca Falls free town dock. It is a nice community dock with power/electricity, water, a pump-out and a welcome center with restrooms, showers, and laundry. Fun fact, about 12 years ago Dean’s parents and friends (Octo, Sarah, and Geordie) rented a houseboat here in Seneca Falls and traveled to Rochester NY along the canal, even visiting their college grandson, our son Ethan, at RIT on the way through!

It’s widely believed that Seneca Falls was the inspiration for the fictional town of Bedford Falls in the classic film It’s A Wonderful Life, and there’s even a museum dedicated to the movie and story here.

Statue immortalizing 1851 meeting of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony & Amelia Bloomer in Seneca Falls, New York

Seneca Falls is the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement- the obtaining the right to vote, own property and many more rights started in this small village when they held the first Women’s Rights Convention on in July 1848, a mere 170 years ago. They began laying the groundwork for what would lead to women’s suffrage in NY in 1917, three years before the nation followed. This is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

And who is Amelia Bloomer in the above photo? You know the others from American History. Amelia was an American women’s rights and temperance advocate. Even though she did not create the women’s clothing reform style known as bloomers, her name became associated with it because of her early and strong advocacy. In her work with The Lily, she became the first woman to own, operate and edit a newspaper for women. This is a picture of me with the sculpture of Amelia Bloomer, on the Ludovico Sculpture trail. As a novice physical therapist at Boston Children’s Hospital in the early 1980s, our dress code was bloomers! Thank you, Amelia!

The 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill is on the opposite side of the canal from our dock and is a beautiful limestone building, currently undergoing renovation into the newly expanded National Women’s Hall of Fame. It was built in 1844 and ran continuously for 155 years. Initially, it was almost strictly male employees until the tide changed when women began entering the workforce and eventually the mill employed mostly women to operate the knitting machines, sewing socks together, etc until it closed in 1999.

Hot, humid, but quiet night. Thankful for dry conditions but cooler temps would be ideal.

By the grace of God we go,

~ Karen and Dean

Categories: 2020, Cayuga-Seneca Canal, Erie Canal, New York, The Great Loop


  1. Great update and history lessons all wrapped up in one fabulous post.


  2. Safe travels my friends.
    Looking forward to to reading about your next adventures.


  3. Hi Karen,

    We are Harbor Hosts for Rochester and for Macedon, Fairport, Pittsford on the Erie Canal. My wife Anna and I invite you to a COVID appropriate dinner, if you’d like. As a bonus, we can take a short cruise on nearby Lake Ontario on our Loop intended Rosborough 246. If nothing else, coffee or ice cream in Fairport. At your service.


  4. So glad you’re back on the water again! Thanks for your lovely updates and beautiful photos. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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