The wild parties began after Lisa, Reg and Elizabeth-Anne left. Aidan and I had new crew, our friends Stew and Alistair. The Erie canal was still not opened at Baldwinsville but we decided to motor across Lake Oneida 20 miles with The Dollar Boat. Alistair kept skipper Fred company on the old fish tug as we crossed the Lake in a convoy, also with our Ottawa friends on Wind Sprite. Thinking about crossing an open lake with a 55' mast perched overtop of your head, watching it sway back and forth with each wave and hoping the "engineered" scrap wood doesn't snap can keep you up at night. We had heard rumours that the bottom of Oneida Lake is littered with masts which have broken free off the top of sailboats. We left before the wind picked up in the morning to avoid adding to those stories and arrived in Brewerton on the west side of Lake Oneida without incident.
After fueling up and taking showers (first in 5 days or thereabouts) at Winter Harbour we received a farewell call from Georgia-E. They were ahead of us and passing through the Oswego Locks and suggested we proceed to Phoenix and wait there for the Erie canal to open. We took their advice and pulled into Phoenix which is a small, quiet town with a free dock and nice shady park located beside Lock 1 of the Oswego Canal. The town had just completed a parade to the Legion grounds where they had a fair complete with rides and beer tent. We spent the next day in Phoenix waiting for the Erie Canal to open. We received a tip that the canal might open on Wednesday so we took a chance on Wednesday morning and motored from Phoenix to Baldwinsville. The GPS showed it was only 4 miles away as the crow flies but the river route was at least 12 miles. We arrived at noon and spoke directly to the lockmaster. He was not very optimistic that the canal would open in the next few days so we decided to turn around back to Phoenix, up the Oswego Canal and return home via Lake Ontario and the Welland Canal. We said our farewells to The Dollar Boat and arrived in Oswego at the city marina by 6pm. The only condition which Stew had when he joined us was that we must be near a TV to watch the Bruins and Canucks on game nights. Oswego had a good sports bar called the Press Box located beside the marina where we watched the Bruins lose with seconds remaining in the 3rd period.
The wind was blowing 25 knots when we arrived and continued the next day so we had to wait to step the mast. Finally on Friday morning, the wind died down enough for the mast to be stepped and we spent the rest of the day tuning the rigging, installing sails, changing Mr. Perkins' engine oil and provisioned the boat for crossing Lake Ontario.
Our trip to Rochester was light air and flat water. We left at 6 am and arrived at 2pm and filled up with diesel upon arrival. The Rochester Yacht Club is a large active sailing club. It was good to see all the junior sailing dinghies and dry sailing boats. RYC was hosting the Sonar nationals on the weekend. Sailors had travelled from across the states to compete on 15 Sonars which were supplied by the local Sonar dealer.
After another Boston loss, we left Rochester for Welland. The 75-mile crossing was flatter and calmer than the previous day so we motored all the way and arrived at Port Weller at 6:30 pm. After clearing through Customs, we used the phone at the Welland Canal pleasure craft dock to report into the Canal Controller to request transit through the canal. Unlike the Erie canal, the Welland is set up for large commercial freighters. Being a small pleasure craft, we knew we would have to wait until it was convenient to fit us in. We were told it would be at least 3 hours, so we decided to have a steak BBQ and enjoyed a celebration meal for crossing Lake Ontario.
Finally at 1:30 am, we received the clearance to proceed and started to Lock 1. Stew had helped me bring our 29' sailboat home through the canal about 10 years ago but I had forgotten just how impressive and massive these locks are compared to Erie and the ICW. The locks carry 800' freighters and each lift is about 50'. In the Welland locks, we enter the canal chambers by ourselves and then we proceed to scan the walls looking for two 3/8" nylon lines which the lock master drops down to us. With two of us pulling the lines on the bow and stern and two others pushing off the walls with boat hooks we worked to fend the boat off the lock walls. Often the current swings the boat fore and aft or pushes hard against the wall. I was very glad to have four strong able crew on board. At one time, it took all the strength of all four of us to keep the boat off the rough walls in lock 7. However, we did survive, (sorry no drama), and arrived in Port Colborne at 8:30am. Seven hours through the canal is about as good as it gets for a small vessel.
After breakie (breakfast in Messenger language) at a local restaurant, Lisa arrived and Stew and Alistair jumped ship. Our trip home to Port Dover was a motor run on a very flat Lake Erie. We arrived to see the Port Dover boats heading out to Monday night racing and greeted by friends we hadn't seen for a year. Mom and Dad greeted us at the pier with Elizabeth-Anne and Reg. Then, while waiting for the lift bridge, Art and Lynda from Airfare waved and honked their welcomes.
Our year's odyssey came abruptly to an end as we slipped into our dock at the Port Dover Yacht Club and tied up our mooring lines. Finally, home again in Ontario.