Erie Canal boat equipped with a radio for communicating. (Dr. Alex Warner photo)

Cruisin’ the Erie Canal

Cruising  the Erie Canal on a canal boat equipped with a radio for communicating with both the lockmasters and bridge tenders

Have you ever found something that caught your eye and made you curious enough to further explore the possibilities that could arise? Such a thing happened to me about four years ago while glancing through the AAA magazine that arrived in the mail. Included in a story about different types of water adventures was a one-page article with pictures about cruising  the Erie Canal on a canal boat. Always looking for something a little off the wall, I cut out the  page and filed it away in a drawer of a marble top dresser, never thinking that I would ever  remember where I put it! 

Last September my wife Kathy and I were headed to the Miami-Army football game in West Point when we stopped for the night in Spencerport, NY to visit her cousin and husband. While there we walked down by the Canal, which passes through the middle of Spencerport, and saw one of the canal boats which had been featured in the article three years earlier.  Being the inquisitive guy that I am, and seeing two couples in the boat eating a spaghetti dinner if I remember correctly (or was it lasagna?), I basically invited Kathy, Edie, and myself aboard. Great people, the two couples graciously showed us around, explained the boat itself, and in general gave a glowing report of their cruise.  

On the way to Hanover, NH the next day I contacted the Erie Canal Adventure marina in Macedon, NY and reserved a boat for this September, a 42’ Lockmaster, accommodating four  people. Studying the layout of the boat, I found that it included two small staterooms, two  baths with a shared shower, a full galley, air conditioning, and a forward seating area holding  up to six with a table, all the necessities you needed for a three-night journey! 

Next in the planning for the trip was finding another couple willing to embark on the “high  seas” with us and we found a couple of adventurers gullible enough to want to put up with the Warners in close quarters, our good friends Randy and Debbie Reed. Arrangements were  quickly made and so a week or so ago we stopped in Hudson, OH south of Cleveland and  continued on to Macedon, just southeast of Rochester, NY, about an eight-hour drive  altogether. Upon arriving we boarded our boat, the “Canandaigua”, (try spelling that without looking it up!), shown an hour’s video, and ventured out on the Canal itself with an instructor for some maneuvering drills and taken through one of the many locks on the Canal in hopes we could at least look like we knew what we were doing (just to let you know I’ve never handled  any boat bigger than a 20’ pontoon boat). 

Evidently we passed inspection because the next thing we knew we were off on the Canal for the first part of our four-day, three-night itinerary, traveling to the canal town of Pittsford.  Docking for the first time was an adventure in itself, much to the amusement of the locals gathered along the walkways, restaurants, and shops of Pittsford. The first overnight stay aboard took a little getting used to (the mattress in our room was about 2/3 the size of a regular mattress) but overall wasn’t a bad experience. 

The next two days were great—cruising the canal at six mph (the maximum the boats will  go, watching hikers and bikers on the adjacent canal walking path pass us by!), seeing the first  color changes of the trees, waving to the friendly folks ashore and exploring the restaurants  and small towns along the way. There were also bicycles provided in case you wanted to go inland a little further in search of who knows what! The Canal itself (originally constructed from 1817 to 1825) is usually 50-60 yards wide in most places, about 12 feet deep, has no waves or current except in windy conditions, and offers continually changing scenery.


Two others item of note—the boat was equipped with a radio for communicating with both the lockmasters and bridge tenders. The lockmaster is the person in charge of the lock that raises or lowers the boat to different Canal levels, in most cases up to 25 feet. Navigating the  locks is an experience in itself as I managed to almost get crossways in one lock having been  blown astray by a strong breeze (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) while it is also  interesting going under bridges over the Canal that are raised and lowered by the bridge  tender. 

Our final day was a six-hour trip back to the marina for final checkout (honestly, I don’t know where that dent in the bow came from, just kidding!) and the end to a great and unique four days. If you are interested in knowing more about the Canal and the boating experience, contact the friendly staff and owner Brian Keenan at (585) 329-7746 or Google We would highly recommend looking into booking a boat; it was a great trip even for landlubbers!!

Erie Canal boat living quarters. (Dr. Alex Warner photos)
(Dr. Alex Warner photos)
(Dr. Alex Warner photos)
(Dr. Alex Warner photos)
(Dr. Alex Warner photos)
Dr. Alex Warner | Correspondent for Darke County Now

Dr. Alex Warner / Correspondent

Alex Warner is a retired Greenville chiropractor as well as a former educator and high school coach. He has over 30 years experience in broadcasting high school sports on both radio and public access television in addition to producing over 50 episodes of the local television series “Our Town”. A man of many interests, he is naturally curious with a “gift of gab”. He currently writes the weekly sports column “Shots in the Darke” and hosts “Talk of the Town” featuring people, places, and events that make Darke County the place we choose to reside.

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