Voyage of PAX
This is a Blog about helping Doug Thomas take his 46' Uniflite, "PAX", Through the Welland, Oswego, and Erie Canals to Kingston, New York, on the Hudson River.

Dick, Linda, Canadians Lizzy and Brian, Doug, and Mary Jane celebrate the transit of the Welland Canal with dinner on board PAX
Pax Sept 16 - Welland Canal - Port Colborne to St Catherine's

With the Canadian Brian on board, we departed the marina docks at 0710. The routine on the Welland is to tie up at the downtown Municipal Boat Docks and call “Seaway Welland” to request passage (the Welland Canal is part of the St Lawrence Seaway). They told us we would be travelling with two other recreational vessels (already tied up and waiting), and would start our transit in an hour and a half.

The other vessels were “Sea Turtle,” a trawler in the 40’ range, and “Ziggy,” an 85’ powerboat. “Sea Turtle’s home port was in North Carolina, and the crew was headed to Kingston on the Hudson River. Ziggy’s crew brought her over from Cleveland last night, and will meet the owners in Boston, via St Lawrence Seaway. The owners planned a two week vacation in Boston, before the crew takes her down to her winter home in Key Largo.

The Welland will lower us about 325’ from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. This allows us to bypass Niagara Falls, which is challenging in a barrel and hazardous to your gelcoat (and everything else) in a 46’ power vessel. The “Downbound” route (going from Lake Erie at 569’ above sea level, to Lake Ontario, at about 243’ above sea level) is the “easiest”, because as the lower the water in the locks, there is very little turbulence, and it is fairly easy for the crew to keep the boat away from scraping the lock wall. “Upbound” vessels find a lot of turbulence as the large locks fill with water, and it can be hard to control your vessel.

Time of transit depends on traffic, but they tell you to expect a time of between 8-12 hours. On our trip, the stars were aligned, and with the expert guidance of Canadian Brian, we looked like we knew what we were doing! We made it through in a little over six hours – probably close to a record.

The routine at each lock was simple. We were in contact with Seaway Welland by radio. They told us when to move and when to stop. As we entered each lock, the Welland crew hands us two lines, bow and stern, for control. As the water level lowers, we pay out the line, keeping the vessel close to the lock wall. Then, we had two crew members with boat hooks, keeping PAX away from the wall. When we reached the bottom of the lock, we cast off the lines, and proceeded forward.

When we left the Welland and proceeded to Lake Ontario, a significant part of the voyage was over. We stopped at St Catherine’s Marina, and invited Canadian Brian and his girlfriend Liz to dine with us. Doug stoked up the grill for pork chops. American Brian had a vegetarian meal of lentil soup and rice medley, cooked via microwave. Oh -- and we all had some natural grain beverages!

Pax Sept 16 - Welland Canal - Port Colborne to St Catherine's
Red sky at morning...
Lake growth mentioned by Dr Jeffery Reuter at the ASPS dinner meeting, in his talk on Lake Erie water quality. This is a major problem on the east end of the lake
"My Condo," PAX's sistership...a 1983 Uniflite 46'
Leaving Port Colborne marina
Old ships are scrapped at a yard in Port Colborne. Here, just the bow of a freighter remains
Port Colborne is a working port.  Here, "Baie Comrau" (Montreal) unloads what looks like sand or gravel
Approaching the municipal docks (left), where you call in to request transit of the Welland Canal. Entrance to canal is through lift bridge (right)
"Sea Turtle", one of two recreational boats lockig through with us. The other, "Ziggy," is in the background
Brian, Linda, and Dick along the waterfront, with Pax in the background
Port Colborne has many shops along the waterfront
85' Ziggy, one of the other boats locking through with us. Her crew brought her over from Cleveland last night, and will meet the owners in Boston, via St Lawrence Seaway.
After lock 6, we were told to tie up to the starboard wall, while a freighter passes "upbound". Note how close the freighter, Algomar Transport" is to the port wall.
Exiting a lock on the Welland. The water level was near the top of the wall when we entered. Most locks were 30-40 feet
Entering the next lock. "Ziggy" in the lead, "Sea Turtle" next, with "PAX" bringing up the rear
Dick, dressed as a "deck hand." His job is to use the boat hook, and keep us off the wall

"Going Down!" Canal workers place an eye loop of a yellow polypropylene lines around the yellow bollards along the wall. Vessel crew holds the lines to keep the boats under control, paying out line as we descend. You can see the top of the lock gate ahead - there is a yellow walkway along the top for canal workers.
And on to the next lock. This was a "flight" of three locks in a row - we will be tying up to the port wall in a couple hundred yards. The gates are the dark black structures folded back against the wall as we exit.
We swing wide to make room for upbound container vessel, "Floragracht," out of Amsterdam
Note the lifeboat to the left of the stack. When released, it slides into the water. This is similar to the lifeboat from the movie, "Captain Phillips"
Crew up forward. Brian (Canadian) in dark shirt was a big help, as he had transited the Welland (upbound) last year in his Uniflite.
Deck hands Brian and Dick
White lighthouse on left marks the end of the Welland and the beginning of Lake Ontario. Ziggy pulling away, but he was stopped a few minutes later by Canadian Customs boat