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.
Sept 21 - Sylvan Beach to Ilion
Sept 21 – Sylvan Beach to Ilion
We left Sylvan Beach early, with fog still on the water. Fortunately, visibility was good as we were close to shore. This will be a fairly long day, with about 45 miles and four locks. We will be going “up” for two locks (total of 50’), when we reach the maximum elevation on this section of the canal, 420 feet above sea level. From here, we will be going “down” all the way to the Hudson River. We were followed by “Lady Barbara”, a 70-80’ Lazara yacht. Just after leaving the marina, we came upon a canal dredging operation. The dredge moved out of our way, but we were forced to make several close quarter turns to stay in the dredged area. “Lady Barbara” was so long it looked like she was sitting crosswise in the canal.
This section of the canal is a straight cut, parallel to the Mohawk River, which is smaller and winding. It’s also fairly undeveloped. There weren’t many homes along this stretch, but we weren’t sure why.
We arrive at Ilion (Note – spelled ILION) after about 5 - 6 hours. Ilion Marina has shore power and showers and restrooms. Ilion has been home to the Remington Arms company for almost 200 years. If we have time, we want to walk into town and see the Remington museum, located next to the factory.
At the Ilion Marina, we saw a 24’ powerboat from CIC. At first, Dick thought that there weren’t any boats at CIC that small, unless it was a dinghy. But it turns out Dick and Linda knew the owners, Dave and Mary, previous sailors and trawler owners. They now have a boat they can trailer. They trailered to Tonawanda, the western end of the Erie Canal, and followed the canal as far as Ilion. Yesterday they rented a car to go back and pick up their own car and trailer, and today they will pull their boat at the marina boat ramp and drive eight hours to get home. There is a lot to be said for trailer boating!
After tying up, we walked into town to the Aldi grocery store for more provisions, about half a mile. Aldi allowed us to take our groceries back to the boat in a cart, which was very nice!
Of course, that meant we had to walk back to the store to return the cart. From there, we explored town. We stopped at the Ilion Chapter of the American Legion, and spoke to several members who were employed at the Remington factory. They recommended that we visit the museum the next day, if we got the chance.
When we returned to the boat another vessel had arrived and tied up to shore. This was "Solar Sal", 39' solar powered demonstration vessel. It was picking up a load of recycled paper in Buffalo, to deliver to a paper mill on the Hudson River
Named after the famous mule that worked the canal nearly 200 years ago ("I got me a mule and her name is Sal..."), the purpose of the Solar Sal Project is to demonstrate practical solar electric transportation. Solar Sal, a 39’ vessel, can be multi-purpose, carrying 12 tons of cargo, three dozen tourists, or be a quiet efficient cabin cruiser. Solar cars, trains and planes are not practical, but solar boats can be. Solar Sal is also quiet, non-smelly, and carbon free, her tank is always full and it is always free. Solar Sal uses two 4-HP Torquedo electric outboards – similar to the propulsion chosen by Tartan Marine for their all electric day sailor from a few years ago.
Schodack Central School (K-12) built the Solar Sal Project. More on Solar Sal at
"Lady Barbara" negotiating narrow path around dredge. Channel is so narrow that "Lady Barbara" is cross-wise in the canal
Checking for bridge clearance...about 3' to spare. On the right - the underside of the bridge
Rare "upbound" vessel
Typical scenery along this stretch of the Erie
Skipper approaching the bridge...Will she, or won't she (we cleared them all, the closest was about a foot and a half
This section of the canal is a straight ditch, not a natural river. You can see the old towpath on the side.
Sailboat heading upbound. Sailboats unstep their mast for the canal, to clear the bridges and lift gates. In 2006, we brought "Island Girl" through the Erie with the mast down, too.
Approaching Lock #21, past Sylvan Beach. This one has ropes that we grab to hold the boat next to the lock walls. Lock #21 has a rise of 25'. This is the last lock taking us"up" in elevation. We will be at 423' above sea level, then start down, reaching sea level after 21 locks
Buoy G 663. You keep track of your postion using numbered buoys and daymarks (shown here) along the canal. Green is to starboard, since we are heading to sea.
At the top of the lock. Lady Barbara, with higher cruising speed, passing us after we exit
A lock from the "old" Erie Canal is used as a dry dock. Looks like it is filled with green slime.
Guard gates are used for flood control and can be lowered if water flow becomes high
Some tree limbs and other debris on the canal
Low Head Dam at a spillway along the canal (under pedestrian bridge). White buoys warn of danger
Working tugboat and barge along the canal. Blue and Gold are the colors of vessels from the New York Canal Coproration
The highest point on the Erie Canal is at Rome, 420' above sea level. From here, all the east-bound vessels will descend.
Going eastward, we are entering our first "down" lock on the Erie Canal, Lock #20.
Construction on the original Erie Canal began at Rome in July, 1817, and was finished in 1825. The canal was heavily promoted by New York's governor, De Witt Clinton. During construction, he was subject to much criticism and derision. Once it opened, everyone jumped on the bandwagon. The Erie Canal was so successful that a small town in Ohio, hoping to be the site of a canal, named itself "Port Clinton" in his honor.
The next town is Utica. Utica Public Marina - free dockage for boats travelling the canal. Power and restaurant at dock. Shops and restaurants within walking distance.
We tie up for the night at Ilion Municipal Marina
The Remington factory in Ilion. This was near the site of the original forge in 1817.
We stop at Aldi to provision. Aldi's lets us use their cart to deliver groceries to the dock. We return the cart and head into town to explore
Dick and Doug find the American Legion Hall. We go inside and meet several new friends, who fill us in on he town. This building was originally a training center for Remington, and is across the street from the factory.
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A boat from CIC. Dave and Mary trailered to Buffalo, ran the canal for a week or so, then brought their trailer to Ilion to haul out their vessel, and tow back to Catawba.
"Solar Sal" at Ilion Marina. Solar panels on the roof charge batteries, which power two 4-HP electric motors. The vessel is a project from one of the High Schools in the area.