The Great Loopers Chapter 11. The Other Side

I want something real. I want to experience life and come out the other side. I want to put my heart out into the world and see what happens, come what may. I won’t let fear keep me from being happy. Tell me I’m wrong about this and I will tell you you’re wrong.

From the log book on August 5th 2017 Written by the XO:
7:40 AM Left Lockview Marina in Lake Cayuga (Kewga)
10:20 Worlds fastest pumpout in Clyde, NY.
12:00 Tied up at the free wall in LYONS (free electric / water / Wifi!) at the sound of the noon whistle.

The free wall at Lyons. Later, we pulled up under the bridge to get out of the blazing hot sun.

From the log book on August 6th. Written by the XO.
Sometime before 9:00 left Lyons wall (getting sloppy with the log).
12:48 Pulled in (awkwardly because of bad directions from the marina) to the Mid-Lakes Marina Macedon, NY.

The state of New York was our host for a whopping 32 days. 18 days on the Erie Canal. There’s a song in there somewhere. If I could only find a word that rhymes with canal.

Erie Canal party boat.
This is Mike. We met him on the wall at Baldwinsville. The next day he brought us a box full of interesting foods. I still talk to him. He’s looking for a boat to do the loop.
The wall at Ilion.
The wall in Rome, NY. We had pizza delivered!
A lift bridge. The bridge attendant stops traffic and raises the bridge; after we pass under it, he lowers it, then drives to the next one to meet us and repeats the process. The same person can operate 3 lift bridges!
The wall at Spencerport.
Mead tasting in Medina.
The wall at Tonowanda.
Loud “go- fast” boats terrorizing the neighborhood in Tonowanda NY.

From the log book on August 7th 2017 written by the XO.
Around 10:30 to the fuel dock.
Around 10:50 Away from Macedon.
11:20 Fuel off to port engine. Cruising to Fairport, NY on starboard engine. (Oops)
12:20 Docked at the DPW pumpout to bleed and restart Pollux.
12:35 Rick apologizes to Pollux and all is well.
1:00 First lift bridge in Fairport.
5:10 PM On the wall in Spencerport.

How I managed to shut off the fuel tanks is beyond me. Thirty minutes after fueling up, the port engine –who we named Pollux–petered out. I knew what it was right away and a quick check under the aft-deck hatch confirmed it.
Ginger Lee still has its original port and starboard 66 gallon cylindrical tanks. They are not connected to each other like the modern new fangled ones, so to balance the load, we must periodically switch from one to the other. This is accomplished by opening the aft-deck hatch, reaching in, and manually shutting off the petcock of the tank we don’t want to empty. It sounds like a pain in the ass, but it’s not so bad, and it doesn’t need to done that often. The trick is to make sure at least one tank is on. If not, the engine closest to the tank will starve itself first. In this case, the port engine. When that happens, as any diesel owner knows, you gotta purge all the air from the lines by a process known as bleeding.
On our Lehman 120’s, there are bleeding screws that you open and hand operate a lever on the fuel lift pump which is specifically designed for this purpose. Open the screw, pump the lever until all the air bubbles out, and fresh diesel spurts out making a smelly mess. Rinse and repeat. If you have diesels, you should learn how to do this yourself.
It happened once before many years ago when we first bought the boat. We were taking it home to Wareham from Wickford, Rhode Island. The port engine died, I tried several times to restart before checking the petcocks. Yup, they were both off. Oh duh. After turning on the fuel, the dead engine miraculously restarted and stayed running. I am told that never happens without bleeding. It’s a good thing too, because at the time I had no idea how to bleed them. That’s when we decided to name our engines Castor and Pollux, after the mythical twins who have the ability to temporarily transfer a portion of life from one to another, in order to save themselves.

Bocce in Illion. She won.

I fell in love with the Erie Canal. Much of its charm is in its age. It’s palpable. I could feel it all around. We cruised a waterway over a hundred years old. It’s still doing the thing it was dug out for, and doing it very well. Life is slow and easy. There’s no tricky currents or tides to contend with. No speeding wake-boats to jostle the nerves. No slips to wriggle in and out of, just nice, welcoming walls to sidle up to. They even make the locking process easy. Friendly Lockmasters will call ahead to the next lock and tell them you’re coming, so when you arrive, it’s all open doors and green lights.
But Ol’ Erie is not for everybody, there’s a fixed railroad bridge with a vertical clearance listed at 15 feet, 7 inches. No problem for Ginger Lee. She is 15 and a half with her hat on.
We entered the Big Ditch in Waterford as apprehensive and anxious novices. We left it in Tonowanda as happy, knowledgeable mariners, no longer in fear the big bad locks. Not after 40 of them. For me, it was the perfect introduction to The Great Loop. It’s all downhill from there. Literally. From then on, all the locks will begin to lower you back down to sea level.

Entering Lock 17 where we will be lifted up over 40 feet.


I felt like I did something very special, and learned things about myself, as a boater and as a person. The Erie Canal: a metaphor of life. You encounter walls. Some are free, some are quite costly, but they all have something to show you, and teach you. You’ll learn something from them. I guarantee it.
Look at the water: it has direction, an ebb and a flow. Sometimes it lifts you up, and sometimes lets you down. It’s a waltz that directs you if you let it.
Sometimes life gets stressful, we fall out of synch, like there’s a disturbance in the force. Do you have the depth to cruise through real life struggles, and come out the other side?

Buffalo and Lake Erie, our next challenge.

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