Just A Little More Wind

Written by Kayaker Chip on . Posted in The Erie Canal 5 Comments

Chip MacAlpine, Erie Canal, Kayaking, Sally Supernova, Wilderness Systems, Oneida Lake

Yesterday evening I made it to Lock 23, it was the first of a three “uphill” locks on my eastward journey. It was quite a different experience. I had seen lock operators fill a chamber while standing topside, valves wide open, and it was a slightly scary prospect. Luckily when there is a vessel in the chamber they take it a little slower. Still, there was much more push and pull on Sally. I shot some video but since the GoPro app still isn’t working properly I can’t share.

I stayed overnight at the lock. It was out of the way from any populated place and had a great park like setting, trees, picnic tables and grills. As I was passing through the lock I asked permission and inquired about a dock so that I could get out. The lock master said since him and I were such good friends (we had only met ten minutes earlier) that I could setup camp, although normally the property was day use only. He said there wasn’t a workman platform but there was a dock on the other side that should do, otherwise he would operate the lock one more time that evening and help me over the concrete approach wall. The nice dock was more of a boardwalk and while lower than the concrete wall it was still over my head. I was able to paddle around the backside of it though and make the short walk through the brush to the grass behind the dock. I ended up walking through some seed pod plant thing, they were most likely the inspiration behind Velcro…I was covered with hundreds of them. They seem to especially like neoprene.

There was a sailboat moored for the night and two of the crew members had watched me lock through. As I was setting up camp we started talking about our trips. The captain of the sailboat was napping at the moment and they explained that they were from Toronto and were on their way to Chesapeake Bay. The captain would go on alone to The Florida Keys, Virgin Islands, Panama, passing through the canal, on to the Galapagos Islands and then 3000 miles out into the Pacific. WOW! We exchanged a few more stories and they invited me for dinner. Ratatouille with fish was on the menu. I guess the burrito bowl I had planed would wait another day. It was a great evening with some excellent company and conversation. I needed it after paddling past all the McMansions and feeling like there wasn’t any community left in the world.

In the morning the skies were clear and the water like glass. My Canadian friends were off early while I made breakfast and still had some packing to do. After a short bit on the water the winds picked up again. Glancing at the compass on Sally we were heading due east, so headwind again. Not fun but much better than a cross wind when I hit the lake in a few miles, or so I thought. Just as the canal dumps into Oneida Lake there is am overpass for interstate eighty-one. From my perspective, looking through the “window” formed by the bridge, I might as well have been kayaking over the edge of the world. There was no definition between the sky and the lake. The wind had shifted to come from my right. The twenty-one mile crossing was looking a little daunting. After what seemed like forever of being tossed, turned and pushed in every direction I ducked into a sheltered area to check my options. Looking at the map, although features of the shoreline I had followed seemed much farther than int actually was. Checking the weather, the wind was only at 3mph, almost nothing, but the large shallow lake was certainly churning. The wind would be steady for the rest day and increase to over 7mph tomorrow. Maybe the crossing was too much? Maybe I should call for an extraction and relocation to the other side and just continue with the canal portion. After all the lake really wasn’t part of the original Erie Canal path, it was only relocated there after the last enlargement at the turn of the century. Ugh, what to do? There is a little restaurant where I stopped so before doing anything too rash, maybe some lunch? After a nice meal and some chatting with the staff I wandered back down to the water. It didn’t seem as rough. It would be slower progress but these foot high waves from the side were better than what chased me off the water earlier. At times I wasn’t sure lunch was going to stay inside, but I pressed on. By mid afternoon the lake had flattened almost completely out, even the wake for motor boat traffic didn’t seem to propagate very far. I went from intently hugging the shore to cutting across the numerous bays that dotted the northern portion of the lake, trying to make it at least half way before making camp for the evening. Of course I didn’t have a plan where that would be and there was still a lot of “Private, No Trespassing” signs. The afternoon turned to evening and the sunlight behind me was getting good. What’s that? A beach and lifeguard chairs? And a giant kids play structure? A few pavilions and dozens of lovely trees wearing their fall colors? Finally, a public space! It wasn’t marked, although I’m certain that no camping was allowed. I’ll take my chances.