Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Alternate route via the Champlain Canal and St. Lawrence River

LiveBlogger Al McGillivray reports that the Erie Canal is closed at Lock E13 for two to three weeks for repair. This means that no vessels will be able to reach the Hudson River during this period via the Canal.
The alternate route is the Champlain Canal. This involves heading to Sorel Québec, which is 39 miles east of Montreal, where they can unstep their masts. Mast should only be restepped once south of the federal lock at Albany. 
The Richelieu/Chambly route runs north and south between the northern end of Lake Champlain at Rouses Point, NY and the St. Lawrence River at Sorel, Canada. Sorel is located approximately 39 NM downstream from Montreal, 200 NM downstream from Tibbetts Point near Cape Vincent at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, or 240 NM from Oswego, NY.
From Sorel, Canada on the St. Lawrence River to the U.S. Border at the northern end of Lake Champlain, the overall distance is approximately 68 NM. This is made up of 10.06 NM of the Chambly Canal, 0.25 NM of the St. Ours Canal, and 57.69 NM of river section.
A further 60 miles brings boaters to the federal lock at Albany, NY. 
Controlling height on this route is 17 feet, in the Champlain Canal portion.
Canadian Hydrographic Service charts CHS #1350 and CHS #1351 cover the entire route from the northern end of Lake Champlain north to the St. Lawrence River. The Chambly/St. Ours Canal Lock Chamber Waypoint’s in .PDF file format are available as a  zipped file of 12 KB, at http://www.offshoreblue.com/cruising/richelieu.php
Further information on the Champlain Canal portion can be found here: http://www.nycanals.com/Champlain_Canal
There are several potential routes to bypass this problem area. Boaters in Lake Erie can transit the Welland Canal (you will need three people on board for this) into Lake Ontario, then proceed east to Sorel. Or, they can enter the Erie Canal, exit at Oswego and run down to Sorel from there, sailboats with masts down (not recommended). Alternatively, and depending on their current location, boaters can enter the canal and proceed at a suitable pace to bring them to Lock E13 in time for its reopening. From E13 to Waterford is approximately 46 miles, or two days for most vessels.
I hesitate to advise on what to do, but mariners heading south must understand that the weather isn’t getting any better, and the New Jersey coast can be challenging in bad weather. Delay at this time may place you into a pattern of bad weather. 
That being said, it is possible to do the Jersey coast in short hops from New York, the longest jump being 38 nm. The harbours are Manasquan, Barnegat, Atlantic City and Cape May. Even for slower sailboats, this distance can be covered in 8 - 10 hours, during daylight hours.
Bear in mind, if the weather deteriorates while you are outside, the first two harbours, Manasquan and Barnegat, may be impassable due to standing waves and rough conditions in these narrow inlets, and Atlantic City (Absecon Inlet) can be difficult to impassable. Check weather carefully before you head out.

If you wish further advice or information, or have updates on the situation, use the contact form on this page at the bottom right hand corner.