Nov 23, 2015

Exploring canals with Blount's Small Ship Adventures

I have always been intrigued by rivers. The Hudson, Mohawk, and St. Lawrence Rivers made NYS the Empire State. The waterways were used by the Native Americans, explorers, armies, and settlers. Not only was it a key to the development of New York State but to the expansion of the United States;
and, it still is. Traveling the length of the NYS’s waterways was at the top of my bucket list.  I didn’t think it was possible until I learned about Blount Small Ship Adventures’ “Locks, Legends, and Canals.” The two-week trip from Montreal to New York City via the St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario, NYS Canal System, and the Hudson was a dream come true.  For two weeks John and I made our home on the Grande Caribe, a purpose-built vessel designed to make it through the narrow and shallow waters of canals. 

On our first stop, Quebec, we signed up for the four-hour excursion of Quebec City, with a walk in Old Quebec and other highlights of the city including a side trip to Montmorency Falls, which is higher than Niagara Falls. In Montreal Blount provided a shuttle into Old Montreal where we wandered the cobblestone streets. 

While we were asleep the Grande Caribe set off for Ogdensburg going through three of the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The vessel is amazingly quiet.  In Ogdensburg, after customs, there was a tour of the Frederic Remington Museum. We had been there so John and I followed the Revolutionary War sign boards and learned about the city’s part in the war. On the way
to Clayton we locked through the Snell and Eisenhower Locks. From the St. Lawrence we were raised 570 feet to the level of Lake Ontario. Very impressive. We stopped for a tour of Singer Castle on Dark Island to learn how the rich and famous spent the summer in their “hunting lodge” with 28 rooms and secret passages. In Clayton we docked at the Antique Boat Museum where the staff was ready to give us a personal tour. 

I was hoping to traverse Lake Ontario from Clayton to Oswego during the day; but, alas, due to the winds we left late in the evening arriving in Oswego at 2 a.m. While in Oswego the crew lowered the pilot house so the Grande Caribe would fit under the “low bridges” of the NYS Canal System.  I was hoping the passengers would have a chance to see Fort Ontario and Safe Haven but we started along the Oswego
Canal at 7 a.m.  The weather was glorious and the leaves at peak.  We crossed Oneida Lake and continued on the Erie Canal with a stop in Rome so some of the passengers could visit Cooperstown.  I stayed aboard marveling at the beautiful scenery and serenity thinking that the people in cars and trains whizzing by didn’t know what they were missing.

At Troy the crew raised the pilot house signaling that we had completed the NYS Canal System and were heading down the Hudson River to NYC.  There were two excursions on the Hudson: Hyde Park and the fortress-like U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  The weather was outstanding as we cruised passed by the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty to Pier 59.  On our last day we took the Blount-organized tour of New York City with time at the 9/11 Memorial.  An incredible cruise.