Day 2: Pittsford to Fairport

Thursday, August 5, 1999

We slept well last night, getting up at 6:30 a.m. After last night’s storm had passed, the weather was clear and nice. We breakfasted on pancakes and French toast at the Coal Tower Restaurant.

This morning, the Pittsford ducks were sleeping in the canal. The wake of a canal work boat caused the ducks to wake (!). They were probably used to such disturbances and went back to sleep again.
Sleeping ducks.
People taking a morning walk on the Erie Canal Heritage Trail beside the misty canal.
We spent a leisurely day, as planned, because we needed to recuperate from our frantic pace of getting ready for the trip. Our destination was Fairport, perhaps seven or eight miles from Pittsford.

This day was remarkable in that it was the only day on our voyage when we didn’t go through any locks. Yesterday we locked through two locks. On other days, we were to go through between three and seven locks.

We left around 8:00 a.m.

Back on the canal, we passed the Great Embankment. Completed in 1822, it is seventy feet high and a mile long. It carries the canal over the Irondequoit River valley. Just past it is the Richardson Canal House, over 150 years old and the oldest working canal tavern on the Erie Canal.

Alongside the canal is the Erie Canal Heritage Trail, part of the Canalway Trail System. It is an excellent and much used biking and hiking path.

Tugboat tender, dump scow, and dredge.
Mechanism of guard gate
At Fairport, we encountered the famous Fairport Main Street Liftbridge, written up in Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.” It is a ten-sided irregular decagon and has no right-angled corners. It lifts every half-hour. We though we could fit underneath the higher side of the bridge without waiting (at least Al did). Al called the lift tender on VHF 13, but the tender wouldn’t commit to the bridge’s elevation when it was down. We took down our stern light. Fortunately, we did fit underneath. (I read later that it has a down clearance of 6 feet with a difference in elevation on each side of 5.54 feet. On the trailer, without the stern light, our clearance was ten feet.)

We docked at the Packett’s Landing Wharf, a popular stopping place.

It was fun to watch the bridge go up and down. Bells ring and railroad-type crossing gates go down. The bridge rises straight up. When it is all the way up, boats go under. There is also a miniature railroad-type crossing gate on a footpath on the bridge and you can go across when the bridge is up. When the bridge goes down, it makes all sorts of melodious creaking noises.

I couldn’t resist taking all sorts of pictures, so here are some of them.
The Fairport Main Street Lift Bridge. It weighs 685,909 pounds and spans 138.9 feet.
A canal boat (these are available for rent) goes under.

Lynn walking across the bridge when it is up.
Lynn on stairs watching the big boats.

The stairs to the upper level.

Fairport was established as the surveying and construction of Clinton’s Ditch proceeded in that area in 1815-1817. Prior to that, it was swampland. The construction of the canal dried the land, ending fears of fever and malaria. Fairport was originally known as Perrinsville, then Perrinville. Some travelers found this difficult to pronounce, the story goes, and called it Fairport because it was considered a “fair port.” It got this name around 1829.

The railroad came to Fairport in 1853.

After lunch, we decided to take naps. While Al was sleeping, I watched five boys, perhaps ten or twelve years old. Two of them were jumping from the bridge just downstream from us. Sometimes they would jump from the roadbed level. At other times they would run up the upper framework of the bridge and jump from there. They clearly were not supposed to be doing it. One would say to another, “Where did you tell your mother you were going?” They also climbed onto a work barge tied there, discovered a coconut, cracked it open, tasted it, found it to be horrible, and threw it into the canal. A woman driving by in a van said she would tell the police that they were jumping off the bridge. The three boys who weren’t wet scattered quickly. The other two stood under the bridge with towels, dried off rapidly, and put dry clothes over their wet ones. Then they disappeared. Just as they got out of sight, a police car drove over the bridge. It reminded me of Tom Sawyer.

It rained while we were taking a nap, so we put a tarp over the bed, holding it up over our heads with ropes. It worked pretty well. Later, we registered with the dockmaster. He gave us a packet of literature about the town. We took showers. The facilities were excellent.

Al had lost a set screw from the drive shaft of the steam engine. There wasn’t any hardware store within walking distance, but a person at a gas station gave him a setscrew.

For dinner, we had prime rib in the Green Tavern (see food). We then attended a concert in the Kennelley Park Gazebo, adjacent to the canal. Did you ever wonder where all the plastic folding chairs that used to be so popular have gone? They are in Fairport. The kitchen chairs from our steamboat wouldn’t have seemed appropriate.

Enjoying a concert.
Since we had electricity at the dock, we recharged the boat’s and camera’s batteries and copied photographs from the computer onto a Zip disc.

Number of locks: 0
Approximate distance for day: 8 miles

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