Day 6: Fulton to Sylvan Beach

Monday, August 9, 1999

It was very windy last night and continued to be windy most of the day. The wind went right through my sleeping bag and I was cold all night. Al was warmer, because I shielded him from the wind. I wore my overalls, a long sleeved shirt, and a sweater in the morning.

Ginny stopped by early in the morning.

The steering mechanism working poorly, so Al started to fix it. A part came undone and he had to unload the wood from the stern to get at it. He needed some more cable clamps. A restaurant owner gave him three.

A little later, Abby and two friends of hers from St. Lawrence University stopped by. We went to the Fulton Historical Society where Abby works. She gave us a tour of it, which we appreciated.

Fulton Historical Society
After stopping at a hardware store to get some more cable clamps, Al completed his repair of the steering mechanism.
We got a very late start heading back south up the Oswego Canal. We were waiting for Lock 2 at 11:45 a.m. In Locks 2 and 1, we were now going up rather than descending. Lock 2, one again, proved to be somewhat unpleasant. As it dumped, large quantities of milfoil emerged. We had no option but to go through it. So much got tangled on the propeller that we were unable to move until we had reversed the propeller and gotten some of it off. While in the lock, Al poked with a fireplace tool and removed some more.

Remnants of the old Oswego Canal and towpath were visible along the east bank along parts of the river.

Fixing the steering mechanism.
Repair work.
The head (portapotty).
Pump out.
The Oswego Canal.
We returned to Three Rivers and the Erie Canal, heading east again. We headed up the canalized Oneida River whose source is Oneida Lake.

The terrain was mostly rural, with a few cottages and a few boats. I had expected to see more. We went up through Lock 23 (lift 6.9 feet) near Brewerton, the busiest lock on the Erie Canal. We were the only boat to lock through. That was the case on most locks, except for our experiences on Sunday on the Oswego Canal. Normally, Lock 23 is used by pleasure boaters going to Oneida Lake, to the Oswego Canal and Lake Ontario, and by those traversing the canal or using it instead of a large lake during stormy weather.

The gates of Lock 23 opening for us. A guard gate is visible.
We arrived in Brewerton around 6:00 p.m. We had been listening to the weather forecasts very carefully because we had to cross Oneida Lake. This lake is twenty miles long, five miles across, and shallow. It can be very treacherous when it is windy. According to the forecast, the winds were to calm overnight. It was to cloud up after midnight. There were showers forecast for the next day for the afternoon, as well as for the subsequent day. The winds were at around 13 mph. Because of the good short term forecast and worse longer term forecast, it looked as if we had a choice of staying in Brewerton and getting up very early to cross the lake the next morning or to cross it that night. We decided to continue on that night, since otherwise we would have to shut the fire down and get it started again. Also, we would have clear skies during the early part of the night. We figured we would get halfway across or so before we had no daylight left.
Buoy to starboard.
Buoys mark the channel across the lake. As we set out from the western end of the lake, we discovered that they were about two and a half miles apart. With our short height, we couldn’t quite see from one to the next. Fortunately, they were about a mile apart most of the way across, except for the westernmost section. When it was dark, I could usually see three as the boat rose up and down on the waves. The trick was figuring out which was the closest one. The wind tended to blow the steamboat off course and I had to correct for that.
Tour boat Emita II on Oneida Lake.
Buoy on rock to port.
Waves due to thirteen mph winds at sunset.
Green buoy 125 at night. Our halogen light shined on the reflective tape.
The winds didn’t calm much. Over the course of more than four hours, they decreased from 13 mph to 11 mph, then to 10 mph and 10 mph again. There was heavy swell all the way across. The bow went up and down two to three feet with the waves. I stood almost all the time the entire way, navigating and steering.

Al made corn chowder and macaroni and cheese. (See food.) He said he felt like a flight attendant on a rough flight.

Our main concern was that the steam engine would keep running all the way across the lake (although neither of us dared mention it to the other). The engine ran beautifully. Al kept the fire well stoked even at the end, since we weren’t sure what we would encounter. He used much more wood than usual.

The breakwater at the eastern end of Oneida Lake was very confusing in the dark. It has a bend in it. Water washes over part of the end of the breakwater. The brightest light is at the bend, not the end of the breakwater. There is also a flashing white light on shore that turned out to be a lighthouse. We could have made better use of it. Further to the right was another flashing red light that confused us.

It was a harrowing ride. The best part about it was that it was done and we wouldn’t have to do it again.

When landing, I got out of the boat and hit my head on the canopy, acquiring a large goose egg.

We arrived at 10:40 p.m., roughly four and a half hours after we started across the lake.

We docked at the Sylvan Beach Terminal Wall, adjacent to the amusement park. Some boys there had caught an eel about three feet long.

It was windy during the night, but it finally calmed down.

Number of locks: 3
Approximate distance for day: 38 miles

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