10 Toledo, OH to Tonawanda, NY

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We did Lake Erie in a number of long hops. Vermilion, Fairport Harbor, Erie, Dunkirk and then Tonawanda and we had completed the lake in as many days. We rapidly found cruising Lake Erie was different. Marinas didn’t monitor the VHF radio, as did the marinas in Michigan and Ontario. This made sorting out a stop for the evening difficult. On a few occasions, we sailed in, looked for an empty slip, tied up and then went off looking for someone to register us and take our money.

Vermilion was something to see. It’s a recreational harbor with no industry. All the houses were white with black shutters. Most were built on dredged channels. It seemed like every foot of shore had a boat. We almost stayed another day to explore more, but the urge to get to the Erie Canal caused us to push on.

Fairport Harbor on the Grand River was a mix of recreation and business. Much of the river was industry, with a number of unique sand hauling freighters in port. We searched around, found a slip and went off on a quest for ice cream.

Back toward the harbor entrance at the top of a hill near the old lighthouse we found our ice cream. As we were crossing 2nd St we caught part of conservation between two teens. “Yea, go for it, you can do it” caused us to look more closely. The teens were standing at the crest of the 2nd St hill. It’s deliciously steep. Adding to its appeal is a short outrun, a stop sign at the tee intersection with a vacant lot on the other side. The final touch making the hill completely irresistible is the town sign reading: NO BIKES, SKATEBOARDS, ROLLERBLADES ALLOWED.

The silent teen pushed off on his skateboard. The increasing rrrr-h from the tiny wheels indicated they were being pushed to their maximum. He made the hill, held on in the outrun, blew through the stop sign, sort of made the turn losing enough speed so when he hit vacant lot dirt, a quick two-stride jump and he was dancing with excitement and triumph.

The teen near us was shouting, “I can’t believe you did it. I can’t believe you made it.” He hesitated, and then pushed off. Again there was the rrrr-h of the tiny wheels. The hill went fine. As he hit the outrun his legs began to wobble. We thought he was stunting. The wobble became more extreme and then the first foot left the board. He stepped once, and then a second and a third time before exploding forward into an awkward arc. He made a perfect two point landing on his palms, rolled to a one point landing on his shoulder, bounced onto his back, evidently trying to get a uniform covering of road rash. His last bounce resulted in a perfect 6 point landing on palms, knees, and toes. He jumped to his feet with that: ‘just the way I planned it’ look. He retrieved his board, staggered to the sidewalk, sat down and began to pick the rocks out from under his skin. We continued on, swapping stories about our high-speed encounters between skin and pavement.

Erie, PA is figuring out how to convert their waterfront into a mix of recreation and industry. Industry and freighters are intermixed with nice marinas. We came across the Appledore a classic schooner that had sailed out of Charveloix. We had speculated about what had happened to her when we were in Charveloix. It was fun to see her again. We went into Dunkirk and stayed at the yacht club as guests of the Eno’s we met in the Bustard Islands in Canada. They had just got back from the North Channel and came down to swap notes with us on their adventures. It was fun seeing a new acquaintance again.

Once we were in Buffalo harbor, our canal experience began. The Niagara River drops 6 feet from the entrance to just beyond the Peace Bridge. The current runs in excessive of 12 mph. To get around this the Black Rock Canal gives boats a no current ride and then lowers boats 6 feet in the first lock coming out of Lake Erie. The lock opens into the river. There is a low current route around the east side of Grand Island. We watched in shock as the sailboat ahead of us went west out into the current and rapidly disappeared down toward the falls. We assume he got back into the eddy area below Grand Island. We continued on toward the canal.

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