Unstepping the Mast – Erie Canal-Tonawanda, NY

We had a later start this morning Phil waking a little after 7am and Lorraine getting up at the late hour of 730am. We had to access the “L” locker for Phil to disconnect the wiring for the mast, so it was the perfect opportunity to take rearrange some items out of the L locker and take other items out of the food lockers and put them in the L locker which is our short, long term storage area. Our long, long term storage is under the V-berth.

Phil finished preparing for have the mast unstepped, which is the lingo for lifting the mast off a boat. We left Buffalo Yacht Club at 855am and came up to our first bridge. Then we got flustered. What is the name of this bridge? How are we suppose to call it? Where is the book? Lorraine gets out the binoculars and can’t read the name of the bridge. But we didn’t need to worry, as the bridge tender opened the bridge for us without us having to call. Relief! We did get out the charts on our iPad, but of course the name of the bridge wasn’t there. Then Phil remembered the Skipper Bob book for the Erie Canal. We had that as the next bridge, a swing bridge for trains came into view and was also swinging open for us without us having to hail on the radio.  

For those new to the procedure, typically a bridge is hailed on the VHF radio. “Fisher Street Bridge, Fisher Street Bridge. This is sailing vessel Changes requesting an opening eastbound”. And the Bridge Tender responds back in many ways, but a typical response might be “We see you skipper. The bridge will open upon your arrival”. We will have to do this many times, so you can imagine how grateful we were not to have to do this for these first 2 bridges. 

We were ready to continue motoring to enter the Black Rock Canal Lock and then Richs Marine. Here are some photos of the first lock.

Entering Black Rock Canal Lock

Lorraine fending the boat off lock wall

Right after you exit the lock is Richs Marine.  We had them instep the mast last trip, so Phil wanted to use them again.  Here are some videos of them lifting the mast off the boat.  I you haven’t seen this before, I think it would be hard to understand. The first 3 videos are lifting the mast are in order but cut so I could change where I was shooting the video. Please be patient, as this is something new for me to do.  The videos have been uploaded  to You Tube. Try to subscribe to memryqlts. They are titled Unstepping a mast 1, 2, and 3. The last about 4 min long is placing the mast of SV Changes.


We made it to Tonawanda which is the first town just after the canal started.  We had bypassed it our first trip.  The only place to tie up was in front of a restaurant with a high wall, but we were able to have our boarding gate where ther was a ladde, so worked out well.  Their Canal Fest is starting SundA, but we’ll be gone.  We are planning on going to Lockport tomorrow.  

Tonawanda Town Map


This afternoon we took a walk around town and found a carrousel museum.  Not only did they carrousels, they had parts of old amusement park rides from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  

Carrousel Museum


Tonight we had leftovers for supper.  Since we don’t have a microwave, we put the food in ziplock bags into a pot of water.  By the time the water is boiling the food is heated.  


Tonight we met a couple that wondered how we got the mast on the boat. Phil talked to them about the crane.  Later after I had the files in my Flickr account, we showed them the video I took. I know the videos are a mess , but there you go. Next time they will be better.


8 thoughts on “Unstepping the Mast – Erie Canal-Tonawanda, NY

  1. Why do you have to take the mast down?
    I have been reading your posts to my kids. Thanks for sharing the trip with us. I must admitt it kills me no. To be following you south. Be safe. Tell Phil I’ll miss him on Wednesday nights!


    • We have to unstep the mast because the bridges are only 15′ high. Our mast is 48′ tall plus instruments at the top. Once we get on the Hudson River, past Troy Federal Lock #1, we will stop in Castleton Boat Club on Castleton-on-the-Hudson, where we will pay for the use of their crane, and raise and step the mast ourselves, hopefully with the help of a couple people already there. Last year we had 2 French Canadians from Montreal, Marc and Abel, help us raise our masts in return for Phil helping them with their mast.

      Dave, how old are your kids? Is there anything in particular they are interested in hearing about?


      • They are 3, 9, and 12. They want to hear abou the animals you see. They ask me everyday if you had seen a dolphin yet? Silly kids. So the canal you are going up in is not for big ships?


      • No it’s not for big boats. Canal boats and 42′ power boats are the biggest. We have seen a white egret and blue herons here. Minnows in the water around our boat. We hear a lot of birds chirping. Tell your kids that I will be on the look out for animals that I can tell them about and I’ll take pictures if I can.


  2. Hi, Lorraine & Phil!
    When you gave me your business card at Megan’s graduation party, I signed up to follow your blog. I am totally enjoying reading about your adventures!! I feel like am right there with you!! The gourmet meals, fun side trips, meeting interesting people, most of all the challenges of living on and working a sailboat!!

    Thank you for keeping and sharing this blog! I admire your sense of adventure and hope you have a safe and wonderful trip! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you at any time!


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