Last night we received this great story from fellow Woody Boater Matt Fine on how he spent his day on Saturday classic boating with his family in New York state. While Matt captained the Chris-Craft – his wife captured the photographs…
The 35th Annual “Fairport Canal Days” Festival
by Matt Fine & Family
This weekend is the 35th annual “Fairport Canal Days” festival (fairportcanaldays.com) in the village of Fairport, along New York’s historic Erie Canal. The fun way to get there is by wooden boat, so we dropped “Lil Squirt” (our 1962 Chris-Craft 16′ Ski Jet) into the canal at lock 32 and made a leisurely trip of about 8.5 miles through the town of Pittsford, where we live, over to the Fairport docks hoping we could find a spot to tie up.
An engineering marvel in its day, the Erie Canal stretches 363 miles from the Hudson River near Albany to Lake Erie near Buffalo, rising 565 feet. When originally built by hand and animal power in 1817-1825, there were 83 locks to lift the boats over several ups and downs along the path. Today the canal is wider and deeper and the number of locks has been reduced to only 35, allowing us to make our journey without having to pass through one.
Before the railroads and western expansion, the canal served as the country’s biggest commercial corridor bringing farm products to the coast and manufactured goods to the farms and frontier. Today the canal is primarily used for recreation, with a bike and walking path on the north side where the old donkey tow path used to be, and with dozens of parks and recreation areas in the towns along the way.
The first town on our trip was the village of Pittsford where the old flour mill and grain stores in Schoen Place now serve as retail and restaurant space.
For those who have not yet purchased a woodyboat, or those whose boat is undergoing restoration, you can rent a houseboat and take a weeklong vacation on the canal, or hop on one of the many tour boats available for scheduled rides our charters. The town of Pittsford serves as the home port for the “Sam Patch” (click here to learn more about Sam Patch) a replica of an 1800’s packet boat, although the original donkey power has been upgraded.
After the Village of Pittsford, the Canal turns South toward Bushnell’s Basin and then heads north again into the Village of Fairport, our destination for the day. Main street was closed to cars, but the lift bridge was full of festival goers as we approached. Our little Chris-Craft was able to pass under the bridge without waiting for it to lift, but Fairport’s tour boat, the Colonial Bell (www.colonialbelle.com) is not so lucky.
A wooden boat with a rumbling inboard always attracts attention and we had plenty of opportunities to practice our woody wave. Most people just wave back, but there was one guy on the bridge who was so excited to see us, we got a pair of enthusiastic metal-head devil’s horn gestures.
We were lucky enough to find an open spot to dock and we went ashore to check out the art for sale and take in our share of fair food. We had corn dogs and gyros, since we did not find the chicken on a stick vendor. While eating our gyros across from where we docked, my wife pointed out that we were one of the smallest boats there. I did not see any other varnished mahogany boats but we passed several wooden cruisers and canal boats.
After enjoying our time at the festival, we hopped back in the boat for the cruise home, stopping half way in Bushnell’s Basin for some ice cream from Rochester area favorite, Abbots Frozen Custard (abbottscustard.com). The town put in some nice new docks, and with the festival just a couple miles away, we had them to ourselves.
A perfect end to a great afternoon of classic wooden boating with our family.
Matt Fine & Family
Thanks for sharing this great story with us here at Woody Boater today Matt. By the way, where is you “Sons of Varnish” tee shirt – a perfect day to fly your colors…