Transiting New York’s Champlain Canal

Tom and Beverly Gilbert

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In early August 2023, we traveled a portion of the Champlain Canal with Tena and Frank DeBaggis, starting from Coeymans, New York, on the Hudson River.

The 60-mile-long Champlain Canal begins just north of Troy, New York, on the Hudson River and ends at the south end of Lake Champlain. The canal has 11 locks, numbered 1 through 12; lock 10 is nonexistent. Speed restrictions range from 5 to 45 mph, with many uncharted areas considered no-wake zones. We opted for sailboat speeds, known to some as trawler speeds. With views like these, why would you want to rush the experience?

Both the Hudson River and Champlain Canal are well-marked with navigational aids. However, you pass under a variety of bridges, so it’s important to know your air draft and read your charts for posted clearances—unless you dislike your antennas or other appendages. The New York State Canal Corp. claims to maintain a 21-foot minimum clearance; however, we received notification that a New York canal bridge was temporarily down to 19.5 feet clearance.

Even though the Hudson River is tidal and canals are not, the canal’s unfavorable downstream water flow significantly impacted our speed over ground. Likely the result of recent extraordinary rainfall, the flow may have only been unfavorable by 1 knot, but it was surprising for a body of water that’s not tidal.

During our trip, lock openings were restricted in an attempt to curb the spread of an aquatic invasive species. As we recently learned, the restrictions were implemented to mitigate the
spread of the round goby. We signed up for notifications, so we knew about this change. Anyone planning to transit any New York locks should sign up for Notice to Mariners to receive important daily updated information about lock operating schedules. Approximately two daily notifications reflected open/closure/operating changes, often due to regular and unplanned maintenance.

The canals.ny.gov website also provides distances between each canal and visuals of posted speed limits. However, factor in additional no-wake zones, and allow extra time for unplanned wait times at each lock. As for any voyage, be sure to have updated charts for navigational and bridge clearances on board.

Great company and the Champlain Canal’s stunning scenic views made this a spectacular voyage.

This article originally appeared in The Berkshire Log newsletter of Berkshire Sail & Power Squadron.

Tom and Beverly Gilbert

Beverly and Tom Gilbert have been sailing together for more than 30 years while living in the Berkshire Mountain region of Western Massachusetts. One of their first dates was on a borrowed 420 on the Connecticut shoreline, and their honeymoon was spent bareboating in the British Virgin Islands. Since then, they have been sailing throughout New England and portions of New York. They are currently enjoying their time together in the Hudson River region on their Tiara 3100 Express Cruiser, named the same as some of their previous sailboats, MISS B ‘haven.

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