Rochester & Spencerport, NY
After a great stop in Fairport the Lois McClure crew made the short trip to Rochester. We went under the first of many lift bridges leaving Fairport. With the Barge Canal expansion completed in 1918, wider and higher bridges were needed across the Erie Canal. The low bridges of the old canal would no longer cut it. The longer and higher bridges required of the expanded canal would be costly projects, which would require tearing down buildings to make room, and reworking the existing roads around the canal. To avoid building these expensive bridges, engineers invented the lift bridge. These low bridges allow cars to pass at street level, then lift up to allow boat traffic to pass through the canal below. These bridges were just one of the many innovations that the Erie Canal sparked in its creation and expansions.
As we got close to Rochester, we took a sharp right turn into the Genesee River, which intersects with the Erie Canal. We took the Genesee downstream to Cornhill Landing near the heart of downtown Rochester. We docked close to the old aqueduct, where the old Erie Canal passed over the Genesee River, now converted to a bridge for Broad Street. The crew had a day off to check out the city before we opened to the public the following day. We were joined by the New York State Canal Corporation, who set up a table by the boat to talk about canal history, and pass out canal information. The crew was impressed by the visitors who came because of their deep interest in canal history.
The next day, we traveled to Spencerport for our next visit. We had another short trip, as we continued to visit the smaller canal communities just outside of Rochester. The first step in the trip was doing a 180 degree turn in the Genesee River to get back to the Erie Canal. This required the Oocher, the crews inflatable motorboat, to push on the bow of Lois McClure. The Oocher is a great utility boat to have in situations like this, which require sharp turns in close quarters. The Oocher’s 50HP Honda can quickly turn the boat on a dime, the ultimate bow thruster! After this maneuver, we went back up the Genesee and hooked a sharp right to get back on the Erie Canal.
Since we were now traveling the same route as the original Erie Canal, the Erie Canalway Recreational Trail, which utilizes much of the original towpath, also runs along the barge canal. As we travel, we encounter plenty of runners and bicyclists using the trail. Many of the bicyclists are passing us, as we are usually moving at around five knots at any given time. The people running, biking, or fishing by the canal are always very friendly, and will usually wave to our crew as we pass by. Since 1862, canal boats are no longer typical on the canal many people yell out “what kind of boat is that?” After a deep inhalation a crew member will yell back the long winded reply of, “It’s a replica of an 1862 class sailing canal boat”. We always try to tell inquirers our open hours in the next port so they can come visit.
We were now travelling through a long, flat stretch of the canal. Where locks used to break up our journeys, they were now broken up by lift bridges. Lift bridges are usually fairly quick to get through, but they still require us to slow down as we approach, and wait for the bridge to lift up before passing under. We arrived in Spencerport, where we were greeted by our host Simon Devenish of the Spencerport Depot & Canal Museum. Our public day started off with a series of morning television spots on the local Rochester news. This helped boost our attendance as we enjoyed a steady flow of people coming on board the boat throughout much of the day, only interrupted by a brief heavy shower, the weather story of the 2017 tour.