New York State became the Empire State because of its waterways. The state is bounded by the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, Blount's Grande Caribeand the Atlantic Ocean; plus, the Hudson River and the New York State Canal System provide access to the most of the state. The waterways were used by the Native Americans, explorers, settlers, and armies. Not only was it a key to the development of New York State but to the expansion of the United States; and, it still is. I have always lived in close proximity to New York State’s waterways and have enjoyed day canal trips but traveling the length of the NYS’s waterways was at the top of my bucket list.  I didn’t think it was possible until I learned about Blount Small Ship Adventures’ “Locks, Legends, and Canals.” The two-week trip from Montreal to New York City via the St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario, NYS Canal System, and the Hudson was a dream come true.

My home for two weeks was the Grande Caribe, a purpose-built vessel designed to make it through the narrow and shallow waters of canals. The experience turned out to be much more than I anticipated because the adventure included tours stops in Canada, along the St. Lawrence, on the NYS Canal System, and the Hudson ending in NYC.

Old QuebecIn Quebec, the first port of call, the guided city tour started with a walk along the cobblestone streets of the old city nestled along the river and below the towering Hotel Fontanenac. I felt as though I was in France. The tour included a side trip to the impressive Montmorency Falls and a panoramic view from Mont Royale. Later I had enough free time to visit the Museum of Civilization and the Naval Museum, both within easy walking distance from the Grande Caribe. There was a short stop in Montreal where Blount provided a shuttle to Old Montreal.

Like a stealth ship, while everyone was sleeping, we departed Montreal and traversed the South Shore Canal’s two locks. The St. Lawrence Seaway Seaway Locksystem is connected by five short canals that bypass the rapids.  They include 15 locks 766 feet in length that were filled and emptied by gravity. During the day we locked through the rest of the Seaway’s locks. The Snell Lock raised us 45 feet. Truly an engineering marvel. We went through US customs in Ogdensburg, NY, after which there was a tour of the Frederic Remington Art Museum. Remington is famed for his bronze sculptures of the Old West. The western end of the St. Lawrence is home to the 1000 Islands and Millionaire’s Row. Midday we docked on Dark Island for a taste Singer Castleof lifestyles of the rich and famous with a tour of five-story Singer Castle with 28 rooms and secret passageways. Our last stop on the St. Lawrence was at Clayton’s Antique Boat Museum, a boat-enthusiast’s dream come true with every kind of boat from Native American dugouts to private luxury yachts to Gold Cup Boats.

 

Oswego Canal 4

 

We crossed Lake Ontario during the night and docked in Oswego where the pilot house was lowered so the Grande Caribe could fit under the “low bridges” of NYS’s canal system. What started in 1817 as the Erie Canal grew into the 525-mile NYS system now on the National Register of Historic Places. It was life in the slow lane. As we motored along at five miles per hour enjoying the beautiful fall foliage I would occasionally see people in cars and trains whizzing by never knowing the beauty and serenity they were missing. We made several short stops along the canal with the option of taking a side trip to Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame and The Farmer’s Museum or the Fennimore Art Museum.  I was familiar with both so I elected to stay on board savoring the scenery. Our last stop on the Canal System was Troy, NY, home of Uncle Sam. Samuel Wilson was a meat packer and an Army inspector in Troy who supplied rations for the soldiers during the War of 1812. As required, Wilson approved the goods by stamping them “US” and the Uncle Sam legend grew. While I was on the walking tour of historic Troy the crew raised the pilot house signaling that we were done canaling.

 

West Point from the Grande Caribe3The 315-mile Hudson River starts in the Adirondack Mountains and flows into the Atlantic Ocean at NYC. Captain David Sylvaria provided an informative narrative as we passed historic places, lighthouses, other points of interest, and the towering palisades.  The weather was glorious and the foliage brilliant. There were two excellent side trips: Historic Hyde Park home of FDR and the US Military Academy at West Point. I didn’t realize West Point was such an impressive fortress until we tied up at their dock. On the way to Pier 59 in Chelsea, Capt. David gave us great tour of NYC’s harbor with impressive views of One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. On our last full day there was a walking tour that NYC from the Grande Caribe2included the High Line, an imaginative linear park built on a disused elevated rail track. In the afternoon I took the city tour that hit all the highlights of The Big Apple including a reflective stop at the 9/11 Memorial.

 

 

table2It wasn’t until the end of the trip that I realized how value-laden the trip was. I visited two countries, three world-class cities, some of the world’s most important waterways, excursions to historic places, along with gourmet meals, informative talks, musical presentations, and for two weeks I only had to unpack once. On board the staff and other passengers created a causal and friendly atmosphere. A perfect two-week cruise.

If you go: For more information log on www.blountsmallshipadventures.comto or call toll-free 800-556-7450. “Locks, Legends, and Canals” is just one of Blount’s unique offerings.  They also sail to The Bahamas, Lake Michigan, and along the Atlantic Coast. With a maximum of 88 passengers, they advertise that they “Go Where the Big Ships Cannot.”