Welland Canal banner

I moved my Tanzer 22 from Toronto to Crystal Beach on Lake Erie through the Welland Canal

In these 5 pages I give information that I wish I had had before I left and talk about the trip.

  1. Getting Ready to Cross Lake Ontario. What do you need. What should you know. Is your boat ready. I had never crossed the Lake and the prospect was scary to me.
  2. Our Crossing of Lake Ontario. Navigating to St. Catharines and Port Dalhousie which are not visible from Toronto, was not obvious to me.
  3. Getting ready to go through the Welland Canal Useful Info. Before we went through we had a lot of questions and finding information was difficult. Some useful links and some of the things we found out.
  4. CURRENT PAGE Going through the Canal to Port Colborne (lots of photos). This is a day I will never forget.
  5. Port Colborne to Crystal Beach was a pleasant trip.
  6. Some of the photos I took No information but nice pictures.

Sensei my Tanzer 22 goes through the Welland Canal

Sunrise in port Dalhousie

We woke early after our lake Ontario crossing and started getting ready to go as the sun rose on the Port Dalhousie marina.

Our third crew joined us with Coffee and soon we were casting off and heading East to the Welland Canal.

We had our breakfast on board while motoring.

Getting to the Welland Canal

We had had our motor repaired, mainly a clean of the carburetor, and were able to motor at full speed, 6 knots for my boat, towards the entrance of the Canal.

view from water

It is not obvious where the Port and Canal entrances are. It just looks like a spit of land with trees from the water. Certainly no big sign with arrows saying "CANAL HERE". The photo is from off shore as we were coming in from Toronto and wondering what was what.

Ship entering the Welland Canal

We entered just ahead of another big boat and we allowed it to pass us. The Hamilton Energy is a fuel boat and she headed up and moored by a large tanker while we motored up.

We have just entered the canal and the photo is taken looking out. on the left there is a red marker on a white platform. There were lots of cormorans just sunning themselves.


Signage for small boats is non existent or bad and we were not sure where the dock to contact the authorities was located. Eventually we found the dock on the port side a few hundred feet beyond what looked like dockyards/boat repair on one side and refueling station on the other side. It is a couple of km from the entrance of the canal jut before the first lock.

payment booth

The government dock has a dock for pleasure crafts, a phone booth, a booth where you can pay your fee and also contact the Seaway authorities. There is often a blue pilot ship docked there near a house. Look for the phone and payment booth right on the dock.

We left the marina at 7:30 and reached the dock at 9:00. There was already another Tanzer 22 waiting for the Go Ahead. They had been there since 7:00. We finally got our call to get underway at 10:00.

The morning was glorious and there was a doe and 2 fawns walking around. We could see part of the first Lock and it looked quite impressive.

gate of lock 1 of the welland canal opening.

And We're Off.

We were instructed to set off and proceed to the first lock. We motored as the doors opened for us, the signal went green and we entered into the first lock.

I will never forget the first lock. Everything is huge and looks medieval. It is damp, cool and full of echoes. The locks are 766 feet long, 80 feet wide and have an average lift of 46 feet. My Tanzer is 22 feet long, 9 feet wide and sits 3 feet off the water.

We got to the right side of the lock and men threw some yellow lines to us. The other Tanzer 22 was also in the same lock getting their lines. We pulled the boat against the concrete wall and they started to fill the lock.

They fill the lock more gently for small pleasure crafts otherwise it would be very difficult and dangerous to control the boats. Still the water churned and boiled as we gradually started rising.

lock is fillingSeagull with fish

All around us seagulls, which had been perched patiently on the sides, swooped down and caught little fish that got washed in with the frothy water.

We were grateful for the bumpers which protected us from grinding against the concrete wall.

It takes about 15 minutes for the lock to get filled. We rose gradually up the wall till we could see over the edge. There were not many people around. 2 Men would throw us the ropes and give us instructions. We rarely saw anyone else, except for the tourist observation spots. There we waved and took a bow.

first BridgeMassive doors

The lock is filled, the bridge is rising and the doors are about to open. Before the bridge rises a loud siren sounds to stop cars. Soon we get our green light and we head out to the second lock. All the locks are close together. What the Welland Canal is doing is raising ships over the Niagara Escarpment. Imagine the height of Niagara Falls plus some for the various rapids of the Niagara River and that is the height the Welland Canal lifts ships, a total of 326 feet.

The Welland canal which is 43 km long has most of the lift in the first 15 km, The last 27 kilometres are flat. The last lock at Port Colborne is only to equalize with the current level of Lake Erie.


Motoring towards Lock 4 which we can see in the distance, we pass under the QEW Garden City Skyway and under a bridge. Locks 4-5-6 are like huge stairs they are called Twinned Flight Locks. They are located one after the other and lift boat about 150 feet.

Another ship is ahead of us and we are told to tie up and wait till they have passed the first lock. After a while the door opens and we get the message to enter the lock.


The large ship can be seen rising up behind the massive back door of lock 4.

We were warned that the water is particularly turbulent and dangerous in these locks and we are asked to move forward where the water is slightly calmer.

The usual seagulls waiting to dine are not in the least worried, we on the other hand are a little.

inside lock 4

Our little Tanzers are dwarfed by the massive lock. This, surely, is what the doors to Mordor looked like.

We pull right up to the front and get our lines. We brace ourselves as the doors finish closing behind us and the water starts pouring in. Water comes in from the opposite side and churns and froths in an alarming way.

inside lock 5

We rise quickly as the currents buffet us against the side.

Photos are very inadequate to show the scale and grandeur of the lock and the amount of water coming in.

other ship going down

As we are going up, another ship is going down. Locks 4-5-6 are double locks. One set goes up and one goes down.

This greatly improves traffic.

top of lock 6

Eventually we are at the top of lock 6 waiting for the door to open and for the light to turn green

The landscape looks peaceful and gentle as we head up to lock 7.

Lock 7 is the last lock on the Niagara Escarpment. After this we will not be going up any more. Lock 8 only lifts boats the small amount that lake Erie level fluctuates.

Lock 7

We are asked to tie up at Lock 7 and wait for a ship to go by.

We watch as the huge boat gradually lowers in the lock. Eventually the door opens and she slowly moves forward. The big boats don't go very fast in the canal. In the long section between lock 7 and 8 the speed limit is 6 knots. That's good because that our hull speed.


The Algoma Guardian slowly moves forward past us. It is large beside the Lilliputian Tanzers.

The canal outside the locks is wide enough to allow 2 ships to meet. When we meet a large ship we have to watch out for the turbulence of the huge prop. This goes on for several hundred feet behind the ship.

lock 7

The back door of Lock 7 has just closed behind us, we are secured by the wall, seagulls are standing by. We are ready to let water in.

After the step locks, lock 7 seems almost gentle. This lock fills without a fuss and soon we are looking over the top to the flat terrain above the Niagara Escarpment.

A short distance south of lock 7, on the right side (West), after the fenced in area, it is possible to stop briefly and let someone off. Our third crew jumped off to go Kayaking up north. You are not permitted to tie up and stop but a quick pause does no harm. This is near Thorold.

We now start the flat section of the Welland Canal. It is 28 km to Port Colborne. We will go under a few bridges and very shallow lock 8 but otherwise it's clear sailing.

looking back on lock 7Bridge

Looking back on Lock 7 and one of the lifting bridges. The bridges either pivot from one side up and have a counterweight, or else lift up flat as this one.

Large ship in Welland Canal

Speed limit is 6 knots as we pass a couple of ships. Here the Algoma Enterprise dwarfs the Tanzers. There is lots of space to pass and we stay well clear of her.

The sun is slowly heading west as we motor peacefully. Eventually we reach the last lock at Port Colborne, we are asked to stop and allow a ship to pass.

Large ship in Welland Canal

The Volgaborg inches forward and we slip into Lock 8. This is a simple lock to transit. We float in the lock and are gently raised 3 feet. The door opens and we go through and under a bridge. We are now in Port Colborne.

last bridge

One last bridge and we can see Lake Erie. As the sun is setting we pull into Sugarloaf Marina for the Night. The entrance is on our right just before the Lake Erie breakwall. We turn right at the massive concrete building. Next morning I will sail Sensei to Crystal Beach.

Transit through the Canal has taken us 12 hours. This includes the various wait times to start through the locks and to allow other ships to go by.

We are tired, hot and pleased with ourselves. My crew, George and Kim were terrific. Many thanks.

A few extra photos of the Canal

emails: Christine

This article is provided for information and entertainment only. I am not an expert on sailing or navigation. Use your head and have fun.