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.
- 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.
- Our Crossing of Lake Ontario. Navigating to St. Catharines and Port Dalhousie which are not visible from Toronto, was not obvious to me.
- CURRENT PAGE 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.
- Going through the Canal to Port Colborne (lots of photos). This is a day I will never forget.
- Port Colborne to Crystal Beach was a pleasant trip.
- Photos I Took of Welland Canal Some good photos
Going up the Welland Canal in a Pleasure Craft
The transit through the Welland Canal can take 17 hours or more. (It took us 12, there was not a lot of traffic that day) It's only 43 kilometres but there are often many delays waiting for big boats which have priority, and going through the locks. There is nowhere to buy anything or to stop while underway. There is a spot after lock 7 where a passenger can jump off quickly and get to Thorold.
Your boat must be 20 feet or more to go through the Welland Canal.
This boat is anchored near the entrance of the Welland Canal. The entrance is at the very left of the point of land. The entrance to Port Dalhousie is at the white dot half way. It's a lighthouse.
Stuff you Should Bring
The usual stuff such as water, sunscreen, food, warm or cool clothes, foul weather gear. Imagine having to be on your boat for over 17 hours and pack accordingly.
I found my Radio really useful. Not only could we listen in on the various instructions about other boats, but it was easy for "Seaway Welland" as they call themselves to contact us. The radio was also good when we got to the many bridges. If you don't have a radio bring a cell phone. The canal folks have to be able to communicate with you. Make sure you have good batteries, or a way of recharging. My boat battery can recharge my radio and can be used to recharge cellphones. You might have to last a day or more if there are delays or if you have mechanical problems.
Safety stuff as usual is required. The rules say you should wear your life-jackets in the locks but otherwise at least have them. They did not enforce this but it gets quite turbulent in the locks. They also suggest you should have a radar detector, I forgot mine but no one challenged me about it.
You must have 3-4 good bumpers. At each lock you get pushed against the concrete side and the bumpers protect you. In the first 2 locks the boat attaches on its Starboard side then the next 5 locks, the boat attaches to the Port side so you have to move your bumpers for lock 3 onwards, or have them on both sides.
Bring your camera, credit card if you are buying a ticket at the government dock, binoculars and sunglasses. Gloves are useful because some of the mooring ropes are really rough. They are polypropylene floating lines and some are quite hairy. Bring a boat hook, that will be useful to help you catch the lines in the canal locks.
Some useful Information
It costs us 240 dollars in 2014 to go through the locks if you buy your ticket at the government dock machine (using a credit card only). If you buy it using PayPal online it is only 200 (2018 fee). Do the math and pay online. After paying you need to print your receipt. They will collect it at Lock 3 along with a form that will be given to you to fill out. Go here to pay your Welland Canal Fee Online using Paypal
The picture shows 2 cabins, one phone and one direct to canal admin. The phone is no longer there, bring a cell if you want to call people.
Procedures to Register at the Entrance to the Canal.
The entrance of the canal is not obvious but looks like a spit of land with trees on it just 30 or so minutes East of Port Dalhousie. If big boats are coming in then they will show you the way. Otherwise just go to the point and take a right turn at the white marker with red tower and light. Keep going, it's a couple of km till you reach the dock. I think they said 1.4 marine miles. You will pass a dock/buildings that look like a boatyard on port side and hangars with possibly a tanker docked on your Starboard side (west). I think that is a place where the big boats can refuel before going up the locks. Keep going and next will be the government dock on your port side, you need to dock there and talk to the "Seaway Welland" people. You can see the first lock ahead but do not go to it.
Signage is quite bad so don't hope for much.
At the dock there is a pay/communicate booth. Just pick up the phone, no need to dial anything, and tell them you are there. They will take down your boat's name, and your phone number if you don't have a radio. Better to have a radio though.
If you did not pay online and saved 40 dollars you will need to buy a ticket at the ticket machine. Credit card only and the cost in 2014 was 240 dollars Canadian.
There is a blue pilot boat called Mrs. C that is often docked there. There is also a house. Maybe the pilots? No one will be there for sure to talk to. You might be lucky like us and see a deer and her fawns or a groundhog.
Now you wait for the go ahead from the Seaway Welland folks. They will either call you on your cell or radio you. They use channel 14 so keep your radio tuned to that channel.
They refer to us as Pleasure Crafts. They like to have several at a time go in as a small flotilla.
Priority is given to the big boats and you might have to wait a while to start. We waited a bit longer than 1 hour, the boat already there had a 3 hour wait.
If the canal is busy then you can wait several hours. Have food and drink ready. I had friends who waited over 8 hours to start. It depends on the time of day but also time of year.
Eventually they will call you and give you the go ahead. No one goes in the locks unless it is fully open and there is a green light. There are various combinations of lights and they mostly mean stay put until it's green.
That's not quite true. The St Lawrence Seaway Pleasure Craft Guide has lots of info including all the signals. Read through it, it is very thorough and will answer most questions. Procedures might change from what we did. pdf file
The Welland Canal people will monitor you and give you instructions and warnings ahead of time. You can reach them on Channel 14. If you have questions you can also ask the guys at the top of each lock who throw you the lines. I found that the instructions were good. If I was motoring it was sometimes hard to hear, also the different voices were not all easy to understand.
Going Through the Locks
Once you are instructed to go and have a green light, motor into the lock. Enjoy the experience it is quite fabulous. Be careful of current, sometimes there is some. Once you are in the Lock the doors will close.
For the first 2 locks, head for the Starboard side. In the rest of the locks you tie up on the port side. The last lock at Port Colborne is not tied at all. Long yellow lines will be lowered. They are tied together. You grab them, untie them. One crew is at the front controlling a line, and one crew is at the back. Pull your boat against the wall. Once they are satisfied you are OK the water will be let in.
Keep the lines tight as the boat rises to the top. Coil them and throw them on top after the front lock has opened. Move forward when you get the signal. The safest place is up front and that's where they will ask you to go.
3 crew are required going up the lock. If you don't have 3 people there are people who hire themselves as crew. Ask at the marinas around the canal when you book a berth for the night.
Only the 7 first locks are tied and need 3 people, the 8th lock is taken just floating in the middle. It is only a 3 or so feet rise. You do not need a third crew there and it is possible to stop after the 7th lock and let a person off. It is near the town of Thorold. You go to the starboard shore, there is a dock of sorts after the fenced in area of the lock. The extra crew can jump off and you can go on your way. You are not permitted to stop anywhere unless instructed to do so, but this is just a quick slow down and jump off.
The rest of the canal is 27 km. of flat land. There is a speed limit of 6 knots. If you meet any big boats (they will tell you if this is the case) stay well to the side. These big boats move a lot of water and the big propeller churn up the water for a long way.
You will be passing under several bridges. The flashing amber lights before you reach the bridge, mean that the operator has seen you. He will lift or raise the bridge when he can. You can contact the operator on Channel 14 if you have any question. Wait for the green light and go.
After the Welland Canal you can stay in Port Colborne
After the last lock at Port Colborne, you can be on your way or stay the night at the Sugar Loaf Marina. I think there is also some space in the municipal dock but I did not do this. It cost me 37 dollars to dock for the night. They monitor Channel 68 I think.
The marina is located on the starboard side. Before you exit the breakwater into Lake Erie proper, there is a channel just after the large concrete building. There is a plywood sign that points to the gas pumps and directs "transients" as opposed to seasonal visitors.
This article is provided for information and entertainment only. I am not an expert on sailing or navigation. Use your head and have fun.