Montreal to New York with Blount Small Ship Adventures
New York became the Empire State because of its waterways. The state is bounded by the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean; plus, the Hudson River and the New York State Canal System provide access to most of the state. The waterways were used by 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 its 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, New York State 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 tour stops in Canada, along the St. Lawrence, on the canal system and the Hudson, ending in New York City.
In 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 Frontenac. I felt as though I were 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 system 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 sailed through the rest of the seaway's locks. The Snell Lock raised us 45 feet, truly an engineering marvel.
We went through U.S. customs in Ogdensburg, New York, 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 1,000 Islands and Millionaire's Row. Midday we docked on Dark Island for a taste of the lifestyles of the rich and famous with a tour of the 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. 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 New York's canal system.
What started in 1817 as the Erie Canal grew into the 525-mile state 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, I would occasionally see people in cars and trains whizzing by, not realizing 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, 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 "U.S." — 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.
The 315-mile Hudson River starts in the Adirondack Mountains and flows into the Atlantic Ocean at New York City. Capt. David Sylvaria provided an informative narrative as we passed historic places, lighthouses, other points of interest and the towering palisades. The weather was excellent for two excellent side trips: historic Hyde Park, home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. I didn't realize West Point was such an impressive fortress until we tied up at the dock. On the way to Pier 59 in Chelsea the captain gave us a great tour of New York City'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 included 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.
In wasn't until the end of the voyage that I realized how value-laden the trip was. I visited two countries, three world-class cities and some of the world's most important waterways. I took excursions to historic places, enjoyed gourmet meals, listened to informative talks and 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 for a perfect two-week cruise.
About the Authors: Sandra & John Scott
Sandra and John Scott see the world as a wonderful playground. Since the 1980s they have traveled the world sharing their experiences through the print media (and now online) and travel presentations. They enjoy all forms of travel from bouncing over the Santa Fe Trail in a covered wagon to sailing on the Mekong River. They have marveled at the wonders of nature while walking the trails in the Amazon and snorkeling in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake. They are equally impressed with what man has created at Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat and Stonehenge. They have slept just about everything from native huts to luxury cruise ship to five-star hotels. One important aspect of their travels is connecting with the people and learning about their lifestyle and history. To that end they find taking cooking lessons, visiting school, and participating in local cultural activities a great way to feel like one of the locals. Pack your bags and follow Sandra and John Scott as they travel the world.