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The Boat/Technical



There are 35 locks on the canal between Tonawanda (where the canal meets the Niagara River) and Troy/Albany (where the canal meets the Hudson River). Many of the locks and their machinery are from the early 20th century and are wonderful examples of the strong, heavy, simple electromechanical systems that grew out of the industrial age. Following pictures are from Lock 24.


We’ve been living on the boat for a bit over 4 weeks (two at east 55th, one in-route to Buffalo and one on the Erie Canal), and are beginning to get a sense of how the boat and it’s systems are working based on real experience. So far the verdict has been mainly favorable.

Following are some highlights


  • Fuel consumption seems to be in line with what we expected (1/2 gallon of diesel per hour at 5 to 5.5 knots – 6 to 6.5 miles per hour). This is important because we have a relatively small fuel tank – 35 gallons plus we carry 15 gallons in jerry cans on deck. By comparison, one of the sailboats we are traveling with has a 100 gallon tank.

  • Water consumption has so far been very manageable – and we expect it will continue to be, as long as we are staying at marinas or at canal wall at tie-ups that have shore power and city water hook-ups. Several years ago we installed a city water inlet on the boat and can connect the boat to the water supply with a 50’ garden type hose. When we stay at tie ups that don’t provide water or when we are anchoring or staying on a mooring ball, we will need to carefully manage water use (62 gallons of shower and washing water in our water tank and 8 gallons of drinking water in 3 jugs). When on city water we can take long showers and let the water run while washing dishes. We haven’t yet figured out if we want to buy a reverse osmosis water maker.

  • Electrical power management has also been favorable. We installed a new 300 amp hour AGM battery bank and replaced our power hungry incandescent light bulbs with LEDs (please don’t ask what they cost), added a separate engine starter battery and upgraded to new energy efficient instruments. We also added a 100 amp alternator and 3.5 Kw diesel powered generator. We’ve only used the generator one evening – 90 degrees and humid – no shore power. Fired up the generator and ran the air conditioner for 2 hours to cool down the cabin. Boat was comfortable the rest of the night. The generator burns 1/10 gallon of diesel fuel per hour. We’ll learn more once we are anchoring out on a more regular basis.



  • Second or third day out, the pump motor on the vaccuflush toilet (like on an airplane) began popping the circuit breaker. After consulting with the manufacturer, we ordered a backup pump and bellows and learned about/implemented the manufacturer’s recommendation for lubricating the bellows. Existing system is once again working and we have spares.

  • The third time I turned on the VHF (marine band) radio in the nav station, it came on but the display was just a blank orange glow ( diagnosis - kaput). West marine immediately replaced the defective radio – but we still haven’t been able to get the AIS (automatic identification ship tracking system) function on the radio to display on the main navigation instrument at the helm. Still awaiting a call-back from the folks at Standard Horizon - hummm…


  • We had our 57’ (250+ pound) mast taken down by RCR Marine in Buffalo. They were AMAZING! Their crew was careful and diligent and would not let us leave till the shoring (securing) of the now horizontal mast was secure on the horses we built – including the third one they insisted on adding: so why ugly? We decided not to fill our fuel tank till we got to the entrance of the canal so we could enter with the maximum amount of fuel possible (there are very few fuel stops along the 350 mile canal). We pulled into Wardell’s Marine at the entrance to the canal to fill up. He asked who took our mast down and Sheila innocently answered RCR. He refused to sell us fuel because we didn’t use him (and his rickety old crane) to take our mast down. After much cajoling, negotiating and yes – a bit of begging – he relented and sold us diesel… what a &%$#@*&.

  • There is a very lovely city owned marina in the Buffalo harbor. The marina was recently refurbished and docks are in first rate condition – BUT the marina opens to the harbor and is very susceptible to waves rolling in from the lake. The surge in the basin was so bad, we had to double dock lines and brace ourselves every time we got on and off the boat. Good location and nice facilities – but we WOULD NOT recommend staying there if other alternatives are available. (Sheila’s comment – once we were off the wall and in a dock I didn’t think it was too rock and rolly.)

General information and terminology

Our soon to be home is a 1991, 38 foot Freedom sailboat.  She is equipped with:

V-birth, (forward cabin) which will be the master bedroom for the next year,

Salon (main section of the boat) with television, dining table and two bench seats that can turn into beds when needed; 












Galley (kitchen) with three burner stove, oven, deep sink, top loading refrigerator with small freezer section, microwave and a reasonable amount of storage.

Topside (above deck) she has a roomy cockpit with soft cushions, gas grill, bimini (sun awning) and a variety of lines that we will use for multiple purposes – you’ll start to understand once we are underway.

We will be taking a dingy with a 6 horsepower engine, folding bicycles and a double kayak with us as well.

Sheila at 55th Street Marina with Kayak

Bob caressing newly painted mast with Tom and Katie Palus

Nothing like a stiff new main sail.

Lock keepers booth lock 24
Lock door control gears
Water forcing its way between closed lock doors.








Her Diamond, our floating home, is a 1991 Freedom 38, the 4th boat we have owned. Our first was a 14’ Lone Star – a trail able day sailor that we sailed on Lake Chautauqua and during lapses in reason on Lake Erie. The second, a Tanzer 25 – the first boat we kept in the water on Lake Erie. When we were ready to move up to a slightly larger boat we looked at a number of boats – none of which really met our needs. A broker finally told us about a Freedom 30 that was for sale at a nearby club. A unique boat with a round freestanding mast (no standing rigging) and a large well-appointed cabin, we immediately knew that we had found our next boat. The F 30 was a wonderful cruising platform and allowed us to extend our cruising range. We also came to appreciate the boat’s sturdy construction, quality fit and finish, and wonderful sailing characteristics. As part of our retirement cruising dream, we knew we wanted to purchase our retirement boat approximately 10 years before throwing off the dock lines. This would allow us time to upgrade the boat and prepare her for our journey.

Her Diamond is a Freedom 38’ cat sloop. The mast is forward of the spot where most sloop rigs are located – but not as far forward as a catboat. The very large mainsail is complimented by a small, self-tacking jib. We have also added a roller furling asymmetrical spinnaker tacked to the top of the bow pulpit (the spot where a Freedom “gun mount spinnaker” pole would be installed). As boats of this size and type go, Her Diamond is a comfortable and stiff sailor. With flat-ish entry, wide beam and large sail plan, she screams off the wind. Close hauled in 18 knots of wind with full sail, the rail never gets closer than 10” off the water and the rudder always maintains its bite, never rounding up. As with all boats there are compromises. With the flat entry, she tends to pound a bit going to weather in a seaway. Her Diamond’s accommodation plan is very generous – that is till one begins loading her up with sufficient necessities, toys, spares and equipment to last a year. The L shaped galley is at the base of the companion way.  Opposite the galley is a large stand up/sit down nav station. A double aft cabin is situated immediately abaft the nav. Originally, we planned to use it as a guest room – but it has been reassigned and renamed “THE GARAGE”. Emergency med kit, folding bicycles, cockpit cushions, spare parts/fluids/cleaning supplies and the list goes on. Amidships is a large salon with bulkhead mounted fold down dining table (seats up to 8 very close friends – 6 comfortably). Forward of the salon is the head with Vacuflush toilet (thank you previous owner), ample storage (questionable) and a large shower area. Forward is our vee berth/owner’s quarters with a very comfortable inner-spring mattress (again thank you previous owner). The layout is pretty much identical to our previous boat (freedom 30) but with considerably more stowage and proportionately larger spaces. This boat also has a sugar scoop swim platform.

During my 6 month refit (every spare hour since I retired in January) we installed a great deal of new and upgraded equipment. Following is a general list – more details to be added in future:

16,000 BTU reverse cycle air conditioner (Dometic)

3.5 KW diesel genset (hello air conditioning on the hook when it is extremely hot, buggy and humid. Burns 1/10 gallon per hour)

3 new 100 Ah LifeLine AGM batteries and all new battery wiring, switches and controls

100 amp Balmar alternator

New electronics including RayMarine MFD and Radar

New VHF with AIS (automatic identification system for identifying and hopefully avoiding physical contact with commercial shipping)

New water heater – old one began leaking 6 months ago at age 26

Replaced all interior and nav lights with LEDs

Installed Dinghy-Tow for transporting dinghy (google it Bit strange looking but works like a charm. Unit on our F30 got us (and our dinghy) through a 75 MPH Lake Erie squall.

Installed 4 person off-shore life raft on deck

Installed sole (floor) grate in cockpit

Added new mainsail and asymmetrical cruising spinnaker

On deck we have added port and starboard preventers (permanently rigged and ready), and central jack lines to help us stay on the boat in adverse conditions

The list of upgrades, repairs and replacements is longer – but the above covers the major items.


For the boat design geeks among us (present company included), I provide the following:

LOA 38’

LWL 31.5’

Water tankage 26 gallons (thinking about adding Rain Man water maker)

Diesel fuel 35 gallons plus 15 in Gerry cans on deck

Sail Area    Main 490 sq. ft.

     Jib 195 sq. ft.

Waterline Beam 11’

Deck Beam 12.5’

Draft Wing Keel 5’

Air Draft 57’

Displacement/Length Ratio 207

Sail Area/Displacement Ratio 18.5

Comfort Factor 26.7

Capsize Screening Factor 2.05

Ballast/Displacement Ratio 41%

Length/Beam Ratio 2.9


One of the biggest challenges will be deciding what to bring and where to stow it.  A 38 foot boat is large for day sailing, but not so big when you are packing provisions for a year’s adventure.  We are trying to find new storage places on the boat and have succeeded to some degree.

Refrigeration - whether a two week vacation or a longer trip organizing the top loading refrigeration unit has always been a challenge.  It packs nicely but then if you pull something out, everything else slides in and takes up the space making it difficult to return the items to the original spot without taking everything out, which is not energy efficient and aggravating to say the lease. So, we came up with a plan to subdivide the large space with a basket and two tall plastic containers which have tops that close.  The plastic containers can accommodate vegetables, cheese and other things that are relatively small and are logically grouped by type.  The basket holds larger items like milk, other beverages and prepared food.  We tried this out while staying on the boat over the July 4th holiday and it worked great!

Linen closet – We had two large towel bars in the head and never used both of them as it created a situation where one towel sat atop the other and the underneath one never dried.  So, we installed two large baskets (metal coated in plastic) resting on the upper towel bar.  These are secured overhead and now provide a great space for storing extra soap, toothpaste and other items. They are also very easy to access.

Soft Storage – Our mast is stepped to the keel, which means that it goes through deck and the vee birth.  I sewed a covering for the top third of the mast which is covered with pockets and will be a great storage place for shoes, scarfs or other soft items.

Cupboards – Her diamond came with lots of cupboards, but most of them were single large spaces.  We build shelves in many creating more usable space.

Bob wiring the lights at the base of the mast in the V-birth.

Top down view of refrigerator with basket, plastic containers and sliding shelf.

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Mast cover in V-Birth - Hanging storage

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