Thousands of people have taken the boats that cruise New York’s Erie Canal every summer, stopping at port Fairport, bringing millions of dollars of business to Fairport over the years. But Covid 19 has hit that cruise business, too, and the late opening and early closing of the Erie Canal by the State may mean that the Colonial Belle may not be able to return on Summer 2021, especially if the owners’ application to drydock in Lyons is rejected.
The canal is set to close this week on Wednesday, October 14, but owners of the boats have petitioned the New York State Power Authority and NY State Canal Corporation to extend the season four more days to Oct. 18 to allow for charter business this weekend, with a few days after for staff to ready the boats for winter storage. The largest boat, the Colonial Belle, as well as Corn Hill Navigation’s Sam Patch have also applied for an extension to the length of time they can operate, as well as three boats operated by Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises. All the companies had a shortened season this season due to repairs being made on the canal, so they could not start their season until July instead of May, and because of Covid, had to limit the number of passengers per trip. Historically, the season ran from early May to November, but when the New York Power Authority took over operations, they shortened the cruise season from May 15 to October, so they could complete Erie Canal repairs in better weather each Spring and Fall, affecting the businesses of all five boats cruising the canals. This year, the season was shortened even more, with starting date moved to July.
But the Colonial Belle, the largest boat on the canal, has an additional business conundrum to overcome, if they want to come back for the Summer 2021 season The Colonial Belle was purchased in 1995 from San Francisco, and moved to Fairport. It has drydocked at Lyons for about 25 years, but last year, the Canal Corporation rejected the Colonial Belle’s application to drydock there, and the drydock in Lyons is one of the few places in the state large enough, with storage and lifts large enough to handle the size of the boat. As a result of last year’s rejection, the Colonial Belle had to stay in the water at Newark, which caused thousands of dollars more damage, and made it so some of the needed maintenance could not be done. The Colonial Belle was told in 2018 by the state there were repairs to be done, and all boats must pass a 5-year inspection. Captain Tammee Poinan Grimes, is hoping that the online petition, if signed by enough people, will help the New York State Canal Corporation see the impact their decision will have on these long-running businesses, and reconsider. At present, it has over 1500 signatures.
The petition can be found online at https://www.theweek.in/news/world/2020/07/15/us-set-to-pull-out-of-afghanistan-regardless-of-the-election-result.html