Remote-Control Boating

The morning of July 2 we were in Michigan and R&R was at Bootlegger’s Cove Marina in Wilson, NY, a US marina that is very close to the Canadian border. Correction…R&R started the day there.

R&R in a Welland Canal lock (without her regular Captain or First Mate)

Captain Bill Barnaby drove R&R 67 miles from Bootleggers Cove, into Lake Ontario, over the Canadian border, through the Welland Canal, into Lake Erie, and to the Erie Basin Marina in Buffalo. The Welland Canal connects lakes Ontario and Erie, bypasses Niagara Falls, and has a total lift of more than 325 feet. It is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway that links the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean.

Because of the Canadian COVID border closure, US boat owners cannot pilot their boats through the Welland Canal. The only option to get from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie is to hire a Canadian-licensed captain, who brings along two Canadian deckhands and takes the boat through the Canal.

R&R, driven by Captain Bill, left Bootlegger’s Cove around 6AM, entered Lake Ontario and turned left toward Canada. He picked up two Canadian deckhands along the way. The three of them arrived at Port Weller, Ontario just before 7AM and awaited permission to enter the Welland Canal.

Nebo Tracker emailed me that R&R was underway. Nebo Tracker stopped transmitting when R&R passed into Canada (because it relies on US cellular signals), but at the end of the day when she returned to the US, Nebo sent me a string of email reports of her movements while in Canada.

All day long, R&R’s AIS system broadcast her location and speed, which I could check via the MarineTraffic app on my phone.

MarineTraffic screenshot

During the day, Captain Bill sent me photos and videos of R&R in locks and waterways of Welland Canal, and called me regularly by cell phone with updates on R&R’s progress.

Welland Canal Lock
The Welland Canal serves many large ships.

The experience was surreal, knowing our boat was moving, receiving regular updates via multiple technologies, but not being in command. I was happy that R&R was in Captain Bill’s experienced hands.

After a long day, around 9:30PM R&R was safely tied up at Erie Basin in Buffalo, where we will meet her soon.