New York's Erie Canal by boat

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"Now I know what's meant by 'steering committee,'" the lock tender said with a laugh as the water, rushing through the sluice gates of Erie Canal Lock 32, raised us to his level.

Karin was at the tiller of Seneca, our 42-foot charterboat, and I had my hand on the controls of that loveliest of maneuvering cheats: the bow thruster, which effortlessly moved the bow to port or starboard.

Chuck and Karin Gedge and my wife, Laurel, and I were on our first full day of a weeklong voyage in July on the western end of New York's historic Erie Canal. During our trip, we would cover 90 miles of water through varied and mostly bucolic landscape, all seen in slow motion at about 6 mph. We would visit 10 canal towns, each with something to offer: a museum, a good meal, some historic architecture or simply the embrace of small-town America. And our boat was a self-contained mobile home, offering everything we needed.

Click here for West Coast writer Karl Zimmermann's exploration of this East Coast cruising treasure.