This was my second passage through a section of the Erie Canal. It is truly one of the most interesting experiences a cruiser can have, taking you 363 miles from Federal Lock just north of Albany, N.Y on the Hudson River at the eastern end to Buffalo, N.Y. on the western end. If you cruise the canal in its entirety, negotiating 83 locks, you'll rise 676 feet up to Lake Erie. More importantly, you'll travel on one of the world's engineering marvels, a route first proposed in 1699, and opened in 1825. Though it fell on hard times for a number of years, and the small towns along its length suffered as trade and commerce began to rely on overland rail and highway routes, the Erie Canal is now under the care of the New York State Canal Corporation. Financed by the New York State Thruway Authority, the state has led an aggressive campaign to maintain the canal in top working order and develop destinations along the way that promote recreational boat, tour boat, charter boat and light commercial uses.