Keith and Brenda Houseknecht became stranded travelers when their sailboat — The Twocan — got stuck at the Little Falls Canal Harbor last summer.
Fortunately, it turned out to be a serendipitous event.
The couple from Canton, Ohio, spent the past eight months as Little Falls residents on Salisbury Street, through the acquaintances they made at the Little Falls Baptist Church when Hurricane Irene caused them to seek shelter on land last August.
“The day Hurricane Irene came through, we went to Little Falls Baptist Church,” said Keith Houseknecht. “We met some great people. Very, very friendly.”
Houseknecht said they rented a car to head back to Canton for a few weeks, only for Tropical Storm Lee to pummel the area. Because of the damage from the flooding, they were unable to continue with their journey.
They had to move their boat to Brewerton, in Onondaga County — 80 miles away by land — since it was the nearest facility able to remove a sailboat of that size out of the water.
With their sailboat in Brewerton, the Houseknechts decided to make Little Falls a temporary home.
During their stay, the Houseknechts taught a Sunday school class on marriage, and enjoyed visiting local establishments in the city, such as Pohlig’s, formerly known as Lovenheim’s. Keith Houseknecht said he enjoyed cycling with the church’s pastor, the Rev. Chris Wintermute.
“We had always hoped that, as part of our plan, to stop somewhere and be able to spend enough time to get involved with the local community,” said Houseknecht. “This was absolutely perfect. What a blessing to be involved with the Little Falls community and church.”
Houseknecht also praised Chris Cadle, the city’s harbor master, for her help during their stay.
“When we stopped here, she gave us tremendous assistance,” he said. “This facility was a great place to be stuck, if you have to be stuck. Within 24 hours, three different places were offered to us for the winter.”
He added, “It’s not just people here in Little Falls who know this facility, the whole boating community ... has websites and keep track of great spots to stop and Little Falls is one of them.”
On Tuesday, the Houseknechts were preparing for departure on Wednesday to continue their journey south, by connecting with the Hudson River, into New York City and then to the Chesapeake Bay. But, Little Falls will be a special place for them.
“It’s the friendliest place on the Erie Canal,” he said.