About a "terrible storm" on the Erie Canal. "Oh, the E-ri-e was a-rising And the gin was a-getting low, And I scarcely think we'll get a little drink Till we get to Buffalo." Humorous anecdotes of a highly hazardous voyage
The Erie Canal, as originally constructed, was a completely flat, shallow waterway. The barges were drawn along by mules. Thus, apart from getting wet, storms posed little danger, and the only way one could run aground was to run into trash that had fallen into the canal.
As for needing a distress signal ("We h'isted (the cook) upon the pole
As a signal of distress"), one could always step off onto dry land....
The Lomaxes, in _American Ballad and Folk Songs_, thoroughly mingled many texts of the Erie Canal songs (in fairness, some of this may have been the work of their informants -- but in any case the Lomaxes did not help the problem). One should check all the Erie Canal songs for related stanzas. - RBW