Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lock Lessons, Times Nine

Days on cruise:  82

Distance Traveled Today:  37.5 miles

Travel Time:  5 hrs 16 mins (moving time), 8 hrs, 26 mins total travel time due to locking

Total trip odometer:  1,879 statute miles

Lock progress:  9 today, 12 total to date

What an interesting new phase, totally different from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, Chesapeake Bay or Hudson River!  Today we began the Erie Canal, and over the next couple of months we’ll do more than 100 locks.

Here we are tied up to the Waterford Lock Wall adjacent to the Visitors Center with Native Son in front of us, nice folks (both former pilots and claiming this is their “last hurrah” as they’re in their late 70s) we finally met after traveling the same path together for 2 days.


The locks open for business at 7am each morning, and the Waterford Lock Wall was a busy place as boats lined up for Lock #2 first thing.


As the lockmaster prepares a lock for entry of the next boats, he (they are all “he”, so far) lowers the water level inside, sending it out below the gates, and turbulence beneath the gates where we are waiting is huge! (If you’re too close.)  You want to either be tied up at a wall outside, or work the engines to hold your position.


Glen and Judy on “Soul Passage” are not Loopers, are from Toronto, and we met them back in Mannesquan, NJ the day we came in out of the horrible storm in the ocean, as did they.  We had dinner with them (and Loopers Mike and Judy on One September) that night and haven’t seen them again until now, but we spent all day Wednesday locking through 9 locks with them.  Like all sailboats, they have to step their mast in order to travel the New York Canals, as the controlling air height at the many bridges is only 20 feet. Our boat is 18.5 feet tall with nothing lowered, so it always looks creepy approaching a bridge that’s only 1 1/2 feet higher, wondering if it’s REALLY that high or will we hit?


The so-called “Waterford flight” of  locks #2 through #6 are identical, with rubber-encased steel cables recessed into the wall at regular intervals.  A boat sidles up to a cable, the crew wraps a midship line around the cable, turns it around a cleat but does not tie it off, and after all the boats are secure, up you go!  Easy.  We figured out little details to make it easier each time.  Each lock in this segment raises you 33-34 feet, and they come in quick succession, all 5 locks in only 2 miles. They report this is the highest rise in the shortest distance of any lock system in the world.


The various rivers or lakes that link up the locks along the Erie Canal are beautiful, and the many bridges are sometimes lovely.


Below is the bleaching factory for the first shirt-collar plant in the United States.


And the Adirondack  Power & Light facility.


At the top of each lock is a sign telling you how high you now are, the distance to the lock ahead and behind, and how far this particular lock lifts you. As you can see, at lock 7 we were now 211 feet above the Hudson River level. Some locks were 1/4 mile apart, others almost 11 miles.


Locks 7 through 9 had hanging ropes dangling down the lock walls instead of recessed steel cables, and we found them more difficult to deal with and to manage holding the boat solidly. We even found a good deal of strength was  required at times to hold the boat in proper alignment, so Bob stayed on the lines, Cathryn on the helm, and after getting settled in, we both held lines on the boat fore and aft til we reached the top.  The locks are not as wide (43 feet) as our boat is long (45 feet), so cautionary instructions advise the importance of not letting the wind or turbulence in the water turn your boat sideways, as occasionally a boat gets stuck sideways between the walls.

At the end of the day we tied up to the wall at Riverfront Place where for $1.00/foot we got electricity (nice to be able to run the A/C in the heat), but no water. We found One September already there, along with Sareanna, Loopers we’d not yet met. Soul Passage was still with us, so the 8 of us got together for appetizers and drinks on our boat for two hours, and Glen and Judy on Soul Passage stayed on the boat with us for dinner.


Bob, Judy (Soul Passage) and Cathryn above, Glen (Soul Passage) and Mike (One September) below.


The Erie Canal is more beautiful than we expected, doing 9 locks in one day is more tiring and slow than we understood, and we plan a shorter day tomorrow.

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