Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Locks of the Erie Canal

Because of the sheer number of photos we thought a separate little piece on the locks of the Erie Canal would be appropriate. Unfortunately, to really pass on the experience you need an audio recording…

How do they work?
I used to think that there must be giant pumps to move water around but a little thought will tell you that that is not necessary. There is an "infinite" supply of high water on one side of every lock. You just need giant valves to allow the water in or out as needed to raise or lower boats in the lock once both doors are closed. The doors are cleverly constructed so that the high water tends to smash them closed...but they do leak. Alot. That gets your attention as well!

Going Up

When you see the lock and the doors are open it looks like you are approaching the gates of Mordor. You are in a canyon that could be as deep as 40 feet (lock 17 by Little Falls) or as shallow as 15 or 20 feet. There are typically big ropes hanging down and the idea is to have one person hold one at the bow (Sue) and the other (Scott) hold one at the stern. Of course Scott is also trying to stop the boat near these ropes and not leave it in gear (did that) and jump up with the hook and get his line. Understand, that once you pass the back door they pretty much start to close it and let the water in! Oh, and when the back door closes it makes a creaky, groaning sound that fills the canyon. Better than any scary sound in any scary movie I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a few.

Assuming that we each have nice big slimy rope now the water whooshes in from below and sometimes you have to hang on tight as a current will be created dragging you fore or aft. Meanwhile we each have a paddle or pole to fend off the wall. The walls themselves are spectaulary slimy and so are the ropes. Old gloves are a great thing to have!

Going Down

Not much different except now the lock is full of water when you come in and if it is windy you will now catch that wind and if you mistakenly go to the windward side of the lock and grab a bow line you can easily end up sideways in the lock. We did that. Then we ended up backwards. The canalman said just turn it when it is time to leave. Sure. The lock is about 50 feet wide and I’m carrying a 40 foot mast on top of my boat. I almost made it too but half way through the turn I couldn’t fend off my end well enough and sheared the anchor light off the top of the mast. No other damage so that’s good.

The Little Falls lock needs special mention because it is so deep and because it does not have the traditional swinging doors at the end. It has a giant vertical slab with giant chains on it and it makes the BEST scary noise of all.

It was always a bit exciting when you were in the lock but hadn’t grabbed a line yet and always fun to see the doors open up for you. I’ve done it and don’t need to do any more. 38 locks is plenty. I already gave away my Erie Canal book to some other cruisers who were headed the opposite way as us.

1 comment:

LeahC said...

very cool. i think you should write the creators of Silent Hill and suggest a lock segment