The Great Loopers Chapter 9. Locked In

From the logbook on July 26 2017 written by the XO:

8:49 AM We leave the Starbuck Island Boat Club. Heading off to our first lock of the trip at Troy.
9:30 AM First Lock– Nobody died, So far, so good.

All my fears just melted away after that first lock. It’s like riding a bike, it comes back pretty quick, and it’s not really all that difficult. You call the Lockmaster on channel 13 and ask what side he wants you on. There are red and green traffic lights so if the big doors are open and the light is green, you slowly enter the lock, maneuver the boat towards the side, and grab the ropes hanging down. The XO would be outside the cabin near the midship cleat and would “talk me in” on our intercom headsets. She’d grab a rope and put it around the cleat in such a way that it would slip through as we rise. When she had control I would leave the helm and catch another rope from the aft deck to keep the stern from swinging out. At that time, our plan for Salty was to tie it across the swim platform, but somewhere between locks one and two, Salty filled with water from being towed sideways, even at headway speed, so the new plan was to tie him on the hip before we enter the lock, that’s how we did it for the next 140.

The XO in her “lock seat.”

We got really good at going through locks. Man, we had it down. We would go into lock-mode and use a system that worked every time without fail. No boat follies. We just did it so many times it became second nature, like we were reading each others mind. But the first few days on the Erie Canal, every lock was like a new experience with all the anxious moments that come with it. A stressful learning curve where the stakes seemed higher, the danger more prominent. Cold, steel walls wait to take fingers and limbs from the unwary mariner. By the time we reached Canajoharie, NY, our second port-of-call, we had gone through 15 locks. More than we have in the past 20 years. After docking, I remember feeling so spent, and so overloaded, like my mind turned to mush.
“You okay?” the XO asked.
“It’s just so much,” I answered. “I think I need to wind down a bit.”
She handed me a cold beer and my guitar

Scotia Landing. A wonderful place. It was our first stop along the Erie Canal
It’s my birthday!
Water skiing show in Scotia, NY.
Docked at Canajoharie, NY.

There are no tides or currents to worry about, but the water seems somewhat dirty. You wouldn’t want to swim in it. There are no marinas with slips because the Erie Canal isn’t wide enough. Instead, they have walls that you tie up to. Many are free, and the ones that aren’t, don’t cost much at all.

A Guard Gate. It can be closed to seal off the canal.
The wall at Ilion.

From the logbook on July 31 2017. Written by the XO
9:30 AM. Left Illion. Weather is clear and fall-like. Headed to Rome. All fueled up and watered.
11:50 AM. Rick is scolded by a bargeman for speeding! He waked the canal work barge.
2:09 PM. Docked at Bellamy Harbor Park, Rome, NY. GOT PIZZA DELIVERED!
We measured 15’5″ from the top of the bimini to the water fully fueled and watered.

The wall in Rome, NY.

Yes, I got scolded for waking a working barge. In my defense, dear reader, I was only going about 7 MPH, but the Erie is still and narrow enough that the wake reverberates off the sides. Since then, I slow way down when passing guys on boats while they are working. And it paid off! I got friendly waves instead of one finger salutes.

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