Some folks have asked us what it’s like going through the locks on the Erie Canal. Well, to be honest, the first one was a little scary, just like anything new might be, but ended up being pretty painless. It all starts with a call to the lock master on channel 13 on the marine radio a little ways before reaching the lock. This is typically Jim’s job, for no other reason than I’m just not interested in doing it. 🙂 Typically the lock master answers our call right away, but there are times when we’ve had to call several times before reaching anyone. Once they acknowledge the call, we let them know what direction we are heading and that we are “requesting passage” through the lock.
Depending on the current state of the lock, at times it has been ready for immediate entry and at other times we have had to wait while the lock was filled (or drained if it was a lock that was going to lift us up instead of drop us down!) or if there was a vessel going through the lock. Either way, the lock master let us know if we could come right in, or if not, about how long of a wait we should expect.
Upon receiving the go ahead from the lock master (and typically getting a green light), we proceed slowly (Jim would say too slowly…I’m the one driving and I go….very….slowly….) into the lock. To protect our boat from the lock walls, we have fenders hanging off the side of the boat which we plan on pulling up to the wall of the lock. Some of the walls are sheet metal, others are cement, and still others are very old looking, VERY rough cement and we do not want the side of our boat to touch the walls and get scratched, hence a set of three fenders.
Every so often along the walls there are lines with weights on the ends of them hanging down. These are what we grab and hold onto as the boat is being lowered or raised in the lock. They are dirty, slimy, gross! Gloves make the job much more pleasant. As I drive into the lock, Jim is standing at the bow (forward on the boat) with a boat hook in hand and together we decide which pair of lines we will be grabbing. I pull the boat as close alongside the wall as I can without scraping up against it or being too far away to grab the lines and we each grab our respective line with our boat hooks (sometimes that part goes better than others…).
After all the boats are in the lock, the lock master closes the gates behind us and then walks around and jots down everyone’s permit number (we purchased a 10 day permit for $37.50, which means we have 10 days to get through the locks, which averages out to about 35 miles per day), before finally lowering (or raising) the water level. As the water level is being changed, we continue to hold onto the lines provided and use our boat hooks to push away from the wall so as not to scrape against it. Once we are at the level of the water on the other side of the lock, the gates open, and out we go, one at a time, typically in the order in which we arrived.
Lock 17 has a drop of 40.5 feet, the largest single lock drop in the canal system, and is also the only lock with a gate that lifts up instead of opening side to side, so we decided to capture the locking process while going through this lock. So as not to bore everyone, because it really does take a bit of time to get through each lock, Jim set up the GoPro to take a picture every two seconds and he compiled it into the short little clip below. Enjoy!