I’d like to say a few things about going through the locks. Before the canal, our only experience with locks was in the Welland Canal with the kids on our way to Toronto. There we had to finish the entire canal in one day - and each boat needs three people to go up the locks as they are much larger than those on the Erie and there is a lot of commercial traffic that you have to stay clear of. Here, it is a different story. First you can take as long as you like. The lock keepers couldn’t be nicer, are often quite chatty and the ride is much gentler. Going east, all but two of the locks take you down and the two that go up are not very challenging, even with just two on board. Most of the time there are 1-3 boats in the lock at one time. We have not had to wait too long to get into each lock so they have not added a great deal of time to our traveling in a single day. Lock 17 was the only exception. I’ll get to that later.
Most of the locks have ropes that are attached the top and hang over the side. When you enter the lock you grab two ropes with a boat hook - one in front of the boat and one in the rear. In the lock your boat hook is your best friend. It helps you push off the wall so that your bumpers don’t get all full of the slime that coats the lower parts of the walls, and it helps you pick up the line as you enter the lock. Depending on Bob’s skill/luck as we enter, grabbing the line can be more or less challenging. Most of the time he did a great job and made it very easy for me.
As the boat is lowered in the lock, you come to the end of the rope line you are holding to steady the boat. Each rope has a weight at the bottom so you can pick up the slack at any time and know how much lower you have to go. Most of the time, you finish the lock with the weight just skimming the water. But, if you move back or forward in the lock because of the current caused by the water exiting or entering, or the doors opening or closing, you can come to the end of your rope prior to the end of the ride – New meaning for being at the end of your rope!
Leaving lock 17 - see the light under the gate?
Trekker in lock 17
Bob thanking lock keeper as we leave lock 17
Lock 17 is the deepest of the locks and is unusual because at the lower end, you exit under the lock door. This means that instead of it opening like a double door, it rises and you can’t help but get wet going under the lock door.
Today Saturday, August 19th we completed the “flight of five” – the last five locks at the east end of the canal. The locks come in rapid sequence – less than a half mile between – and each drops your boat about 33 feet. It is with a bit of sadness that we will say goodbye to the canal. It has been educational, fun and for the most part laid back. We will miss the lazy days and very protected conditions. Hudson River here we come!