Locks, Locks and more Locks

What do you do when the locks are closed? We walked about a 1/2 mile from Newark up to lock 28B to take a little tour. It was great to see the locks from a little different perspective rather than on a boat.

This lock is typical of most of the locks that are on the New York Canal System on the Erie Canal. As we approach on our boat, we call the lockmaster on channel 13 on the VHF. This is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the response you might get. You might not get any response at all, they might answer and tell you they are ready and waiting. You might have to wait until the lock can be refilled or traffic let out going the other direction before it is our turn to lock through.

Once the lockmaster is ready he will open the front doors. They usually open with a loud creak, groan or clank that can be heard quite a ways off, so you know the doors are opening. Once the doors are open, there is a red light that turns green telling you it’s time to proceed into the lock. You are free to pick which ever side of the lock you would like. Generally there are weighted ropes hanging down every so often and I need to get out my boat hook and hook one of these lines as the boat slowly moves forward. Generally I hand this first line back to Mark at the stern of the boat. Then I head back up to the bow area to hook the next line for me to hold at the bow.

Now let me give you some pointers that we have learned along the way for all my boating friends who might have an occasion to go through a lock:

  1. On your boat hook, get rid of those plastic tips on the end of the hook and the end of the boat hook itself. It is so much easier to hook a line without those plastic tips on the boat hook.
  2. You need 2 boat hooks – one for the person on the stern and one for the person on the bow. You will use these to push the boat away from the lock wall.
  3. When going down in a lock the water action will cause the boat to move away from the wall
  4. When going up in a lock the water action will cause the boat to move into the wall
  5. You do not need to keep the boat tight against the wall. Relax!
  6. The boat will move forward and backwards in the lock. As long as you are holding on to your line. Relax!
  7. The lock master’s are your friends. Ask them questions, they are happy to help.
  8. It’s always nice to great the lock master and thank them at the end.
  9. The walls and the lines are slimy – wear gloves!
  10. Regardless of what it looks like, most boats in the lock are just as experienced at this as you are.

Once the water in the lock lowers or raises, the doors will open on the other end, again with a creak, moan or clank and then you are free to drop the lines and motor out of the lock.

Across the street from lock 28B was remnants of an old lock that existed before it was modernized in the 1930’s. I was cool to see the old original locks when the Erie Canal was built.

These gears cut into the stone were where the doors were for the lock and they would be able to crank them open along the gear track.

This particular lock used to generate it’s own power from the hydroelectric operation of the lock. The hydroelectric generators are no longer in use however the lock master gave us a tour of the building that still houses this equipment.

Even though the locks are closed, the lock masters still work everyday. When they aren’t operating the locks that are also responsible for caretaking of the grounds and buildings of the lock. So, they mow the lawn, paint the buildings, railings, etc. Anything that needs painting! I guess they also act as PR people giving people such as us a little tour.

It has been 3 days since we arrived in Newark and we haven’t the foggiest idea of when the locks are going to open.

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