25 May 2011

Lock E14 at Canajoharie

Lock E14 and its dam as seen from the east

Westbound boaters approaching locks on the Erie Canal with removable dams prefer that the major flow of water being released through the dam be as far away from the lock as possible.  When the situation is otherwise, a whirlpool can form in advance of the lock making piloting vessels into the chamber extra difficult.  The higher the water the more serious the problem.

Such was the case today.  The gates closest to the lock were open full.  The water this late spring/early summer is near-record high.  And, there was wind, as well -- blowing front right to back left.

The chief engineer was piloting the boat.  The bow started in OK, but with the competing current and wind the craft didn't have enough momentum to carry it straight .  (When conditions are ideal, the Grand Mariner with some momentum can enter a lock using the bow thrusters primarily for direction.)  The pilot lost control of the back of the boat and the boat hit the port-side entrance to the lock -- hard.  In the end and to keep damage to a minimum the captain took the helm, backed the boat downstream, realigned and began again.  With his decisive (aggressive) use of the propellers, rudder and bow thrusters, the Grand Mariner overcame the current and slipped into the lock.

Crisis averted, we are rising in the lock.
The one with the radio is the first mate.
The photograph to the right is a scene repeated lock after lock after lock.  I've already noted a deck hand gets off the vessel goes to the top of the lock to hold the line while the Grande Mariner is in the lock.  I think of it was walking the boat.  Also, a member of the crew is stationed on the lock-side side of the boat and communicates with the captain, who, with the pilot house lowered to the deck while on the Eric Canal, cannot see the boat's position.  How many feet he has between the lock wall on the bow and on the stern is updated constantly while the craft is in the lock.

We needed to take on potable water -- and to get over all the excitement, so we ate lunch while in the lock.  Another memorable meal, this one for both the roasted red pepper soup and the lobster sandwiches.  Oh, my ...  I suspect there's going to begin some major weight recalibration the minute we return home!

For all the mischief it caused the dam at Lock E14 is a beautiful structure.

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