24 May 2011

Waterford Flight

I write this in our little cabin aboard the Grande Mariner.  We are moored for the night just west of Lock 11 at Amsterdam NY.  Except for frequent, long* trains which pass by within 150 feet, all is quiet.  What a day we have had.  I am too overwhelmed and thrilled by our journey to chronicle all of it.  So, a few words and several photographs before I turn out my little reading light.

We reached the Mohawk River today, travelling on the actual Hudson River less than two miles before turning left at Waterford and entering the Erie Canal.  The canal system is treated much like a highway.  The signs at major intersections look much like the road signs we're all used to seeing and, mostly, obeying.

We passed through the five locks of the Waterford Flight over the course of the morning.  In only 1.5 miles the series of locks manages a lift of 170 feet -- the largest lift in the shortest distance of any system in the world -- and gets the traveller to the level of, and around, Cohoes Falls.  Our historian tells us the falls are strikingly beautiful from the downstream side, the Mohawk's Niagara, but are pretty boring from above -- unless, of course, you are adrift and heading toward them with no good way to propel your craft upstream to safety.  Then, the view -- and everything else -- is pretty exciting!

* The first train we saw as we exited the lock had eleven engines.

Here's a look at our day.

Remember the song about the Erie Canal?  "Low bridge, ev'rybody down!  Low bridge, for we're comin' to a town."  Having left the Hudson River, our ship faced its first tight underpass, the bridge to Peebles Island, in the boat harbor at Waterford.  The doors to Lock E2 are visible on the left side of the photograph.  Though the Federal Lock is not part of the Erie Canal and is not officially Lock #1, it is counted as such and the numbering on the canal begins with 2.)

The view back from inside Lock E3.  The ship below is the Day Peckinpaugh.  Built in 1921 it was the first motor ship expressly designed to navigate both the open water of the Great Lakes and the NY State Barge Canal.  It is now a feature of the Waterford Maritime Historical Society.

At each lock a member of the crew has to ascend to the top of the lock and tie off the Grand Mariner.  Once the lift is complete and the ship has cleared the lock the crew member leaps back aboard on the after deck.  Being fit seems to be part of the deal.

A view of Lock E4 from the top of Lock E5.  It is evident from the hills in the distance that we are gaining some altitude.

The second of two guard gates at the top of the flight of locks, which protect the Waterford Flight and the town of Waterford. 

Twin Bridges, aka Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge, carries traffic on I-87 from Colonie NY to Halfmoon NY.  While on the East and the Hudson Rivers, I photographed every bridge we passed under, but gave up that practice after leaving the Hudson.  These two spans were too graceful not to document.

Detail at Lock E7
The colors used on the
Erie Canal -- buildings,
locks, boats -- are blue
and yellow.

Lock E7 marks the last of the permanent dams along the Erie Canal.

And, at Lock E8 we encountered the first of the removable dams.  Large steel plates which fit between uprights slide up and down to regulate the flow of water.  When the navigation season ends, the steel plates are lifted and the uprights swing up clear of the water.

Some of the gears which operate the gates at Lock E11

The Grande Mariner moored above Lock E11 for the night.  It was here in Amsterdam that the reporters caught up with the captain.  This is the first cruise ship through the canal this season and is, thereby, newsworthy -- especially after the spring this part of the world has endured. 

We were treated to some evening entertainment: Skip Parsons' Jazz Trio.  The passing trains only competed a little bit, not stopping us from tapping our toes even once.

No comments: