This was a day I had been dreading.
Since we left Baltimore on May 15th, I knew there would come a day when we would have to go through locks.
But this fear started months ago when we were still in Texas.
I would have this reoccurring nightmare where somehow I did the lines wrong (not hard to believe) and our boat just turned right over on it’s side in the lock!
My stomach is queasy.
A lock is a genius design where you start at one elevation and end up at another.
I searched for YouTube videos.
I bought the Captain Chris “Locks” video.
I asked around.
I still didn’t feel prepared.
I woke up on edge.
You know what I mean.
I think I even made up a few new cuss words.
We were getting ready to face the first lock and I didn’t know what to do.
I contacted gold loopers that we had met at the Albany Yacht Club. They were now on down the road and had the experience that I was looking for.
I have to admit, that phone call talked me down off the ledge.
There were specific questions that I had that they answered and I felt like I understood what my role was.
Approaching the Troy Lock
The first stretch of river to the Troy Lock seemed to fly by.
It was time.
Sam contacted the lock master on VHF Channel 13.
Nothing. No response.
I start praying and making all kinds of promises.
I’ll be better! I’ll do better! Please let the lock master respond!!!
I do see a red light up ahead and we know that means to relax and wait.
We wait but I CANNOT RELAX!!!
I’m a nervous wreck!
I should have had a shot of tequila!
I put fenders out on each side because I’m not sure which side we will be going on.
The lock master comes on the radio and he doesn’t have a preference so Sam tells him we will go on the port (left) side.
The sections are numbered and he directs us to #3.
There is an indentation in the wall and inside this section is a pole about 6 inches wide that runs from the top of the wall to the bottom under the water.
I have my gloves on and a boat hook/pole and then I grab one of our lines.
Sam maneuvers me over to the pole.
I wrap the line around it and hold on for dear life!
There are four other boats with us in the lock.
The back gate closes and water starts coming in slowly.
I move the line up the pole as the boat moves higher.
At one point, I have one side of the line in each hand and also the boat hook trying to keep us away from the wall.
Sam and I have our headsets on and thankfully we have bow and stern thrusters and he is able to move the bow or stern away from the wall when needed.
The pole ends at the top of the wall so I have had to let out more line.
Once we reach the top, I feel like a cowgirl standing on top of a horse holding on to the reins.
As I’m standing there, the lock master comes by and wants to know our registration number.
Sam starts scrambling around the bridge looking for the documentation.
I make casual small talk and gave him a thank you bag with cookies and chips.
I made a bag for each lock. I had no idea this would come in handy to buy us some time so Sam could locate the registration number but it worked.
After I repeated our number to the lock master, he wrote it down and walked away.
I thought we were done.
I dropped the line.
We weren’t done!
Miraculously, Sam was able to keep us close to the wall and avoid bumping any boats.
Don’t let go of the rope until the captain tells you to.
On to the Erie Canal
There is a fork in the road and you have to decide.
Do you want to go down the Erie Canal or up the Champlain Canal?
Our choice is the Erie because we want to end the day in Schenectady.
That means six more locks!
Locks 2-6 are really close together. I mean REALLY CLOSE.
You finish one and can sometimes see the next lock.
Lock 7 is about 1 1/2 miles further.
The remaining locks are similar in design.
They have ropes hanging down but also they have the indentation in the wall with a smaller pipe (than at the Troy lock) inside so you have a choice.
Hang onto a rope or wrap your line around the stable pipe.
We were a little concerned that the hanging ropes would get tangled in our propellers but they are weighted and we had no problems.
Going through locks for a deck hand is physically and mentally exhausting.
I should have been lifting weights and developing more upper body strength. I should have been doing planks to develop a strong core and back. I should have been squeezing stress balls to make my hands stronger.
Now that I know this, I have started these exercises.
I can’t go on with these weak, noodle arms.
I’ve got to get stronger.
On to Schenectady
After lock 7, the cruise down the canal was beautiful and incredibly peaceful.
It was almost worth the stress of going through the locks just to see.
When we arrived at our destination, we were exhausted like we had never been before.
We decided to stay at Donovan’s Mohawk Marina tucked in off the canal in Schenectady.
This is a fairly new area and there is a lot to do.
There is a casino within walking distance and on the weekends they have a free trolley to take you into downtown.
We went to Clinton’s Ditch. If you like history about the Erie Canal, you have to go to this restaurant.
A live band played at a restaurant next to the marina last night and the Albany Symphony plays tonight right behind the marina.
We survived our first day of locks and now Schenectady is rewarding us!
You made it just like the Pros! Congratulations, new experiences takes off the anxieties! No additional gray hair coming for the moment!
It was quite an experience! I’m ready for more days without locks!!!
Love this post Rev! One more challenge met and overcome, great job!!
Thanks, Rus! We did feel exhausted, beaten up yet victorious at the end of the day.
Great job Rev and Sam! It will get better and better as you progress further. Hey, I saw Hamilton is coming to their theater. We are going to Hamilton in Oklahoma City on August 17.
Thanks, Mom! We appreciate your encouraging words. You get to see Hamilton! That’s so cool!
Great job and great post! We just made the trip home from the Chesapeake in our new-to-us Hatteras. Our home marina is on the Champlain Canal so we have to go through a lock to get anywhere. Some advice: instead of holding the line in the lock, run your midship line around the pole and cleat it back to the boat. You may have to loosen it at the end if you run out of pole, but it’ll save your arms and free you up to push off the wall if you need to. 🙂 Safe travels!!
Thanks, Tiffany! I really want to understand what you’re saying but I don’t know how to save my arms! Help me!!!
Get your boat nice and close to the wall with a pole/ladder/wire next to the midship cleat. Then, instead of of using the lines in the lock, use your own line from your boat that’s attached to the midship cleat and wrap that line around the pole/ladder/wire on the wall (all the locks are different) with a bit of slack and cleat it back to your own boat – making a loop around the fixture in the lock.
As the water goes up/down, the rope will slide along with the boat. (I’m paranoid so I stand ready to help it along with the boat hook just in case.) Your only issue might be if your boat is tall, you’ll run out of room at the top of the lock and have to feed the rope out yourself. One other important note: DO NOT attach to a ladder rung if it’s a ladder – wrap it around the entire ladder and then make sure it doesn’t get hung up anywhere. We have a 43′ Hatteras and unless it’s very windy/turbulent in the lock, one line from the midship cleat, around the pole, and back to the boat holds us nicely in place.
I’ll try to get a pic on one of our trips so it’s easier to follow; I couldn’t find a photo online.
If you can find a picture that would be great! You could send it to me at crew@WhatYachtToDo.com. Thanks, Tiffany!
Great job, noodle arms notwithstanding! ? I’ve always wanted to see Schenectady just because the name is so much fun! Lol! It looks like a wonderful town! ❤️
I really should have been working out! Oh well. I guess it’s never too late! I just like saying the name: Schenectady, S!chenectady, Schenectady! We had a wonderful concert in our own backyard at the marina last night. There was so much to see and do. But. We gotta be moving on…
It’s amazing how much you guys have learned/ experienced in a short time!! This is still your beginning and the increased confidence is really on display! I see a How To book in the future as you guys become expert Loopers/ boat operators ??
It is amazing that we haven’t packed up and raced back to Texas. There have been times that we really wanted to quit. But we went to bed and moved forward the next day. I guess we do feel a little more confident than when we started. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! Thanks for coming along on this journey with us.
You are doing great….. only 135 locks left… give or take a few…. by lock 150 or so it will be a piece of cake says the lady who was nervous every time we went in one!
Cake is just the motivation that I need to keep going! We can compare stories. Thanks, Marie!!!
You guys are almost experts already. It seems like you’re having a great time. So many beautiful sights along your route. I hope you enjoy and stay safe.
Hi Dave! I’m not sure about the “expert” part but we are having a great time! Thanks for coming along with us.
Going good. Hang in there
Thank you, Lois! We are glad you are coming along with us.