Our outlook has been blurred recently from the incessant downpour. Note to self: have windshield wipers on next boat.
The heavy rain is causing the canal operators to release additional water through the dams. The Erie, it is said, “usually has less current than your bathtub”. I believe that, since our speed the last two days was almost exactly what we get in normal flat water. Today, however, our speed dropped almost 2 mph as additional dam gates were opened.
The works above the dam lift and lower the sliding gates.
A little counter current is no big deal… we ran into similar pushback from the tides coming up the east coast.
The challenge is the eddies that form the lock entrances.
The lock and dam design we like best is shown below. Water spilling over the dam (blue) is separated from water below the lock (red) by a barrier island. The dam water flows straight and the water leading into the lock is smooth and still.
Contrast this with the flow at Locks 9 and 10. With no barrier island, the raging dam water (blue) circles around and causes nasty currents across the boater’s path (red). As you approach the lock from downriver you are:
- Hit with current from starboard that pushes the boat toward the entrance wall.
- Pushed along faster toward the lock entrance, which is open and waiting.
- Pushed back toward starboard just before the entrance when the current shoots back toward the river, across your path.
Our friend Ted, on “Slow Hand”, says that no collision is improved by more speed. True enough.
But it is also true that rudders steer boats only when they are moving fast enough through the water.
It is also true that Erie Canal locks are 45 feet wide. Endeavor is 14 feet wide, maybe 15 with fenders on either side. That leaves 15 feet of safety margin on port and starboard as we maneuver into the lock.
Add these truisms together, and I’ve learned to adapt to the situation. The normally accepted way to enter a lock is to putter in at steerage speed: just enough to steer without making a wake.
When the river is raging and cross currents are present, I turn Endeavor up to warp speed. The combination of speed, twin rudders and steerable outboard motor makes her very responsive. In the cross currents she dances around like a puppy needing to pee. In fact, I’m not sure I didn’t pee a little. But, after few quick corrections at the helm, we suddenly have to slow down as we enter the still lock water.
This is the technique that works for us. I can’t speak for other boats. The lock master told us of a sailboat coming slowly through an hour before that narrowly missed crashing into the lock wall. Having owned many single hull sailboats I know they are more affected by currents than catamarans. Just a matter of knowing your boat, really.
Once in the lock, all is peaceful and it takes but one hand to hold the boat against the lock wall.
We transited Lock 9, the tied up to the lock wall a while to sit out heavy rain. Once it let up we pushed on through Lock 10 and on to Amsterdam, New York. Only 13.9 miles total, but an exciting ride.
We are tied up at the Riverlink Park docks. The park is very clean and well appointed and sort of land-locked. Access to town is via a pedestrian walk-bridge that goes over train tracks and a highway to deposit you on the roof parking lot of a mini mall.
Peg and I wandered across to “Fresh Basil” and ordered gourmet personal pizzas. What came out were excellent, large-ish pies for $6.49 each. Mine was so good I could not help devouring it.
We will probably stay another night in hope the canal will settle down.