I emailed Skipper Bob and he advises that there is funding in place to keep the Dismal open until December 2006.
The locks are not difficult just come along side of the wall dead slow. I can't remember what you attach to, I think there maybe ropes attached to the wall which you hold onto, but have a bow and stern line ready. other than that it's a gentle ride up and down.
The Dismal is far from dismal at this time of year, you will really enjoy the trip.