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  #1  
Old 02-12-2013
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Ballard locks questions

Some Ballard locks questions:

1. You are required to have two 50-ft lines with an eye of at least 12 inches diameter at one end. Must the eye be spliced or can you use a big bowline?

2. Do they ever run the large and small locks simultaneously? In opposite or same directions?

3. If so, when approaching how do you know whether you are to use the small or large lock if you have a small vessel? I know there are red and green lights for each. Do you ever encounter two green lights and have to choose large vs. small?

Thanks!
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Old 02-13-2013
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Re: Ballard locks questions

Fisheries has lock lines pretty cheap. IIRC 3/8" and 1/2" 3 strands sizing already to go. around $15-20 per. That is the simplest way to get your lines.

The few times I have gone thru, I have yet to see two greens. If you do, there will be a lock handler on the pier at the ends, directing folks thru. Being as you have such a small boat......if you go thru the large locks, you will be tied up to larger boat. The two times I went thru, I was tied up to other boats, and I am 30'!

The small lock, you could literally use 15-20' lines, as the pollards you tie to, go up and down with you. Having bumpers and lines ready to deploy on either side to me is mandatory, as you never know which side you may have to tie up on, until you are in. So if you can be ready for either side, makes like much easier!

There is also some info on the ballard lock site. Along with both 48north and yachting have had articles thru the years on how to go thru. Its actually quite simple, unless trying to go thru on the friday eve or sat am, along with monday on a typical 3 day holiday! March is when I have gone thru, not too bad friday pm on my way to the Meydenbauer YC spring regatta. Sunday late in the day can be busy, opening boating day weekend on the way out sunday has put me in the large locks.

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Old 02-13-2013
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Re: Ballard locks questions

A loop with a bowline is fine. The lockmaster will drop down his line, you tie in to yours, he hauls the line up and puts yours on the bollard. You need to pay close attention to being tied next to the wall in the large locks. There can be quite a surge, when the gates open. Plenty of fenders are a good call. Have a few fenders on the other side of your boat to protect your boat from others who may not have adequate fenders deployed.

The lock master will also direct you as to which line to let go first. If you get this wrong, you may end up doing a 360 down the length of the locks....Don't ask how I know this....

The small lock is easier and has a floating wall. I found it easier to loop my line around the bollard and then bring the line back to the boat. Sometimes there is as urge as well.

On busy weekends, both locks can and will be used. Sometimes it may take an hour or more to fill up the large locks. Coming back in on busy weekend days we fired up the BBQ and watched, the "lock follies".

It usually is pretty obvious which lock to use. When you come out of the locks make sure the railroad bridge is open....otherwise you will need to keep station in a pretty small area in between the locks and bridge. When you come back into the locks there is a pole/wharf/ tie up spot to tie up(starboard) while waiting for the railroad bridge/locks to open.

If your over in the Ballard area a stroll through the "locks" park is a nice walk, you can then observe the comings and goings of all kinds of water craft.

We made friends with several of the lock masters. They wished us "bon voyage" back in 99, wonder if they are still there?

Good luck!
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Old 02-13-2013
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Re: Ballard locks questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthewwhill View Post
Some Ballard locks questions:

1. You are required to have two 50-ft lines with an eye of at least 12 inches diameter at one end. Must the eye be spliced or can you use a big bowline?
A bowline is fine. Don't spend a lot of money on these for your boat. The very long lines are only used if you are on the outside wall on the large lock. They load the largest boats first, so your 24' sailboat is very unlikely to ever end up in that position.

I use fairly cheap nylon 3 strand and they do double duty as my dinghy tow line.

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthewwhill View Post
2. Do they ever run the large and small locks simultaneously? In opposite or same directions?
Yes, both are often in use in the summer. The large locks take much longer to load and unload than the small locks, so the small locks will often carry traffic in both directions before the large locks even finish going in one direction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by matthewwhill View Post
3. If so, when approaching how do you know whether you are to use the small or large lock if you have a small vessel? I know there are red and green lights for each. Do you ever encounter two green lights and have to choose large vs. small?
It happens, but not too often. If you have a choice choose the small locks, they are a lot faster. Typically if both are in use there will have been a queue to get through the small locks and then the large locks will open up and handle the entire queue.

Other things:
* Have at least 6 fenders, and mount them at rail height (not down low at dock height). If you have big and small fenders put the biggest ones at the beamiest part of the boat.
* Have 4 normal length (~20') dock lines cleated and ready to use, one in each corner of the boat. Have the 2 long lines handy to use on the north side, but the chances of you using them are very remote.
* I would suggest having at least two crew plus yourself the first time you go through. You can do it solo with practice, but I wouldn't recommend doing that the first time.
* If you do go solo coil the docking lines and run them under then hanging on your dock lines. This will allow someone to pick them up with a boat hook.
* When you are rafting up you will pass your line to the boat next to you, they will loop it under a cleat and pass it back to you. You cleat it off. This way you control when you leave the neighboring boat.
* NEVER leave until you've been directed to do so. I've watched some spectacular messes when boats randomly decided to just go on their own.
* If you are going into the large locks it is biggest boats first, small boats at the very end. Rushing in early doesn't help, it just sets it up so that a much larger boat may need to raft up to the outside of you, an unsafe setup. In the small locks get filled in queue order, so remember which boats were there when you arrived and who arrived after you.
* Commercial traffic has priority. When the Argosy ship shows up it will take the entire small lock.
* The locks require good slow speed boat handling with the motor going, both for maneuvering in the locks and sometimes for waiting in the queue if the wall is full. It's good to practice being able to stay roughly in place while in standing water.
* Finally, your KR24 should fit under all of the bridges except for Fremont.

I think the locks are pretty fun. My wife hated going through them (mostly due to the random queue times) and is happy that we keep our boat on the sound now. We probably went through the locks about 10-15 times last summer and have had everything from no queues to long ones.

If you want to avoid the long queues on a busy summer weekend you can use the guest moorage at Shilshole. Start your weekend trip with low stress by going through on Friday night and docking at Shilshole (guest moorage will run about $30). Launch from Shilshole on Saturday morning and get a full day on the sound. I would also go through the locks solo or by myself and pick up crew at Shilshole X dock.
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Last edited by Alex W; 02-13-2013 at 09:29 AM.
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Old 02-13-2013
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Re: Ballard locks questions

Some other hints and tid bits that we use
1. We always tie the 50 footers to the north side of the boat, that is the side tie used for the big locks. So you can use the 50 footers for either small or large locks. Short lines go to the south side of the boat which would be used for small locks.
2. If going east into the large locks and you are against the north wall, they will toss down a leader line to connect your large lines to.
3. The first line that they want released is always on the Puget Sound end.
4. Before we actually did our first crossing of the locks we drove over to the locks and watch boats go through. While there you can ask the lockman any questions. We just said, "hey we will be going through for the first time next week, any advice", answer is, listen to them carefully. They enjoy and appreciate the questions.
5. We always feel like we are an animal in a zoo, lots of tourist bystanders watching every move you make, just keep your focus It is an odd feeling the first time.
6. You only need bow and aft lines, no mid tie in either lock.
7. The BNSF bridge monitors channel 13 to request opening (west of locks), the other bridges respond to (1) long and (1) short blast of your horn.
8. If heading east you may have to wait a bit before access to a lock, the current runs east to west, be prepared to do some maneuvering in current, can be a bit tricky.

After the first couple of times through we learned to enjoy the locks, fun!
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Last edited by kellysails; 02-13-2013 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 02-13-2013
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Re: Ballard locks questions

Good advice here, you won't have any trouble. Just listen to the lockmaster and make sure your crew communicates to you before they let go any lines. The lights are self explanatory. It's almost guaranteed that someone else will do something dumber than you (you're head and shoulders above most just by asking questions in advance), so relax and enjoy it:-))
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Old 02-26-2013
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Re: Ballard locks questions

I don't want to spend too much money on 50' lines that I won't use often (maybe never from the sounds of it)...

Can I tie two lines together to make a 50' line?

Will the lock workers get pissed off if I do?
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Old 02-26-2013
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Re: Ballard locks questions

Nylon 3-Strand Lock Lines - Continental Western | Fisheries Supply

There is the link to the fisheries ready to go 3/8" line. I am frankly surprised how often I use them. many times coming in needing to throw a line to shore to have myself pulled in vs using my typical 15' lines. two lines at $50, not really expensive overall.

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Old 02-26-2013
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Re: Ballard locks questions

Get floating line and you'll find other uses for it like towing a dinghy or acting as a short stern tie line. Samson MFP float line isn't that expensive and is nice in the hand. I just bought a 600' spool of it (mostly for a stern tie line for anchoring out in BC) and expect to get a lot of use out of it. 3/8" is 39 cents a foot to about 50 cents per foot depending on what type of account you have at Fisheries Supply, so you are looking at less than $50 to get 100' of it.

I wouldn't tie two lines together for going through the locks. They need to be able to slide smoothly as the locks are raised or lowered, and you wouldn't want them to get hung up at the knot.
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