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Go Back   SailNet Community > Out There > Destinations > Pacific Northwest & Alaska
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Old 04-12-2009
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Ballard Locks Lake Union

We have almost completed our purchase of PSC crealock 31 and will be moving it from Lake Union to Anacortes. We have never been through the Ballard Locks. Is this a big deal, should we find someone to help? We have sailed charter boats in San Juans for past five years and are very comfortable in these waters otherwise. Any advice?
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Old 04-12-2009
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You'll probably end up going through the small locks (to the south). We usually just turn circles in the area behind the dam waiting for the locks to open. They will light up a stoplight green when it's OK to go through. Going through the small locks is no big deal. You can do it with two pretty easy. You'll just tie up to bollards on a wall that will float up with the water level. It's always easier to do it with three so the helmsman doesn't have to deal with the stern line but still no big deal.

The large locks are a little more work but still not a huge deal. Make sure you have two 50' lines ready if you're going through the large lock. You can bend docklines together to make the 50' lines. Going westbound is pretty easy in the large locks. Just hand the line to the handler and they will slip it on a bollard. You have to have someone on your boat handling the bow and stern lines though as they need to be let out as the water lowers. Sometimes they'll raft a smaller boat onto a larger boat so all you need to deal with is the rafting part.

It's always better to go through not on a sunny weekend because they'll pack it full of meatheads that don't know what they're doing. Best have a boat hook on hand to fend off.
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Old 04-12-2009
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I believe you can go online and fine a "how too" go thru the locks. Also, When you are down here next, stop by before hand, find a handler near the main building they have out in when the locks are going up or down, and they have a "How To" pamphlet you can get from them.

Have bumpers set up for both sides of the boat ahead of time, along with a long line for the potential to be on the side of the lock, and shorter lines on the other, in case another boat ties up to you.

With min of 2 to 3 people, it is not hard.

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Old 04-12-2009
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First time through the Ballard Locks Free Classes!

Start Date/Time:Wednesday, April 22, 2009 7:30 PM
End Date/Time:Wednesday, April 22, 2009 9:30 PM
Recurring Event: On the Fourth Wednesday of the month until 8/26/2009 (Total 5 Events)
Importance:Normal Priority
Description:If you have never been through the locks or have new crew that you would like to become oriented with the Ballard Locks procedures - attend this event. Held every second and fourth Wed of the months from April-Sept.
Location: Chittenden Lock's visitor center theater (Map)
Related information:Videos:Source / Website: Lake Washington Ship Canal - US Army Corp of Engineers.

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Old 04-12-2009
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Good advice above. The only thing I would add is that we have found it to be easier to hook the lines over the bollards (that are inset into the concrete wall) in the small locks if both bow and stern use a boat hook to help reach the wall with. I've seen a lot of boats do a great job of getting close to the wall but then they can't throw the line over the bollard and the current gets them. Pay strict attention to the lock masters and don't do anything until told to. When exiting the locks there is usually a lot of current so make sure the bowman let's the helm know when they are casting off. It sounds a lot more difficult than it is, you shouldn't have any trouble. Watch the RR bridge when you exit, it has a nasty habit of lowering while you are distracted in the locks.
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Thanks everyone, all very helpful. Probably could have found this all online, but this is such a great community and wealth of information. GG
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Old 04-12-2009
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Hahaha!

I love the small lock. I was going through, and my girlfriend got a bad case of tiller dyslexia. Good thing my boat is overbuilt, because we slammed right into the steel wall!
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Old 04-13-2009
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If you can find the most recent issue of Pacific yachting, on page 26-30 is a "how to go thru" article on locking too. I am also recalling 48north doing one with in the last 2 yrs or so. As a friend of mine got his pic in the article with out him knowing it, while locking thru. It might be online at 48north in the back article area.

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Old 04-23-2009
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The Ballard locks are no problem. You're supposed to have two 50 ft lines ready. We didn't plan ahead and ended up desparately tying together 15 foot lines to make do.

Just remember that commercial vehicles get to enter and leave first.
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Old 04-23-2009
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Thanks again everyone, we actually went to see the locks last weekend, and it looks pretty straight forward. The boat should be ours by tomorrow! We have decided to put it in charter in Anacortes for the next few years, while our sailing time is limited, but will still be able to enjoy it.
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