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Old soul
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi folks, I'm getting closer to the big canal for our down bound transit and have a couple of questions for those who have done it:

1. I see they provide the lines. How large are they?
2. The guide says we are to affix the lines to bow and stern. Does this mean canal staff will control the lines as we drop down?
3. What time is best to arrive at the recreational boaters wharf? I assume early a.m., but perhaps not?

Anything else I need to know? These are the Big Boy locks that the St. Lawrence Seaway ships use. I've done smaller ones, but these are rather intimidating.


Why go fast, when you can go slow
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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Mike
Downbound is a piece of cake (when you do the ones near Montreal un(e?) morceau de gateau).

Assuming nothing has changed since we last did it a number of years ago.
1. The lines are something like 1/2" polypropylene - have some work gloves handy.
2. By affix I think they mean that you don't just hold them. The lines are fixed at the top. You can belay them around a cleat or use a good-sized snatch block.
3. You can show up whenever it is convenient. They will fit you in when it suits their operation. They are not too busy these days (fewer but bigger ships). You will not be put through with a freighter. If it is really hot you might want to go through at night. The length of the canal is lit and it would be much cooler.

Other stuff
- once you start you are committed for the whole thing.
- it is quite a pleasant and interesting experience; going up can be nasty and hard work; down is just fine
- the first lock is only used to allow for Lake Erie changes so the drop will be very slight; we once were told to keep motoring slowly down the middle and the gate would be open at the other end; it was
- after the first lock there is a long stretch of canal followed by all the other locks in quick succession; eat, drink and pee before lock 7, after that you will be quite busy for a few hours
- good idea to have a decent boat hook. The bow person can grab the lines (I seem to remember they are loosely tied together) and pass the stern person (driver) the correct line; you might want a dock board - a piece of 2 x 4 - 6 feet long would do the trick. Put it over your two biggest fenders in the beamiest part of the boat
- leave the engine running just in case (e.g. someone drops a line and you need to do some quick manoeuvring)
- keep some slack in the lines so you float off the walls a few feet; some had (have?) quite large chunks of concrete missing that would more than swallow a large fender; use the lines to keep the boat parallel rather than tight to the wall, e.g. if the bow is to close the bow person gives more slack and the stern person gives a tuck. The boat will pivot on the keel

Have fun
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks KS, exactly the info I needed. The trip through these lower lakes have been quite the different world for us. Lots of people and boats, hard to find anchorages, and HOT! At least we're able to swim everywhere.


Why go fast, when you can go slow
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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Mike, couple of things just occurred to me, one in the duh! category. You will be going into full locks of course so the attendant will just pass you the lines. You just pull up reasonably close to the wall where you see the person waiting. Also not a bad idea to hold the lines until the gates are open and the swirling water from the gate opening has already reached you. I think you have a long keel and the water will swing you around, not always in a predictable fashion.
 

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OK, Mike, remember to have something (wood?) to protect your fenders going down, especially if it is just the two of you busy paying out the line that holds you in the lock and you don't have time to push the vessel away from the wall. Other than that, I don't have to add anything to the advice given thus flar. Try to arrive late in the day at Port Colborne and ask to stay overnight at the visitors' dock they have (we did so for the upbound) since it can take a whole day to do the trip and they do work 24/7....
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks Flandria. Got my fender board (2x6x8') so I think we're good. Also have a couple of boat hooks we can use to fend off.

I assume you mean the check in dock? Are they likely to let us stay the night, or might they shove us through right away? As KS suggests, and given the heat down here right now, I'm thinking a night passage might be a good idea.

Our boat has scupper holes through the toe rail to access bow and stern cleats. I'm assuming we should NOT feed the lines through these holes in case of problems with the lines.


Why go fast, when you can go slow
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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Not sure there is a problem leading the lines through the holes. Make sure the lines are free to run as you drop. The rate of drop is not super quick but it is relentless. Doing the first lock with minimal drop (or rise) depending on the wind will give you a sense of what it is like. Just picture where the lines will be when you are in the bottom of one of locks (3 floors).

There is a telephone at the check-in dock. I would imagine they might wonder why are there if you have not called in. No idea what they would say if you called and asked to go through in eight hours or whenever.
 

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Yes, I did mean the check-in dock and also agree with Killarney. Not sure what you mean by "heat down there". Yes we just had a couple of hot days but cooler days and morning lows of 13C next week already. When do you think you will transit? Are you underway already?

The speed of your transit will be determined by how quickly they lock you through. On the up-bound we had one long wait at the last one (excluding the "regulating lock" to get in Lake Erie) before they let us exit.

Personally I would not plan a night transit, but to each his own.

Best,
 

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Mike, I am a little puzzled why you are overwintering the boat in Belleville. Are you planning to go down the St. Lawrence next year?
 

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OK, Mike, remember to have something (wood?) to protect your fenders going down, especially if it is just the two of you busy paying out the line that holds you in the lock and you don't have time to push the vessel away from the wall. Other than that, I don't have to add anything to the advice given thus flar. Try to arrive late in the day at Port Colborne and ask to stay overnight at the visitors' dock they have (we did so for the upbound) since it can take a whole day to do the trip and they do work 24/7....
Hmmm, not sure about the need to "protect your fenders"... :)

I think it's a poor practice to hang anything 'rigid' over the side when transiting locks, something's gotta give if a solid fender board gets hung up or caught on anything. Not much of a risk going downbound, true, but upbound it's a definite no-no, in my opinion...

I always thought the ultimate fender solution were the old haybag fenders that were commonly used on the Erie canal years ago. Agway feed bags stuffed with hay, you'd line the side of the boat with them, they were awesome. Back then the lock walls in the Erie were so much rougher, and if a bag got caught in a hole or on a protrusion, it would simply tear - no harm, no foul...

As you all have mentioned, downbound in the Welland is a piece of cake, most of what you need is Patience.... :) But I'd just keep it simple, and go with fenders alone, and not mess with stuff like fender boards... And when there's any real pressure placed upon your boards, chances are they will just keep riding up over the top of your fenders, anyway...
 

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Jon, I did go up-bound with 1x6 carpet covered plank in front of the fenders, as well as 4x4 lengths. No problems - and used by many in transit. Upbound you do have a third crew-member: 2 to shorten lines as you rise and one to help with fending off the walls. Anyway, Mike has something already.
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks once again guys for all the advice. The will be our first major lock, so it's nice to have the view from those who have done it (many times).

Flandria, we are just coming up to Long Point now. In fact we're 12 nm away as I type. We did an overnighter from Erieau. Started off slow, travelling at 2 knots or less for the first four hours, but then the predicted 10 knots turned into 25 and we've been bumping along at a great rate overnight. Will try and anchor off the point if winds look favourable. From here we'll likely jump to the start of the Welland.

Yes, our plans are to winter the boat in Belleville, then carry on down the St. Lawrence next season. We hope to make it to the Maritimes or perhaps NFLD next season, but our plans are perpetually flexible.


Why go fast, when you can go slow
 

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You'll be in Belleville before you know it. You can still do some sailing in the Bay of Quinte or even the Thousand Islands before quitting the season (Check out Prinyer Cove on Adolphus Reach).

I am following a former dock neighbour, Visitant, that left for an "undefined destination" on July 1 via the St. Lawrence, currently in Yarmouth. I follow them on AIS. Do you have AIS? And what is your boat's name?

All the best,
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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Jon, I guess we will have to agree to disagree about fender boards. I have done a lot of canals over the years and have found them to be very helpful.
 

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Jon, I guess we will have to agree to disagree about fender boards. I have done a lot of canals over the years and have found them to be very helpful.
Well, a lot depends upon the condition or the lock walls, certainly... And, I'll admit, my perspective is somewhat informed by the very rough condition of the locks in the Erie Canal back in the 70's and 80's, when there could be found numerous large 'cavities' in the walls that would easily capture anything rigid hung outboard. The use of old automibile tires as fenders, for example, was expressly prohibited, as they could be so easily caught on an irregularity in the wall, and then torn free of the boat... Then, if not recovered immediately before sinking, they might get sucked into the lock valves, which of course could be a serious problem...

Of course, with most of the locks in the NYS system having been re-faced with either steel, or pre-cast concrete, this is no longer as much of an issue. Still, a rigid fender board could catch in one of the recessed bollards, or ladders - and if there's sufficient pressure that the boat can't be pushed off the wall as she's rising, well... something's gonna break...

Also, almost everytime I've done the Welland with larger motoryachts, they've made a smaller boat raft alongside... That can complicate things greatly, last thing I'd want to have to deal with might be the added complexity of fender boards...

As usual, I vote in favor of the KISS Principle :) Fenders like these oversized teardrops are by far the best way to deal with locks, in my opinion...


 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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The first time we did the Welland (going up!) we did not had a board and on one lock (apparently infamous) we were being pressed so hard against the wall that we had four people with their legs extended 'walking' up the wall. Ten inch fenders were compressed to perhaps 3". The surface of the almost new fenders was torn to, well you can imagine. With a board there is less friction than with a fender so it just slides up the wall more easily. Some of the gaps in the wall in the Welland were huge. Any fender made would get eaten. You just need to keep off the wall as much as possible with the fenders/fenders and board just for those times when the flow of water pushes you into the wall.

Interestingly the easiest canal of all was Panama because we did it mid-chamber in a raft with normal fenders between the boats.
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
You'll be in Belleville before you know it. You can still do some sailing in the Bay of Quinte or even the Thousand Islands before quitting the season (Check out Prinyer Cove on Adolphus Reach).

I am following a former dock neighbour, Visitant, that left for an "undefined destination" on July 1 via the St. Lawrence, currently in Yarmouth. I follow them on AIS. Do you have AIS? And what is your boat's name?

All the best,

Thanks for the tips Flandria. Our plans were to do just as you suggest, although we're now being delayed due to more engine problems. Still expect to have time to play in Quinte though.

No AIS transmission from us. We have a receiver though, which has been very helpful.


Why go fast, when you can go slow
 

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Went through the canal back in the early seventies, they had just reopened the canal after someone ran into a bridge and repairs were done. Those locks are huge. I was on a 57ft Chris Craft Constellation. Arrived at the locks in the dark and went through all night all alone. When we dropped down it felt like we went all the way to hell. You couldn't see anything above. Picked up straw bags to hang off the sides of the boat. When I went through we had to provide our own lines. Amazing experience. Good luck!
 
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