We have travelled through many, many locks in the past months. The Trent-Severn Waterway has its share. The TSW locks are numbered 1 through 45 but one was combined with another so there are actually 44 locks to traverse. In general the TSW locks are hand-operated by the lock keepers and their young assistants. All are friendly and eager to answer questions about the waterway, its challenges, and its beauty. All are dedicated to helping cruisers enjoy their travels.
The first 35 locks lift vessels and their crews 597 feet from Lake Ontario up and over land while the remaining locks then lower vessels 264 feet to the level of Lake Huron.
The tie-ups within the locks consist of a series of plastic-coated steel cables attached at the top and the bottom of the locks along either sidewall. After slowly entering a lock, the boater eases to one side or the other (we prefer a starboard-side tie as the rotation of the Traveler’s propeller facilitates pulling off of a starboard wall more so than a port-side one) and loops a bow line around one of the cables. An aft cable is then caught and a line is looped around it. Both lines loop back to the vessel, one fore and one aft. The system works great and vessels are held steady during the locking process.
Another nice feature of the TSW locks is the blue-line system. A blue edge is painted on part of the approach walls to the lock. This is where a boat can tie if waiting its turn to enter a lock. A blue-line tie signals to the lock keeper that you are ready to travel through and s/he will then ready the lock and open the gate. That is your signal to enter. Sometimes the lock keeper will walk out to the boat to discuss the current locking schedule.
Sections of approach walls without a blue line are available for boats to tie up to picnic or overnight by the lock. It’s a smoothly working system that ensures space for boats in transit.
Ontario and the lock keepers take great pride in keeping the waterway and its locks in good condition and aesthetically pleasing.
A short story about locking through…For those of you who know me, you know that I take much pride in holding the title of bosun, and at times I am often accused of being a knot-dictator. A bosun, shortened from boatswain, is responsible, in part, for the lines and decks aboard a boat. Knots and tie-up standards are very high aboard Arkansas Traveler and I always explain that there are practical reasons for this. Knots must be chosen and tied well for any given application. It is a matter of safety of the crew and of the vessel. It is unfortunately also an opportunity for embarrassment and hilarity for others.
A young man on the boat ahead of us in a lock was responsible for the bow line. Instead of running the line through the appropriate deck chock and cleating it, he tied it to the handrail with a tightening knot. Predictably, as the boat lifted in the lock above the wall, the knot tightened, thus pulling the handrail down while the boat rose. A tight knot is very difficult to untie when under pressure and this knot was being held by the pressure of the rising water against the weight of the boat. It could easily have swamped the boat if the water continued to rise. Fortunately, the locking process was complete and now remained the problem of how to disengage the boat from the lock wall.
The skipper came forward, but the knot wouldn’t budge. The lock keeper worked at it, but it was impossible to untie. Finally, with several folks pushing the boat downward into the water, enough pressure was released and the knot was freed. So for those who call me a knot-control-freak, I rest my case.
And, the name of the boat puts the icing on the cake!