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Old 05-11-2016, 08:52 PM   #21
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A high school buddy has his modest little boat there in Portage Bay according to AIS. Not sure why he keeps it there. His last boat he always swapped between Gig Harbor and Roche. Maybe he had trouble finding a slip?
Our main year around slip was at the south end of lake union. However we came off the lake into the sound for a couple of months in the summer. We loved mooring living on lake union. When they re organized structure the south end traffic became a mess, and they increased the mileage but decreased the parking. All the times we went thru the locks, they were freindly and helpful. But I am thick skin.

We liked to winter in the fresh water, opening day, 4th of July and new years, boat shows. City of Seattle was great.
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Old 05-11-2016, 10:52 PM   #22
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Dave-you are pretty much spot on about lack of reasons to go into the lakes. We do go to 4-5 Husky football games each year, that is a lot of fun. We did Opening Day, 4th of July and Seafair Hydro races the first year we had the boat. Never do that again. Each of those is just a boating disaster waiting to happen. Oher than having to go in to get to a yard. the Lakes are not all that interesting. Lake Washington is pretty boring, even seeing Bill Gate's house gets old quick. You can only anchor overnight in one spot, near Seward Park and there is nothing there. I'd rather drive to Bellevue/Kirkland. We only go through when necessary.
To each his own - I find the entire ship canal fascinating. And I like the Eastside bays for anchoring overnight (then again, I was born on the Eastside and that's where my boat is anyway). But you also left out the restaurants - quite a few with docks starting with Chinooks near the locks. And then there's the Christmas Ship parade. And we often participate in the Special People's Cruise. And we take the big and small boats to Carillon Point. And downtown Kirkland. And the small boats to Leschi. And Gene Coulon at the south end of Lake Washington. The ironic thing? We have family guests from out of the country staying with us and my wife wants to take the boat to Bainbridge Island this weekend so they can experience the locks.
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Old 05-12-2016, 12:19 PM   #23
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The first time through the the Ballard Locks was on the Argosy tour from downtown Seattle to Lake Union. Not sure if that is still offered, but might be a good way to experience it the first time for those that are wary. But the most intimate way we have locked through is in a kayak. There is an outfit on Lake Union that provides guided kayak sunset trips. Highly recommended.
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Old 05-12-2016, 12:54 PM   #24
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Mike: We'd like to do that some time. That 105' lift is huge! I think the Panama Canal has a total lift of 85' with the largest lift being ~45' at the Miraflores Lock.
If you find your bow headed toward the Columbia, give me a shout.
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Old 05-14-2016, 04:49 PM   #25
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Awesome outbound with out of town family today. Barely slowed down to make a 10 minute transit.
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Old 08-01-2017, 05:42 PM   #26
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I hope folks don't mind if i restart this thread. I might have an opportunity to cruise through the Ballard lock this month but could sure use some advice before we do. we've been through locks on the east coast but never in the PNW. any comments on the following would be greatly appreciated:
1. If you absolutely want to use the smaller lock, you can do this but you might have to wait longer, is this correct...?
2. Is mid-August just going to be too crazy busy for the smaller lock? -we could go through on a weekday if it helps
(I guess "too busy" for us might be having to wait more than an hour or so to get in on each side)
3. If it is too crazy, when does the schedule get a lot easier, perhaps Sept after school starts?
4. Recommendations on a good transient slip for one night in Lake Union or Washington...?
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Old 08-01-2017, 06:13 PM   #27
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Weekends are the big traffic times, and primarily near the end of the day when everyone is coming back in. Week days are much less crowded, as are early mornings.

In general you do not get to pick which lock you go through. They will direct you. But unless its a high volume time, you will most likely go through the small lock. But you need to be prepared for both.

I can suggest a couple of things to be better prepared, and make the trip easier.

- Rig lines on both sides, for and aft, so you are ready to tie on either side. You do not have control over which side you will tie off on in the small lock - they will tell you which side to go on. In the large lock, you will tie port side going up into the canal, and stbd side heading down to sea.

- In the small lock, you will keep both ends of the line on your boat, and toss a loop over one of the horns on the floating bollards.

- In the large lock, if you are against the wall, you send the spliced loop end up to the attendant and they drop it over a bollard. You then control the boat with the other end. You will need to take in line as the water rises, and let it out as the water drops. When going up, be ready for a work out, and make sure you have strong hands at each line. Use thrusters is they are available, especially if you have a bunch of boats rafted to you. If you are rafted to someone else, it's much easier and you just need to tie off to them.

Don't get too panicked about it. Anticipation is always the worst. And I guarantee there will be other boaters screwing up WAY worse than you.
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Old 08-01-2017, 07:42 PM   #28
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I hope folks don't mind if i restart this thread. I might have an opportunity to cruise through the Ballard lock this month but could sure use some advice before we do. we've been through locks on the east coast but never in the PNW. any comments on the following would be greatly appreciated:
1. If you absolutely want to use the smaller lock, you can do this but you might have to wait longer, is this correct...?
2. Is mid-August just going to be too crazy busy for the smaller lock? -we could go through on a weekday ...?
You will not get to choose. If they are using the big lock, they will need to maximize the gaggle (peleton?). Believe it or not, water conservation is part of the lockmaster's charter.

Given the size of your boat, there's a 50-50 chance of being on the wall. All depends on how many bigger boats are present. In my 41' I've been on the wall just once. The "walkin' bosses" have seen it all, just tell em up front your crew is inexperienced and they'll be very gentle.

Do be sure you have a pair of 50' lines standing ready and the crew knows how to pass them through the appropriate deck hardware.

Or transit during business hours, people in Seattle have jobs and demand will be low. In any case, if feasible, take your crew down to watch a few cycles. It is very entertaining and, as they say at parachute school, "Knowledge dispells fear."

Have fun.
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Old 08-02-2017, 10:08 AM   #29
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Thanks, this is great information. I'm not so much worried about handling our boat through this process.... i'm mostly worried about being in the big lock and having other unknown boats rafting up to us, not knowing how they will behave...
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Old 08-02-2017, 10:44 AM   #30
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Thanks, this is great information. I'm not so much worried about handling our boat through this process.... i'm mostly worried about being in the big lock and having other unknown boats rafting up to us, not knowing how they will behave...
Oh, the same thing they're wondering about you? Well, have plenty of fenders to protect your boat from both sides. Most of the others don't want damage anymore than you do. If you want the least stress then do it very early on a weekday.
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Old 08-02-2017, 04:36 PM   #31
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That brings up a good point that I think I neglected to mention. Fender up both sides of the boat on approach. Then you are ready for either side tie in the small lock, and for any sort of rafting or other bumper cars activity.
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Old 08-02-2017, 04:58 PM   #32
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That brings up a good point that I think I neglected to mention. Fender up both sides of the boat on approach. Then you are ready for either side tie in the small lock, and for any sort of rafting or other bumper cars activity.
And if you don't have enough fenders to fully fender both sides, now's the time to fix that. If you travel, you'll enter many locks without knowing which side they'll put you on, and you'll end up at a marina with other boats rafted to you.
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Old 08-13-2017, 04:12 PM   #33
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I was in Seattle last week and took the opportunity to watch the "Circus" at the Chittenden Locks. This can be quite entertaining and a guy in a single screw with no bow thruster provided the entertainment! He had a "hell uv a time" trying to line his boat up on one side of the lock. Meanwhile the lock personnel were yelling at him from both sides! After ascertaining that the real show was on the fly bridge, I switched my stare to the boat's pilot & watched as he turned several shades of red, but to his credit he did not pass out! You just couldn't stop feeling sorry for the poor SOB.
When I was a kid, we didn't live too far from 'the locks'. We used to go there on sunny Sunday afternoons when the boats were returning to lakes Union and Washington. A Circus is an apt description and better entertainment for a kid would be hard to find. Yelling, screaming, swearing, bumper-car boats, lots of drunkenness. But sometimes, you'd see some old guy driving a classic boat who was above the fray and would just grease his boat into a tight spot effortlessly, staying clear of the chaos. In my boating life, I've always wanted to be that guy.
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Old 08-13-2017, 11:32 PM   #34
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Thanks but I'm sorry all the stories you guys are telling really aren't encouraging us to take the plunge. We've got plenty of other beautiful cruising in the pnw and no necessity to enter this lock. We'll pass for now based on these stories....
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Old 08-14-2017, 02:07 PM   #35
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Thanks but I'm sorry all the stories you guys are telling really aren't encouraging us to take the plunge. We've got plenty of other beautiful cruising in the pnw and no necessity to enter this lock. We'll pass for now based on these stories....
Wifey B: Why did the chicken cross the road? Answer that and you have your answer.

We had to go check the lake out, that wasn't optional in our minds. So, there's a lock to get there, you go through it. We went very early, were waiting at 7:00 AM. Not crowded for first trip through. Only mildly crowded on the return trip. It looks like a giant clusterf... but it really isn't. We don't like rafting but you know you're going to so you just prepare. Really Lake Union and Lake Washington were worth it to us. We wanted to see. It was a very nice day.
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Old 08-14-2017, 05:41 PM   #36
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Thanks but I'm sorry all the stories you guys are telling really aren't encouraging us to take the plunge. We've got plenty of other beautiful cruising in the pnw and no necessity to enter this lock. We'll pass for now based on these stories....
I'd recommend you go through the locks. If you are confident (and competent) in your ability to handle your boat you will do well. Going to the lock a day ahead of your passage to watch how it's done will relieve a lot of your anxiety.

It's really not as bad as many make it out to be. There are thousands of boats every week that pass through the locks. VERY FEW every have any issues and most of those are the "once a year skipper" or are drunk.

Be patient, take your time and do what you know how to do when it comes to handling your vessel.
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Old 08-14-2017, 07:10 PM   #37
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Going to the lock a day ahead of your passage to watch how it's done will relieve a lot of your anxiety.
We did that and it was helpful just to see it from on high.
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Old 08-15-2017, 10:53 AM   #38
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thanks these are all good inputs and you're probably right we should try it. Maybe we'll wait until Sept or Oct...
thanks again for all the feedback!
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Old 08-15-2017, 11:38 AM   #39
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thanks these are all good inputs and you're probably right we should try it. Maybe we'll wait until Sept or Oct...
thanks again for all the feedback!

I think you are worrying much more than you need to. Assuming you can handle your boat, it's really not a big deal. And even in the peak season, all you really need to do is avoid the weekends. And if you want even more calm, avoid late afternoons inbound during the week. The drama comes from people who have no clue how to handle a boat.
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Old 08-15-2017, 11:56 AM   #40
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Not mentioned much in this thread is boat speed entering a lock. We've passed through hundreds of locks (East Coast, Canada, Europe, PNW) without issues. One observation - the best skippers take it slow. I once heard someone say you don't go any faster than the speed you'd want to run into another boat. Slow and steady, taking the lock attendant's directions, getting your position right the first time = piece of cake.

I always ask the lock attendants for advice (Zen mind, Beginner's mind) and don't assume this lock down/up will be the same as the last. In general, the attendants are friendly and helpful and, as experienced as I am at locks, they are more experienced since they do it all day every day and have probably seen about everything there is to go both right and wrong...
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