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Old 05-10-2016, 08:40 PM   #1
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Chittenden Locks in Ballard, WA

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.
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Old 05-10-2016, 09:26 PM   #2
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Codger-it is even more fun to watch on really busy days when they load 40-50 boats in the large lock! It can be hilarious. One guy will have forgotten fenders, one guy doesn't have 35' lines for the large lock. It is alwys something and always entertaining.

We have lived in Seattle for 17 years now, and it is still my favorite place in Seattle. We first lived not far from the Locks and starting when my daughter was about 3, we would go down almost every Sunday morning. It was our kind of special "Dad/Daughter" thing. Now, at 17, she will still go down there with me once in a while. Also, at 17, she can take the boat through the locks pretty much on her own.
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Old 05-10-2016, 09:58 PM   #3
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Been thru the locks so many times I have lost count, mostly on the tugs when I worked at Western Towboat. When I was still living there, my wife and I took off on our 1952 26' Chris for across the Sound, and went into the small lock. Now in there you have a wall that goes up and down with the water and to tie up to they have what they call buttons. Well my wife is on the bow with her line, I am running the boat, single gas and doing my thing hoping wifey can get the button. I turned around to go get a stern line out and I hear a lot of hollering! I look up and wifey has not only not gotten the line on the button but because the bow was pulling away from the wall, she just stepped of the bow onto the wall and was standing there looking for all the world like she belonged there!! I said what the hell are you doing over there?!!? That's not an elevator!! Well wifey says, I had nowhere else to go! Soooo, I made the stern line fast and then nosed the bow over so she could get back aboard! I thought the poor lockmaster was going to have a coronary! This would be about 1979. Lock follies we call them.
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Old 05-10-2016, 11:02 PM   #4
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One of our best lock stories is the 18' open bow boat that tried to tie up to us with bungee cords.
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Old 05-10-2016, 11:22 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Codger2 View Post
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!
Looks like you were there mid-afternoon. It gets more interesting later in the day when the winds are on-shore - lots of boats get blown sideways like the one in your story. That said, those lock tenders could have been responsible as well. A number of times I've come in being waved to one side only to have the innermost tender wave me to the other side - not an easy maneuver with a single screw in a current with a following breeze. But you just have to deal with it - they can make you look like a nitwit if they don't like your attitude.
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Old 05-11-2016, 12:43 AM   #6
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It's a hoot watching the boats come and go through those locks. We watched a ~80' boat come in one day and the skipper had a heck of a time keeping it lined up with the lock as he made his approach (he was headed out). After he had to stop several times and shift engines to bring the bow to his port side it dawned on me that he probably had not turned off the auto pilot.


He kept bumping against the stbd wall as he came in and when he got about even with me where I could talk with him without yelling I asked him if he'd remembered to disengage the auto pilot.


He turned around, disengaged it and turned back to me, all red faced, and just mouthed the word "Thanks".
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Old 05-11-2016, 01:15 AM   #7
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In all my years boating in Puget Sound I have never been through the locks. It intimidates me to be honest.
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Old 05-11-2016, 07:16 AM   #8
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We use to moore on Lake Union, so we been thru many times. Being a big boat we were usually the first boat in and put on the wall, so smaller boats tied to us. The hardest was to get a line on the buttons as our bow is 10 ft of the water. Thankfully we have hydraulic bow thruster as many times there was an hour wait. We never went through the large lock as I always requested the small. We were some what known as we were one of the larger classic well maintained boats. I don't miss the locks.

We have bumpers for both sides and extra bumpers and line for other boaters. Also put the eagle on the preferred list so we had priority to enter the locks, I woul call before we reached the lock so when we got there we went right in. Usually went thru early in the morning, before 7, or late at night after 7. Never went thru during a holliday or week end.
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Old 05-11-2016, 08:17 AM   #9
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We always avoided the locks on weekends and holidays, except once and we managed to arrive on opening day. What a mistake. Both locks were in use and there was still an over flow of boats. Patience was the term of the day. Like Walt's picture, lots of embarrassed skippers plus a huge peanut gallery on the lawn and locks which upped the pucker factor.

The big locks are pretty big (80 ft 825 ft) when you consider that the Panama canal locks are 110 ft x 1,050 ft.
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Old 05-11-2016, 10:29 AM   #10
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Also put the eagle on the preferred list so we had priority to enter the locks, I would call before we reached the lock so when we got there we went right in. Usually went thru early in the morning, before 7, or late at night after 7. Never went thru during a holliday or week end.
Preferred list? Are you saying you claimed commercial operation?



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Old 05-11-2016, 11:04 AM   #11
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We have locked through The Promise many times (single engine, no thrusters) and before that Pondeed our SJ23. The key is planning, speed, and preparation. After the first few trips through it becomes fun!

On one busy weekend, a small open bow boat was headed to raft up to us, the inexperienced skipper turned a complete 180 as he approached. The lock tenders were not impressed as much as we were.

Up close and personal in the small lock.
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Old 05-11-2016, 11:38 AM   #12
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Greetings,
Mr. dh. "...I have never been through the locks. It intimidates me to be honest." Indeed. I can easily see how such an exercise can be intimidating. That being said, the lockmasters have seen it all, many, many times over. Once you have a few chambers under your belt, it will be old hat. Trust me.

It's quite surprising to me how many people have never gone through at least one lock in their boating travels. We were picking up our, new to us at the time, boat in Ft. Meyers FL a number of years back and opted to cross the state via the Okeechobee waterway with Ft. Lauderdale as our final destination.

We had our BIL, a "licensed" US merchant marine captain (6-pack with many hundreds of hours on the water) along as crew. He got extremely nervous as we approached the first lock station being a lock newbie. I later tried to figure out now many lockages the Admiral and I had done in our 20+ years at that time and it worked out to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 500+ so not a big deal for us.

I guess the largest lift/descent we've done in one shot is about 60'. Lift locks and marine railways are all part of the adventure.
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Old 05-11-2016, 12:05 PM   #13
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I will add it to my list of things to do at some some point. Of course the other part is that I don't like crowds of boats. Seattle is pretty busy and I have yet to find a good reason to go into the lakes.
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Old 05-11-2016, 12:53 PM   #14
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The big locks are pretty big (80 ft 825 ft) when you consider that the Panama canal locks are 110 ft x 1,050 ft.
Larry, you need to head Hobo up the Columbia to try some of our locks. Ice Harbor Lock, the first one as you head up the Snake, is 86' x 675' and has an average lift of 105'.




We've been through all of the four locks on the Columbia and the four on the Snake several times and they're pretty much the same. Small differences between them but once you've mastered one you can easily handle any of them.
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Old 05-11-2016, 01:10 PM   #15
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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.
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Old 05-11-2016, 01:24 PM   #16
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Larry, you need to head Hobo up the Columbia to try some of our locks. Ice Harbor Lock, the first one as you head up the Snake, is 86' x 675' and has an average lift of 105'...
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.
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Old 05-11-2016, 03:46 PM   #17
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Wifey B: Shocks me all those who haven't been through that lock. Sorry, I'm like the chicken crossing the road. I want to get to the other side.

Gotta see what's on the other side. Let me through...

I have no idea how many locks I've been through. With all the records hubby keeps, that's one I don't think we have without going back through a lot of history. But we did lock through in Ballard, both ways. Had to get back out too. Early on a weekday morning.

Went through those on the TN River long ago and on someone else's boat. Okeechobee many times. Panama Canal. By the time we get to Lake Ontario though will have had our fill of locks for a while. 22 on the Erie, 7 on the Oswego. Then no more locks until Welland in June.
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Old 05-11-2016, 06:27 PM   #18
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I moor on Portage Bay which for those not from Seattle, is just around University Bridge from Lake Union. I have been transiting the Ballard Locks for a very long time, in wood and in plastic, singles and twins, thruster and non-thruster. It's always interesting, but not intimidating anymore. It is a must see for your out of town guests especially on a busy day. When approaching, I have my short 35' lines for the small lock on the cleat, and my 60' lines required for the large lock flaked on deck until I know which lock they are going to put me in. On a busy holiday weekend, there is little question--it will be the large lock. If I am single handing, which I do a lot, I will only go in the large lock if there is a larger boat for me to raft onto, and if not, I will wait for the small lock which can make for a very long wait. I make mistakes sometimes, or get unexpectedly pushed by wind or my wonderful wife is having a day and just can't get the stern line down and have had lock attendants get impatient when it is taking more time than they think it should. All of us who lock-through have undoubtedly encountered the yelling lock attendant. Mostly they are good folks who just sometimes snap. There have been a few over the years who are just that way most of the time--but they don't seem to last. You have to be patient, go at your own pace and remember you run your boat not that someone who is yelling at you.
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Old 05-11-2016, 07:08 PM   #19
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I moor on Portage Bay which for those not from Seattle, is just around University Bridge from Lake Union. I have been transiting the Ballard Locks for a very long time, in wood and in plastic, singles and twins, thruster and non-thruster. It's always interesting, but not intimidating anymore. It is a must see for your out of town guests especially on a busy day. When approaching, I have my short 35' lines for the small lock on the cleat, and my 60' lines required for the large lock flaked on deck until I know which lock they are going to put me in. On a busy holiday weekend, there is little question--it will be the large lock. If I am single handing, which I do a lot, I will only go in the large lock if there is a larger boat for me to raft onto, and if not, I will wait for the small lock which can make for a very long wait. I make mistakes sometimes, or get unexpectedly pushed by wind or my wonderful wife is having a day and just can't get the stern line down and have had lock attendants get impatient when it is taking more time than they think it should. All of us who lock-through have undoubtedly encountered the yelling lock attendant. Mostly they are good folks who just sometimes snap. There have been a few over the years who are just that way most of the time--but they don't seem to last. You have to be patient, go at your own pace and remember you run your boat not that someone who is yelling at you.
Wifey B: We went and observed by land the day before we went through. As to the meanie yelling lock attendant, we didn't experience that but we sure did hear from others about it. I told them that kids who didn't want to do what I instructed them to do probably thought I was a mean teacher, although I'm sure I handled it a bit better than the lockmaster.

I think that lock becomes such a clusterf... sometimes that he has to yell to try to restore order.
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Old 05-11-2016, 07:31 PM   #20
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I moor on Portage Bay which for those not from Seattle, is just around University Bridge from Lake Union.
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?
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