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Old 09-01-2018, 10:13 AM   #1
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City: Albany, NY
Vessel Name: Gypsy Star
Vessel Model: Gulf Star 43
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 451
Weird Experience on Champlain Canal

One of the things that has impressed me during my Erie Canal transits and recent first time round trip of the Champlain Canal is how helpful and friendly the lock operators are. I wonder if anyone has experienced anything like this notable exception and encourage comments.

There is some ambiguity on AC and other sources as to whether mooring overnight is permitted at Lock 9. I called the lock a few days before departure and was told that mooring is permitted on the angled east wall but the west must be kept clear for barge passages. We tied up there in the middle of the east wall northbound so as to leave a picnic table free for fisherman and had a very nice visit with the lock operator who offered to leave the bathroom unlocked for us. We told him we would see him on our return in a few day and he said to just tie up right where we were if we needed to.

I called the lock when southbound and someone said, “Come on in, we’re all ready for you.” Just as we passed over the sill a different operator hurried down and yelled in the kind of voice usually associated with people running in circles and waving their arms in the air, “Didn’t anyone tell you that the next lock closes at 5:00 and there is no place to tie up there?”

I said, “We’re going to tie up here.”

“Oh, no you’re not, there’s tugs and barges coming through. Who told you you could tie up?” I told him I had called ahead, tied up to the east wall a few days before, and spoken to the operator personally while northbound. “Well, you can’t tie up there now, the Federal Barge is there.” At this point I decided I’d better back up and ask if that barge took up the whole wall which I couldn’t see. He threw his hands up and said he would lock us through and we could figure it out for ourselves.

We went up and the work barge was tied up around the corner by the spillway just as when we went through northbound. The rest of the wall was clear. I moored all the way down at the end this time to provide maximum channel clearance and it would have been hard for an errant barge to hit us without taking out the work barge. The operator came out of the gate shack and stood glaring at us talking animatedly on his cell phone and gesturing at us. I don’t know who he was talking to but he drove away a short time later after the lock close to recreational traffic. Two barge tows did go through, one in the evening and one in the early morning. No fuss, no muss. It was as nice and snug a spot as we could have wished for, especially being on the edge of severe thunderstorm warnings.

We went through another lock the next morning about half way to Waterford and there was the same guy operating that lock. As we left, he said in a very friendly fashion, “How was your night at Lock 9?” We told him it was very nice and two barge tows did go through with no problem. He said something like, “Well, you’re lucky. You never can tell about those barges or what they’ll do.”

I presume he was talking about the NYS Marine Highway sand and gravel barges that accounted for all or most of the barge traffic we saw. I can see where they could be a handful in a strong wind. Does anyone know if there have been problems? The gravel terminal looks to be fairly new. Is the system perhaps still working out how to accommodate in increase in barge traffic and what changes might need to be made to wall tie up policies? Or, was this just someone having a bad day and a hissy fit in the blistering heat?

It would have been awkward if he had told us that we absolutely couldn't tie up there. I wouldn't have wanted to strain the light looking dock at Fort Ann with our 43 footer and possible thunderstorm gusts forecast.
Roger and Patsy
"Gypsy Star"
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Old 09-01-2018, 12:30 PM   #2
City: Tri Cities, WA
Join Date: Nov 2012
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I have zero experience with locks on your end of the country but out here on the Columbia and Snake rivers I've always found them to be polite, friendly and helpful.

One time a few years ago at the lock nearest our marina we had a minor(?) emergency inside the lock with a runaway starter motor which resulted in a VERY hot starter motor and some smoke in the engine room. We were at the top getting ready to go down when it happened. The lockmaster held the lock at the top in case any emergency vehicles were needed. The lock had several rec vessels in it at the time and nobody griped a bit about the delay, which turned out to be about 15-20 minutes.
Mike and Tina
1981 Boston Whaler 13'
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Old 09-02-2018, 12:38 PM   #3
City: Solomons, MD
Vessel Name: Branwen
Vessel Model: Hatteras 48 LRC
Join Date: Feb 2015
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... we had a minor(?) emergency inside the lock with a runaway starter motor...
Oh, great! Something else to worry about. I need to quit reading this stuff.
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Old 09-02-2018, 12:46 PM   #4
City: Tri Cities, WA
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 4,406
Greg, don't lose sleep over a thing like this. I've been boating for many, many years and this is the first time I've ever even heard of a runaway starter situation.

If you want to see the thread I posted about it, here's a linky…..

Have fun!
Mike and Tina
1981 Boston Whaler 13'
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Old 09-02-2018, 01:31 PM   #5
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City: Rockford, IL
Vessel Name: Du NORD
Vessel Model: Albin-25
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 350
As we approached the first lock into the Erie Canal from the Champlain the Transmission in our Albin-25 went out ant I could not shift it out of neutral. As we drifted slowly toward the right gate (open) I advised the Lockmaster, who then quit his post to come over and help my wife (in bow hatch) push us off. The crash had bent up the roller supporting our Claw anchor. As this was proceeding, another boat approaching from the west (upstream) inquired when his gate (opposite) would open, as the Lockmaster had earlier indicated it would be soon, or words to that effect. However, at this point the Lockmaster answered rather sharply that he was busy and that he would open the gate when he could. Meanwhile, he exhibited plenty of patience assisting us.

Clear of the gate, I was able to pull our boat (towboat-style by means of a line ashore) back upstream a couple of hundred yards to a canal-side park. From there we later received a tow a short distance farther up the Champlain Canal to a Marina where we later put the boat on her trailer.

I used a rented car to get back up to the start of the Champlain Canal where we had left our truck and trailer. Enterprise delivered the car right to us at the marina, as advertised.

I had always heard that Lockmasters could be rather impatient with any occurrence out of the ordinary.
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Old 09-02-2018, 05:11 PM   #6
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 5,026
I have tied up to locks behind barges several times and it was never a problem. Lockmaster likely had a bad day.
Fogettaboutit and move forward.
Just another experience.
As you slide down the bannister of life this will only be a splinter in your a$$
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