I'm not sure exactly about the Ohio River, but from the locks/dams I've
been through there's a few key things.
First, Fenders! Have the correct [maybe more] amount of fenders on
board. Be ready to rest against the side of the lock...you'll need fenders.
-lines might also help for safety - just in case.
It's similar to docking, so the same tips apply including "go slow".
Station your crew members (family/friends) throughout the deck of the
boat. (makesure everyone has a lifejacket especially if they're tending to
a line or fender). That way, the entire boat is covered. Example, if you
need someone to grab a line from the bow or move a fender towards the
You probably won't have to tie up or anything. (unless something really
goes wrong) So, when I say lines, i'm generally talking about ones that
you find at some locks that hang down the walls that you can temporarily
hold on to as the waterlevel changes.
Going up the Champlain canals (up the Hudson) all you need is a couple of fenders and ONE line to loop around the lock ladder. They don't fill or empty THAT fast. (in England, you don't need ANY lines; the locks are just wide enough to hold your boat)
Agent Z, Hello, I'm on the Ohio (in Cincinnati) and have "locked through" several locks on the Ohio, I've been to your "pool" many times. The above advice about fenders is very accurate. The advice about not tying up and "maybe" needing lines is.....well...not quite right.
First the fenders, you will need at least two big ones, these will be rigged much higher than normal and need to be secured to the boat properly. There are two main differences than rigging your fenders for normal docking : 1) the flat wall the boat will be near is rough concrete or steel, it can scratch the he11 out of steel, imagine what it can do to fiberglass. 2) You are up against (hopefully just off of) a tall flat wall, so the widest part of your boat is at risk, usually around the rub rail (much different than a floating dock).
Tying off : You are REQUIRED to tie off ! Every lock I have been through has what they call floating bollards (though there are one or two on the Ohio that have only fixed rings....I THINK they are up river, around Parkersburg and Wheeling W.V.). Before I continue, I would suggest that you drive to a Lock such as McAlpine In Louisville and observe boats going through the lock from the observation deck above, it will help put things in perspective. You can call McAlpine at (502) 774-3514. I would also point out that the Ohio DNR has a boaters guide that has some pretty good info on locking proceedures , you should get one and keep it on your boat.
The first thing you need to know when river boating, is where the locks and dams are, there are a few, that when going downriver are possible to miss, if you miss the warning signs and get too close to the dam.....you will end up caught in the current and end up going over....some have a 125 foot drop!
All of the locks on the Ohio monitor VHF ch.13. As you approach the lock, call the lockmaster and request permission to lock through (there are also pull chains at the end of the lock wall if you don't have a VHF). When you receive verbal instruction or get a green light, you are to enter the lock at idle speed. Everyone on deck MUST have a life jacket on. You should have a minimum of two 50 foot ropes onboard and already have your fenders deployed on the side you are going to tie up on (usually the starboard). Proceed to one of the floating bollards, these are large metal drums that have mooring bits or rings on them and travel up and down with the water on a steel pole, they are recessed into the walls. You can use two lines or one, that is up to you, loosely tie up to the bollard. Again, do not tie to a ladder rung or any other fixed structure on the wall.
Words of caution: The floating bollards do not always float and can get jammed, ALWAYS be ready to pay out line or cut the line(have pocket knife ready) in an emergency. If you do experience a stuck bollard that is not marked, please radio the lockmaster to advise him of this. As the boat and water rises, keep an eye on your fenders and be prepared to adjust as needed. When you see the exit gates open in front of you, proceed to exit at idle speed. Watch out for floating debris, there is usually quite a bit of driftwood and sometimes whole floating trees! Watch out for commercial traffic, you will sometimes share a lock with barges. Sometimes the barges are strung out too long and have to be broken up to get through the lock. Although you CAN go though the locks without a vhf....I wouldn't think of doing it. Remember, while in or near the lock, channel 13 is the working channel.
It sounds kind of intimidating, and yes it can be dangerous if you are careless, but once you get the hang of it, it is easy and even enjoyable. It helps if you can go through on a buddy's boat first or have an experienced friend onboard your boat the first time , but it really isn't difficult and will expand your horizons on the Ohio.
You may want to consider a trial run on the Muskingum River system. The locks are much smaller and their is no commercial traffic. You have to buy a $20 lock permit from ODNR. The lock master will sell you a permit at your first lock if you do not get one prior to your trip. This trip is unique in that the locks are manually opened and closed. Often times, you are the only boat in the lock. The river is very scenic, easy to navigate, and has a few restuarants along the way. We navigated in a 20' formula with no trouble although be cautioned that some of the canals to the locks can be a bit shallow. Good news...it's all mud bottoms, no rocks. You can navigate from Zanesville to the Ohio, which can be a full day of travel if you take your time. Happy Boating and remember, 15 more days til the Cleveland Mid-America boat show!
Thanks Waterone for correcting and clarifying my post. At least I got the
fenders part right! :)
--Although, in some locks (or at least one) you are not required to tie
up... (just a note) This won't be helpful in this specific question, since it's
not about the Boston area, but in the Charles River locks, the operator is
constantly loading and unloading boats transfering them from the Boston
Harbor to the river. When you're inside the locks, if there is only one boat
other than you, or if you are alone, you can drift in the middle (these
locks are not very wide anyway). When it is crowded, there are lines
hanging down the walls which you can hold on to (bow and stern) to keep
the boat from drifting into others. [this lock also has the floating bollards]
I assume it's just different according to the location..Correct? Or are the
Charles River Locks a sort of exception? Maybe it'd different since it's
from a river to the ocean, not the same river? Hmmm.. Thanks!
Congratulations on your first boat. The answers you have received above should help you get through the locks you are asking about. Every time you enter the experience may differ from the last. I was counting up the number of times I have locked through and lost count at somewhere over 250. Most of those where done during a 4 year Great loop trip aboard our 50 ft Trawler. My wife and I were usually the only ones aboard. We are above retirement age so if we can do it aboard a boat weighing at nearly 25 tons I believe it will be no time before you find it second nature. The floating bollard type may be the easiest method (with exception of floating in the middle) since it requires only one line attached to your center cleat, wrapped counterclockwise around the bollard twice then back to your cleat. One person at the bow and one at the stern, both with poles to help keep the boat steady. (I don't recomend you fend off using only your hands.) Make sure you always keep you body parts from between the wall and the boat! With the line around the bollard twice there's less slipage and you get less forward and back rocking. All locks are not the same and lock masters methods will vary as well. Some will have lines attached to the lock rails and you will be expected to hold onto them during the locking process. The next may expect you to provide the lines. They will need to be at least twice the length of the raise or fall of the water, since you need to have a method to retrieve your lines. Remember, if you are using the lines provided and you are locking up, when you release the lines they are now much longer than they where when you first took hold. Many a boat has wrapped the excess line around the prop because caution was not taken when releasing the line.
All advice above good.
In my experiences, most (some) of the locks have slimy walls below the high water line. To reduce the slime getting the fenders scuzzy, I bring some appropriate sized trash bags. I secure them over the fenders with the ties. After locking thru, remove them fronm the fenders by turning the bags insideout, then into a big trash bag.
As stated by inwaternow, pay close attention to your lines. A few years ago, a performance boat being run by service mechanics from a reputable, large marina, wrapped the props with excess line while getting ready to go into a lock on the Alleghaney (sp?) river, a few miles up stream from Pittsburgh. The boat obviously stalled & it was one of those locks that has a big spillway to the side (one of the ones you need to look for the signs). The boat went over the spillway & all aboard lost their lives.
You will find that locking is easy and a very cool adventure. Don't worry, you will do fine as long as you pay attention. Thousands of boats do it daily!
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