July 13
In order to get from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, locking through this Canadian canal system is necessary. Requirements are calling customs, and having 3 people on board if you are locking up, as we were about to do. Since our nearly 3 hour delay by customs is a whole story in itself, suffice it to say that you don’t want to declare a shotgun when trying to clear customs. We got to the canal a little after noon, where we met Roger St. Amand, who we had hired to help us lock through. Roger, who works for the Seaway system, gave us the following information about the 8 locks: each of the locks holds 21,000,000 gallons of water, is 80’ wide and 30’ deep (ships have a 26’ draft, with biggest being 78 x 740), and have 30’ thick walls at the bottom. The canal also generates all its own hydro, and it is completely drained in the winter and filled in the spring. At 3:00 we were finally on our way. Once entered, you must complete your passage through the canal; unlike the US locks where you can stop and even spend the night tied up to a stationary bollard or cleat, there is no stopping here. Before beginning we had our doubts about the need for a third person, but it didn’t take long to realize the value of those extra hands. The current is so swift when the locks are filling that the Captain had to run the boat while First Mate and Roger handled the lines that were dropped down to the boat from the lockmaster above, one forward and one aft. At one lock there is two-way traffic, with boats locking both ways at the same time. We went through the first two without a hitch. And then as we were approaching #3 we could see a storm ahead with some serious lightening bolts, even though it was a sunny day. #3 is also where payment must be made and where a restaurant and viewing platform is located for land based customers. We paid the fee of $160 (Canadian) and waved back to the people watching, feeling like we were in a parade, when suddenly a dark cloud overhead opened up and it started to pour. We sat that out with the two sailboats that were locking with us, wondering what the delay in our passage was. We soon learned that lightening had struck the control system for the bridges in the canal. We waited 1½ hours for someone who could manually operate the next bridge to arrive there. Locks #4, 5, & 6 are the flight of locks, with one right after the other; as you leave one, you are in the next. It really is impressive, especially when you realize that you are locking up in this flight the same height as Niagra Falls, which is 6 miles directly east of the canal. We were held up by a commercial vessel at only one lock, #7. By then it was dusk and time to say bye to Roger. We had one more lock 15 miles away, but it was only a one foot lift that we could float through without even tying up to the wall. We traversed those miles in the dark and were happy to finally dock at Marlon Marina at Port Colborne at 11:15.