Saturday, January 17, 2015

Locks and Cleats and Lines, Oh My!

   So, we are finally out of the Inter-Coastal Waterway.  At least for a while, no more skinny canals, submerged trees, or tugs not looking where they're going.  We are glad to be away from the colder temperatures and to actually see the sun again.  I am particularly happy to be clear of the endless barrage of locks and bridges that is the Mississippi River.

Temporary Dock at the Lock
   A few days ago, we were traveling through the muddy Mississippi.  We were very much feeling like a little fish in a big pond.  The tug traffic makes traveling pretty precarious in spots and Bill had to dodge quite a few enormous vessels and floating debris.  As we approached the last lock for the day, we were starting to feel relieved.  The day had brought rain and cold winds, and we were looking forward to tying up at the marina and relaxing.  When I radioed the lock master I found that we were going to have to wait a while because there were a few tugs with large loads ahead of us.  As directed, we temporarily tied up to a dock specifically for smaller vessels waiting their turn and had lunch. 

A "Knob" From a Previous Lock
   After a while, we were radioed by the lock master and told to start pulling into the lock.  We prepared our lines before we started moving again.  For those of you that are not familiar with locks, there are usually evenly-spaced cutouts in the wall with knobs built into them.  These knobs (for lack of a nautical term) are meant for you to throw your lines around to secure the boat while the water is flowing into or out of the lock.  Well, this lock had no such thing.  We were told by a lock aid (I use this term very loosely) to take one of his lines from the top of the lock and tie it to our stern.  Then take our line to the bow (his was too short), toss it up to him, and he would tie it off on the top of the lock.  This arrangement would have been perfectly fine if the lock was filling with water (raising our boat) but, unfortunately, the lock needed to let out water.

View of a Lock WITH the "Knobs"
   We had been warned ahead of time that the water would be lowering.  So, with our own line at the bow we allowed adequate slack and tied it off.  Here comes the mistake; we assumed that the dock aid was, well, going to "aid" us by allowing enough slack on his line and actually monitor the lowering process.  WRONG.  He tied us off at the top of the lock without enough slack. As the boat began to lower, the stern line began to tighten and tighten.  We yelled for him to slacken the line but, no answer.  HE HAD WALKED AWAY.  He was on the other side of the lock.  By now the line was pulled so hard around our cleat that loosening the line from our end was impossible.  If the tension wasn't relieved soon, the line would pull the cleat right off the boat.  I asked Bill if he had a knife.  In an instant, Bill had grabbed a knife below deck, scrambled to the back of the boat, and cut the line.

   A few minutes later, we saw the aid, looking over the lock wall and tossing us down our line so that we could exit the lock.  He never said a thing about the cleat.  He hadn't even noticed.  I was livid.  As we pulled out of the lock, I wanted to give that lock master a piece of my mind.  I wanted him to know that this incompetent worker had not only not done his job but, had very nearly torn a hole in our home.  I was about to jump on the VHF and do just that when Bill informed me that the lock master had cameras on the lock.  He had most likely seen the entire thing. . . I hope that means that this guy got set in his place and not that the lock master just ignored the whole matter.  We will never know but, I do know that next time we go through a lock, the only competence we'll be relying on is our own.   

Our Anchorage View
The next couple of days after that were much better.  We made a few new friends in the marina, got some work done around the boat, and just decompressed.  As I write this, we are anchored off of Rabbitt Island.  The surroundings are serene and the weather is comfortable.  Tomorrow we'll set out for Long Beach, MS. We plan on taking about a week there to let our mail catch up with us and to scratch a few more things off our project list. 
It should be a welcomed change to our schedule from the last two weeks . . . especially since there isn't a lock in sight.

Our Navigator

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