Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Peril on the High Seas

Storm clouds over Beveridges Lock on the Rideau Canal
There's a comical song dating to about 1927 about a terrible storm and dangerous seas on the Erie Canal. The refrain goes like this:
   Oh, the Er-i-e was rising, and the gin was getting low
   And I scarcely think we'll get another drink
   Till we get to Buffalo

The joke is that the canal was just a big muddy ditch. Hardly dangerous waters. That's the way we like 'em. No drama.

But SlowBoat did have a tiny moment of drama this week.

Low Bridge, Everybody Down

No room for a canal boat under this puppy!
There's a swing bridge immediately before you enter the lock at "the Narrows." Like an Erie Canal bridge, it's low! About 3 feet above the water. 

Incoming boats are expected to tie up to the wall ("on the blue line") while the lock tenders stop traffic and swing the bridge out of the way. Then you can enter the lock

So we're approaching and Cap is maneuvering us skillfully toward the wall. We're 12 feet out . . . 10 feet out . . . 8 feet out . . . our fourteen tons are still moving pretty fast (for us!)

Cap has done this a million times. He's a pro. This is the point at which he shifts into reverse.  That works like a brake. The boat slows down, the bow gently approaches the wall, and the bow bunny hops down and ties 'er up.

Punch it, Chewy!

You've seen that scene in Star Wars.

Well!  Cap pulls the Morris control to "reverse" position and  . . .  nuttin. No reverse.

We are not all that far from the swing bridge. It we don't stop this train, 14 tons of steel are going to do some damage to this charming antique wooden bridge. The bridge will probably ding us up pretty good too.

Cap grabs the stern line and leaps across the (still sizable) gap. He tries to get the line on a cleat but . . . too much momentum . . . the boat whips past and pulls the line from his hands.

He sprints down the dock. "Throw the mid line!" (This is our longest and thickest line, kept on the roof at the midpoint of the boat.)

The breeze is pushing the boat a bit further off the dock. Bunny heaves ho across the even more sizable gap. The end of the line tickles Cap's palm and drops in the drink.

Cap hurls himself face down, grabs the line, hauls it in fast and gets it on a cleat.

You Knew This Movie Had a Happy Ending

The boat stops approximately 5 feet from the bridge . . . and three feet from some Japanese tourists who have not even looked up from their fishing poles.

(The problem was a tiny washer that failed to hold a cable in place. Cable now locked down in triplicate.)


  1. Yikes, Glad you guys are pros at this. Hope there aren't too many bruises Bill.

  2. ...and you didn't sink the boat! Woo Hoo!


  3. Nice save. Referring to your opening song lyrics reminds me: Not the exact same -- but similar part of the world is Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" -- of course, that didn't have a happy ending