Thursday, September 19, 2019

What IS It?

The summer is over. Our cruise to Buffalo and back is over. But here's one more installment of the SlowBoat "What IS It? quiz.

The picture at right was taken near Pittsford, NY, when we were cruising with friends Clare and Doug. We spotted this odd watery phenomenom in one of the little side channels you see all along the canal.

So, what IS it? What causes these watery mushrooms to swell up from the water's surface?

You know how to play the game! Use the blog "comments" function to submit your answer, or write a comment on Facebook.The winner will receive a genuine tacky postcard by good old conventional snail mail. Don't you want one?

And Now, the Answer to the Previous Quiz

The July 30th installment of the What IS It? quiz (click the link and scroll down, the new quiz is at the bottom of the post) got absolutely zero correct answers and zero goofy guesses. But we're gonna tell you the answer anyway.

Grab your rubber gloves, Heloise, that line is slimy!
The upright post within the mysterious watery alcove shown at left is called a "bollard." (There are lots of kinds of bollards, this is just one version.) We see this kind of bollard in Erie Canal locks.

What do you need a bollard for? It's like an external boat braking system. Let me long-windedly explain!

Holding Your Place in a Lock

As you can see from the picture, Erie Canal locks have long lines hanging down from the top of the lock wall. They're spaced every 25 feet or so. You find these lines along both sides of the locks.

When you pilot your boat into a lock, you head over to a wall, and two members of a boat's crew--one person at the bow (front) and one person at the stern (rear)--each grab onto a line and hold tight. That simple exercise of people power keeps the boat in place against the wall as the lock fills or empties.

So why do you need bollards? They're useful for big, heavy boats, like the working tug in the picture below. Imagine yourself as a tugboat captain, slowly approaching a wall . . . . and now you need to STOP RIGHT HERE so your crew can grab the lines.

The deckhand on this tug used the bollard (just visible above the roof of the steering station) to snub forward progress
You don't have brakes (although you can use "reverse" judiciously). You don't want to ram the pricey little pleasure craft that has already cozied up to the wall ahead of you.

So one of your muscular crew members has a stout line at the ready. On one end, it's cleated to the boat. Like a boat-ridin' cowboy, he leans out and loops the line on the post. The leverage of the line on the bollard brings the boat to a firm stop. Then he shakes the line offf the bollard, and grabs the lock line.

Simple, Right?

Do not, repeat, do not tie up here!
In an Erie lock, you never actually tie up to a bollard, because the bollard is fixed in place in the wall.

If you tie up and you're locking up (being lifted), your boat could get pulled under the rising water. If you tie up and you're locking down, your boat could end up dangling above the water. Not good!

Some big locks have floating bollards--for example, the famous Singing Bollards of the Tenn-Tom. They look like oil drums suspended on metal cables, and they float up or down with the water level in the lock.

Bow Bunnies Prefer Bollards

You DO tie up to floating bollards. Speaking as the bow bunny, throwing a line on a floating bollard is much nicer than hanging on to a slimy, mud-can algae coated lock line!

Anyway, that's the answer to the July 30th quiz. No one won the postcard. But you still have a chance to win! Submit a pun or joke using the word "bollard." The winner, selected at random from all the hilarious submissions we'll receive, can wrap up the summer with a treasured tacky postcard. We can't wait to hear from you!

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