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How does one go up a dam lock?

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by FoxMitchell, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. FoxMitchell

    FoxMitchell New Member

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    Hey folks!

    For a while now I have been dreaming of a crazy long river adventure, but my knowledge on the ins and outs of sailing is still very basic, so I was hoping folks here would be able to enlighten me with their knowledge on such things. While I'm not unfamiliar with some offshore cruising and had some boating experience on a river in Brazil, I haven't yet made the full transition into the boating lifestyle. ...yet!

    The epic adventure idea would be to acquire (rent/charter/buy - prefereably buy) a vessel in the general Florida area, then sail it along the coast, through the Gulf of Mexico, and into the Mississippi delta. Then sail up the Mississippi all the way to where the Ohio river meets it. From there, take the waterway into the Kentucky Dam reservoir. That's where I start to wonder how things work and the foremost question in my mind is: How does one go up a dam lock?

    There are at least 3 locks along the route to Old Hickory lake in the Nashville, Tennessee area, the final destination in this crazy trip.

    Do you... just contact the lock operator on radio and say you want to go up? Do you just arrive at a certain time of the day and traffic goes thru? I have absolutely no idea how it works!

    Also what kind of boat would be good for such adventure? (it should be comfortable to liveaboard for several weeks, and should have good autonomy and fuel efficiency)

    Don't worry I'm not going to read something on the internet and go buy a boat and disrrupt the waterways with my noobness. ;) I'm just curious for now!

    Thanks!
  2. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    You generally want to go down the Mississippi River, and not fight the current going up it.

    Generally with locks, to go up them, you contact the lockmaster via VHF radio on the appropriate channel (usually 13 or 16), they drain the chamber and the doors open, when you see the green light you drive into the chamber, grab a couple of lines on the side, the lockmaster closes the doors behind you and when it's at the water height of the other side, they open the doors in front of you and you drive out. HOWEVER, commercial traffic has precidence, so if there is a tug and barge on each side, you are going to wait until they've been locked through before they get to you. It could take 3 hours or so sometimes for 1 tug and barge to get through like on the Tenn-Tomm they usually run 1 tug and 15 barges, but the chamber can only hold 4 at a time, so they have to disconnect them, pull them in by hand, lock the 4 through and do it 3 more times.
  3. Savasa

    Savasa Senior Member

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    Hey Fox,
    Basically what Capt. J described but some locks and bridges MAY have specific operating/opening times. One can find out about schedules by contacting the bridge/lock authority. Welcome aboard.
    Peter
  4. AMG

    AMG YF Moderator

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    Talking of locks, here in Sweden we have a passage from the east to the west coast with many locks. The most impressive is this system of seven locks, lifting you 60 feet..!

    Attached Files:

  5. Fishtigua

    Fishtigua Senior Member

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    In England, at Caen Hill, Wiltshire, they have a system of 16 locks on one hill.

    It's one way to keep the O/H fit.

    Attached Files:

  6. grumps

    grumps New Member

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    still talking of locks

    here in Ireland we have the Ardnacrusha locks ---- 104 feet in two lifts ....62feet and 42 feet, its like being at the bottom of a mine shaft.

    I believe its the second highest lift in Europe
  7. RicF

    RicF New Member

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    Fascinating Ardnacrusha locks - - Transition through Ardnacrusha Lock - YouTube
  8. Kevin

    Kevin YF Moderator

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  9. Ken Bracewell

    Ken Bracewell Senior Member

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  10. AMG

    AMG YF Moderator

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    Wow Ken, there you donĀ“t need life-rafts, you need parachutes..!
  11. Savasa

    Savasa Senior Member

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  12. FoxMitchell

    FoxMitchell New Member

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    Awesome, thanks for the info!

    ...I always thought you had to pay toll or something to go through the locks (in the Panama Canal you do, at least).

    And you do bring up a good point, going up the Mississippi could prove to be hard on fuel economy. Maybe I should change the idea, to start in the Nashville area and head to Florida through the rivers. :)
  13. Rodger

    Rodger Senior Member

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    Welland Canal

    This video shows a 740' laker with a 78' beam going down the Welland Canal.The drop from lake Erie to Lake Ontario 325' .The lock is 80' wide and the ships have a 78' beam. They go under there own power.
    Rodger Great Lakes Sailing - Welland Canal HD time-lapse - YouTube
    The canal is 27 miles long and each lock drops 45'.
  14. chuckb

    chuckb Senior Member

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  15. GFC

    GFC Senior Member

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    Among the larger dams in terms of amount of lift is Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. It's 822' long, 68' wide and the maximum lift is 105'. It's definitely an interesting trip to pass through the eight locks on the Snake and Columbia River.

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  16. mwagner1

    mwagner1 Senior Member

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    WOW and WOW again!!! All of those locks look totally cool!!!!!!

    Cheers,
  17. NorCalBoater

    NorCalBoater New Member

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    Thats some fancy boat drivin' raht there!