Sunday, October 17, 2021

Wilson Lock to Florence, marina

Wheeler Lock gate. Beefy, aren't they?
(part 2 from last night)

Despite arriving at Wilson Lock around 2:30 yesterday, we didn't get locked down until 8 pm. Not the worst delay I've heard (that's closer to 24 hours) but it did give us a couple of firsts: first time locking in the dark, and first time docking in the dark.

Quick video of the loopers waiting to get thru Wheeler.


Getting dark. The light is the moon.
The lock was well lit so getting to and through it wasn't hard. There was a tow below waiting to lock up but he was small. Getting around him and over to the auxiliary lock wall wasn't at all difficult. Neither was tying up there. We had permission to bunk on it for the night. Although we were tired, it went very smoothly and ultimately we had a good night's sleep.

The next morning we were up early. As we had our coffee and breakfast we watched the crowd of looper boats gather to lock up, eight in total. That meant there should be plenty of space for us in the marina. Once the loopers headed into the lock we headed out and snagged a spot. We got the packages we'd ordered and did some provisioning. And ended the day with dinner at the restaurant.

On the aux wall at Wilson.
Now the whole lock story:

When we arrived nothing was happening. The lock was open (as if beckoning us to enter) but a red light meant it wasn't for us. Two tow boats were there, not moving. We hailed the lock, and we called the lock, and go no response. It felt like everyone was in a holding pattern for some reason. Since Russ had already received instructions to wait on the aux wall, that's what we did. 

Wilson is about 100'. 
Being in it at night was freaky.
Doors open, you can see the waiting 
tow on the left.
Listening to the radio we started to hear some chatter. The tow in the process of locking down (we'll call it Bradley) held up the show. He was a full tow, so he pushed 3x5 (so 15) barges. These are smaller locks so no way he'd fit without breaking up the tow, but add the lack of a wall, and that equals an insanely slow lock down. But Bradley already had 9 barges lowered. Everyone was in a holding pattern because, while pulling that bundle of barges out of the lock someone dropped a line and stuff started to drift (we didn't see this, only got a quick idea from chatter). The lock hailed another tow waiting to lock up to give a hand, which meant he had to drop his stuff to help out. Needless to say, lots of delay before anyone was ready for the next batch of barges.

Hours later, Bradley was given the 'go' to put the rest of his barges in the lock.

Here's how this has to go: No wall. Tows move really slow to get themselves into the lock. But no wall means there's a current pulling them into the dam. And no one wants that. The solution is another tow whose sole job is to be "the wall". I'll call him Wally. Given Wally isn't actually a wall he can only handle so much weight. Therefore, tows are only allowed to push 4 barges at a time, figuring between the pusher and Wally they could handle things if something happens.

Once in the lock because it's so big the lake
side door rises from the depths.

Off Bradley goes to get 2 more barges (9 already down, 6 to go). At this point we've figured out what station Bradley's working channel. The communication seems terrible among the crew. It takes a long time for Bradley to bring down the next 2 barges. They are secured to Wally and the first pin in the chamber. Apparently, they want to build the tow before they shove the thing in.

Bradley goes off and gets the next 4 barges, slowly brings them in. And the next few hours are spent connecting all six together. There's arguments, there's comedy, there's lack of communication. 

For example-

Setup: everyone is waiting for crewman2 to finish tying a line. After many, many minutes...

Crewman 1: Did you get that line tied?

Crewman 2: Oh. Yeah. 

You could almost hear the eye rolls and facepalms.

Here's another example (this was kinda funny)-

Crewman: Hey, can you hear me?

Captain: Yeah. Everything okay?

Crewman: Yeah. I think I just couldn't hear you.

Captain: Well, you hear me now, right?

Crewman: (hesitates) Nope.

Made it to Florence.
Lovely, albeit nippy, day.
Finally, Bradley shoves his barges into the chamber and locks down. Now we just have to wait for him to reconnect the 6 to the original 9 before he leaves the chamber. Then, there are 2 rec boats locking up.... then we can lock down.

We didn't do a whole lot except wait. But it made for a long day and an interesting night.

Total lock count: 66

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