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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Wanuskewin Canal Crossing Day 2

January 21, 2015

As we know, yesterday went smoothly.  But then, the up locks are the easy part.  Its the down locks where things go awry because of the current rushing past.  And, we suspect that we will again be tied together with Sea Renity which is just going to make things even more complicated if things go sideways.  We could be tied to a boat that is fighting us - steering one way while we steer another.  It has the potential to go awry in a bad way.  But our boys had concocted a plan.

First, with Dave on the bow where he could see the swirling current, he would be the one to decide when to toss the lines and move forward.  This meant convincing our adviser to listen to us about when to tell the canal side line handlers to toss down the lines.  Second, Mike needed to convince the captain of Sea Renity that he would be giving her commands about what to do in the locks - not her adviser.  Yeah, ok, that's pretty much a plan that says, we are going to take command from the advisers this time around.  But then the advisers are two for two in getting us sideways in the down locks.  Hard to imagine we could do any worse.

In the morning we could see all the boats that had come in the dark the night before all tied to the buoys.

We had been told that our adviser would be aboard at 9am.  At 10:45am we called canal operations to see what was up.  They told us he would "be there shortly".  He finally came aboard around 11am.  Of course this gave us plenty of time for a big pancake breakfast.  And its not exactly like we have anywhere we need to be today.

And we were off!  Mike says he is nervous but doing ok.  As soon as the adviser comes aboard, Mike immediately begins working on him explaining that we want to decide when to move forward.  The adviser sort of blows this off like a "hey don't worry, I know what I'm doing" sort of thing.  But Mike keeps quietly working on him as we approach the first lock - explaining our previous experiences getting sideways and how sailboats just arn't like most boats they take through the canal - not a lot of power and no bow thrusters. 

Sure enough, after we docked at the entrance to the canal, Sea Renity gets tied up along side us.

Mike put an extra traveler on one of the slides so that we could rig another spring line at a better angle between the boats.  Hopefully this will help Sea Renity keep from moving around so much today.

And Dave helped get the boat pulled forward enough so that our mast rigging was offset so the rigging couldn't touch even if Sea Renity did move around somewhat.  And so that Sea Renity would be clear of the shore side lines which would again all be tied to Wanuskewin.

The two girls from the hostel that Sea Renity had picked up as line handlers had it easy.  They've not touched a line this whole passage.

Our lock buddy was a big container ship - the SAF Marine Bayete.

As we sat at the dock waiting for the signal to move into the first lock, Mike talked with Venus, the captain on Sea Renity about how we were going to maneuver the boats.  He explained how we had been through the locks previously and gotten sideways both times.  And that it could be bad if the two boats were to fight each other.  His plan was to work the engines on both boats the way you would work twin engines on a catamaran.  If we needed more steering power, we could put one engine in forward and the other in reverse.  But that would call for tight coordination between the boats.  She immediately caught on and told  Mike, "Got it.  You just tell me what to do."  We were able to test this coordination as we left the side of the lock.  Mike asked her to keep the steering neutral, and to put her engine in reverse to help us pull the nose of both boats away from the dock and the maneuver went smoothly.

Then it was time for another couple of monkey fist throws to get our lines connected on the starboard side.

Then we pulled forward into position in the first lock.  Our giant lock buddy pulls into position behind us.  Oh please don't let him lose his breaks! 

Ok we are all set to start to let the water out.

Down we go.  The line handlers have an easier time of it today.  They just have to ease the lines out as we go down.  Their goal being to keep us centered in the lock.  Looks like we did a pretty good job on the first one as our mast appears centered on the lock doors in front of us.

The adviser on Sea Renity had it easy.  Spent much of the passage chatting with the girls.

We exit the first lock without any trouble and pull into position in the second lock.  This video shows how intimidating it is to sit and watch our lock buddy pull up behind us. 

And this time Kim has her line tied to a winch to make things easier.

The water is let out of the second lock, and the doors open.  This is where both Apsaras and Saltydog went sideways due to the current rushing past.  Dave watches the ripples and whirlpools ahead of us.  When he thinks it safe, he yells back to Mike that it's ok to move forward.

Our adviser, Hector "the protector  as he called himself was a mellow guy through this whole thing.  By this point he seemed convinced that we knew what we were doing and was just letting us do our thing.  Mike powers forward. 

Meanwhile, Dave and Holly working the bow lines had come up with a secret play.  It had dawned on Dave that they could help Mike keep the bow straight by simply not letting their lines loose when told.  You see the shore side line handlers can't pull the lines off the canal side cleats when there is tension on them.  So the standard procedure is to tell the line handlers on the boat to let the lines loose so the shore side line handlers can toss the lines down.  But instead, Dave and Holly let the stern line handlers get their lines off first.  Mike could then start powering forward.  Which then would release the tension on the bow lines so they could be released and then reeled in.  But that extra few seconds of the bow being held in place, so that Mike already had forward momentum when the bow lines were released was just enough to be helpful.  As on this lock, Mike had the steering full to port side and was just able to keep the boats straight and centered in the lock.  You might wonder why the adviser and the shore side line handlers weren't yelling at Mike and Holly to release the tension on their lines when they were "supposed to".  That's because they both bent down and pretended like they were working on releasing the lines.

Mike executed the maneuver perfectly, and we pull forward into the third and final lock.  We watch the ship in front of us pulling away in the Atlantic. 

They begin to let the water out of the lock and we head down.  This video of Dave and Holly on the bow is sped up 8x.  At one point you will see them both turn back to listen to Mike telling Holly she needs to stop letting line out on her side as we have gotten a bit off center.  They were already aware and working on it - you will see Dave helping Holly to get the boat back in place.  And then finally the doors open to the Caribbean! 

Mike pulled forward out of the final lock again keeping both boats perfectly straight. In the end, Mike never did have to ask Sea Renity's captain to do anything other than hang on for the ride.  He was able to keep both boats straight through all three down locks.  Whoo hoo!  High fives all around!

We then released Sea Renity and headed to the drop off point for the adviser.  Meanwhile it was time to get the lines and tires cleaned up on the decks.

We passed by the giant doors for the new locks.  We could see workers welding on giant tabs on the side that must be part of the mechanism that will roll the giant doors back and forth. 

Then it was time for sandwiches for lunch.

As we dropped off our adviser, Dave was at the helm.  In the waves and the wind, this can be tricky, and you can see the pilot boat powering away from us to make another run at it so the boats wouldn't crash into one another.

As we made our way into the marina, Dave was standing sideways so he could see over all the stuff on the deck to maneuver in the tight quarters as there was a big catamaran coming out as we were headed in. 

We were all happy to see this nice big empty slip at the end of a long journey.

Though as is typical, the marina dock worker pulled the lines too tight and yanked the bow into the dock so Mike and "the other" Dave had to loosen up the spring line so we could get the boat straightened back out.  

And even after we were fully tied down, we still had to help get the bow pushed off the dock properly.  

Then it was time to pop the champagne and celebrate!

All in all it turned out to be a well executed plan!  Good job team!

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