Friday, September 26, 2014

Love Locks

Yea I know, it’s a really terrible play on words, but I couldn’t resist.

Beautiful View out our window
We have seen the locks of the Panama Canal twice, gone in from the Caribbean side once, and done a complete transit from the Pacific side. On those voyages the locks are the big attraction, and they are up front and center in the brochures and advertisements for these cruises. I developed an interest and respect for locks on the English Narrow Boat trip where I actually had to work the locks to get the boat through, and the town I call home used to have a lock system on its canals. I do not however recall Viking even mentioning the locks on this trip.

A Tight Fit
There are in fact over 60 locks the boat has to traverse during the 14 day journey. There are locks that slow the boat down through every section of our journey, but most are in the middle section and there are only a few during the last section on the Danube. The trip is however very well planned and many of the locks are scheduled during the night. The boat is amazingly smooth, so when I felt it hit something I investigated and looked out the window.  What I saw was a concrete wall inches from our cabin window. I could reach out and touch it (Although covered in green and brown river slime, this was not a real interesting option). A rare occurrence, the captain had nudged the side of one of the locks he has to go through. We went through ten locks that night, and they continued every 10 to 20 miles from then on. Expressing an interest in the locks, I was given a map showing the location of all of the  locks. Around Nuremberg they are spaced only a few miles apart. I wondered why at times we were dropped in one town and then picked up at another only 20 klm away. The reason is that it can take hours to get through the locks, so the captain goes through the locks while we tour interesting towns on foot or by bus. At one point we were gone all day, and the boat was still late picking us up 30 Klm away because of traffic through the locks.

For those unfamiliar with this use of the word lock, it is a section of a canal or a special enclosed section of a river where doors can be closed in front of and behind the ship and water can be pumped into or allowed to flow into the lock to float the boat to a higher level. In reverse, the ship enters the full lock on the high side, the water is allowed to drain out, thus lowering the boat to a lower level.

Bonus . . . A Castle and a Lock . . .
On a Panama Canal cruise the famous locks are the reason for the cruise so a lot is made of them; on this trip the locks are a necessary nuisance slowing us down, so they are basically ignored. Me I have an appreciation of the locks and how they work, and love watching the power of the water transfer the huge ship meters up or down to continue at a new level. I was surprised at how many people knew nothing about them, and the teacher in me momentarily came out of retirement and I happily gave lock lessons when questions were asked.

No comments:

Post a Comment