A lock on the Canal
I have written before about the locks on the canals in the UK, and the ones on the French canals are the “same but different”. They of course do the same thing, allow the boats to go up and down in elevation. They also work much the same with doors on either end to allow boats to go in and out and allow the locks to fill and empty of water. They are however much bigger with curved walls inside the lock allowing more than one boat in at the same time. The biggest difference is that all the locks we have encountered so far are operated by dedicated lock keepers who open and close the doors and control the water flow with remotes. They also direct traffic and control when you can enter the locks. Although the actual work of operating the locks is done by the lock keepers, the boat “crew” have to hold the boat in position while in the lock with ropes, so there is still work for the crew. Some of the locks have a system of lights telling you the status of the lock; two red lights mean it is closed, one red light means it is being prepared or being used by other boats, and a green light means you are good to enter the lock.
|The "crew" at work|
Piloting the boat, you have to position the boat carefully to enter the lock through a narrow door and then maneuver to one side to allow another boat in beside you. Sometimes there are three boats in the lock at once, and if the boats were small four could fit. As the locks are filled or emptied of water, there is strong currents, so the crew must get off before the lock and then hold the boat fast to the side of the lock with ropes. Otherwise the boats would move around and bumping one another.
The lock keepers also try to control the use of the locks so that more than one boat is going up or down at once. It takes a lot of water to fill a lock, so this is an effort to make things more efficient.
|Filling the lock (Going up)|
After a few locks, everyone gets pretty good at the various tasks involved. I was able to get the boat in and out without scraping the sides, and the ropes rarely dropped into the water when tossing them up to the shore crew. But, at one point, two boats were in a lock going up and we realized that there were also two boats in a second lock coming down . . . . duh . . how does this work? The lock keeper coordinated everything, directing one boat to come into our lock in front of one of the boats then the boat beside, moved into the other lock and so forth until everyone was switched around and ready to move to the next lock.
|Sharing the lock|
The only problem is that the boys are bailing on us in Carcassonne, and we will turn back to Argens-Minervois to return the boat. With two less crew members, Regis is going to have to handle all the lock work or she is going to have to learn to pilot the boat into and out of the locks.