America's Great Loop
© 1993 - Super Loopers LLC
If you don't have or
want a Passport
or want to stay totally
on the USA side,
click here
The animation (at left)
demonstrates how the
Locks work on the Erie
Canal. All total, there
are 57 locks that will
lift your boat a total of
565 feet above sea
You will always approach the Locks dead slow - not because you are a novice, but because you are a pro. Near the lock's gate there will be an
official (or unofficial) waiting or staging area - In some cases you can tie up along a wall and wait, and in other cases you let your intentions be known
to the Lock Master on your VHF.
Always approach and enter the lock DEAD SLOW. If your boat approaches too fast, your wake will follow - and possibly heave you and any other
boats smashing into the lock wall, or even swamping much smaller boats. On the older locks, you simply loop your dock line around the vertical guide
wires or wall cleats.
Do not ever "tie" your vessel to anything in a lock - even the guide straps. Remember - your line, and more importantly - your boat - has to
rise or fall with the changing water level in the lock. One dock line near the bow and one at near the stern will do nicely.
At left, the lock chamber
is full. The man on the
boat is still holding his
vessel in place as the
other boat begins to
move out of the lock.

Now you can see the top
of the wall that holds the
guide wires in place.
In this picture, you
get a real good look
at the lock walls at
low water.

Notice the tie wires,
as well as the water
line that indicates
how high the water
will rise.
Going up?
Once all boats are loaded and secured, the Lock doors close, and the water begins to
rise. All the while, you simply keep a hand on the line you have looped around the guide
wire, watching to make sure it (or your boat) moves up as the water level begins to fill the
lock chamber. If your boat or line gets caught or snagged, It could create a major disaster.

Normally the Lock Master will send the smaller boats out first. So pay attention. Don't
hesitate to ask for information or help if you need it. The Lock Masters are friendly and
eager to see you through the Lock without incident.
The Erie Canal is a slow boat movement. Much of it is limited to 5-10mph and No Wake zones. In any case, you don't want to get in a hurry.
Each Lock and Bridge Master is aware of your speed - as they know exactly how long it takes at speed limit to travel from one Lock or one Bridge to
the next Lock or Bridge. So to avoid long waits at Locks and Bridges, and to avoid a stiff fine for speeding, we suggest you go slow, and go with the
flow of other boats. . .
( Locking through the locks on the Erie Canal )
If you want to cruise
Canada & have your
click here.
This is the Middleport Lift Bridge.

The picture is taken as I stand in front of the Basket
Factory, looking back east.

Coming from the the east, you will want to pass
under this Lift Bridge and dock on the wall (where I
am standing) and spend an evening at the Basket

Then in the morning, it is on to Lockport and Buffalo.
This is the last Lift Bridge (in a series) before the Lockport

One guy operates these Lift Bridges.  He drives a golf cart
from one bridge to the other as boats pass through. . . and
then runs up the stairs to open the next bridge.

We think he keeps his Coke & Cookies at each of Bridge
Control rooms. LOL   
:: The Historic Erie Canal ::
To continue your Great Loop voyage - click next
This is a "Lock Bollard"

Some of the newer & more updated
Locks use bollards. In this case, you
loop you lines (both bow & stern
around one bollard. They are very
easy since one loops onto the bollard
that rises (or falls) with the water level.

Problems?  Both bow and stern lines
have to attach to the same bollard. It
is easy to catch the end of a fender
in the vertical slot in the lock wall that
precedes or contains the bollard. So
you have to keep a careful eye out
during the entire process - as with all
No matter what method you
use to keep your vessel next
to the Lock wall - it is
important that you NEVER no
NEVER "tie" you vessel to a
line, cleat, or bollard.
Notice the vertical lines
( the arrows point to )
you will 'loop' your boat
line around these to hold
your boat against the
lock wall.                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -