Friday, October 23, 2009

Great Bridge Lock on the ICW

Day One headed down the ICW is fraught with stress. There are five bridges that you need to time (some open on demand, two on the hour, two on the hour and half hour). This is not counting the railroad bridges that may or may not be passing trains when you arrive. Of course, everyone starts off early and fights for position. The Great Bridge Lock fills up quickly, and sometimes you get bumped when there is no room at the inn. Then you have to circle around and fight other boats and the current. It is important to know that everyone hates this, you are not the only one feeling that valium could become your best friend.

We had a surprisingly easy time of it this trip, or perhaps I am finally calming down. I even brought the boat into the lock and did not rip off the engine or add scuff marks to the hull. 18 boats locked through with us, and the locktenders were friendly and patient, not always the case.

Heading South, the right side of the lock is rubber lined, thus preferred over the left side which is concrete and steel. Guess where we were. Hang your fenders and approach slowly until the lock tender is ready to accept your lines.
You should have two long lines (25 feet or more) attached to a cleat and ready to hold up, he will take with a boat hook and wrap around a cleat or a piling on shore. He will hand you back the end and you attach to the cleat, or hold while the water falls. This is not a dramatic event, usually I don't even know that the rise or fall has happened. For First Edition, this is the tricky part, as it seems the dinghy always wants to hit the side of the lock; this time the motor cleared by a hair's width.

We ended our day at Coinjock Marina, rafted to a catamaran. This is the busy time of year, so marinas fill up fast. You should make your reservation at least two days in advance, more if nasty weather is predicted. Docking at Coinjock at both marinas is alongside the waterway, so no hassles with slips. There is a decent restaurant at Coinjock Marina which is known for its 32 ounce cowboy prime rib. We tried this last year and found it inedible. But the homemade potato chips served before dinner make it all worthwhile.

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