First of All –
- First time riding in a hydraulic lift lock
- First time under way for 7 hours and only traveling 11 miles
- Peterborough Lift Lock
- Nassau Mills
- Miles Cruised today: Power: 11; Sail: NA
- Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,939
- Hours Underway: 7
- Fuel: NA
- Morning House Battery Reading: 13.0 (plugged in)
- Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction: variable
- Daily High Temperature: 85
- Water Temperature: 76
Today’s the big day for our long awaited ride up the famous Peterborough Lift Lock. We depart the marina shortly after 8am, with the intent of gaining a spot on the blue line below lock 20. That will enable us to be in the first group of boats to lock up to the approach to the lift lock. We’re the third boat in line, and at 9am we enter the lock chamber and begin the familiar process of locking up. That procedure changes considerably for our next lock, however. We round a bend and there she stands, giant vertical concrete monoliths blocking our path. High above us, on the port side, a graceful basin is supported between two of the monoliths. The other side appears to be a conventional lock chamber, albeit an extremely large and tall one. The light is green, so we enter the chamber on the port side. Instead of securing lines to vertical cables, we tie off to railings on the side of the chamber. Behind us a gate rises up out of the water, enclosing us in a large basin of water. Once we’re secure a voice booms out on a loudspeaker from high above, announcing to all that the famous Peterborough Lift Lock is about to lift boats to the upper canal level. And then an amazing thing happens. We begin to smoothly and quite speedily climb in the air, along with the 1300 tons of water we’re floating in. In just 90 seconds we’re lifted 65 feet on our hydraulic elevator. The mechanism is really amazing. Two identical basins of water sit side by side. Boats enter one of the basins, then the operator adds an additional foot of water, weighing 130 tons, into the upper basin. The two basins are supported by immense hydraulic pistons and are interconnected. Once the extra water is in place, a valve on the connecting pipe is opened, enabling the pressure of the added water to push the lower basin up. As it does, the upper basin descends, with the whole thing acting rather like an immense see-saw. This remarkable lift lock took 8 years to construct, and was completed in 1904. At the time it was the largest lift lock in the world, and it still is today. The concrete poured to make the towers is completely unreinforced, with no steel in it. It’s never been rebuilt, and is in excellent condition, much better, in fact, than some more recent concrete lock structures we’ve seen along the way.
After we exit the lock we tie up on the port side wall, so we can watch some other boats ride the lock, in both directions. We then walk a short distance down to the lower side of the lock, where a very interesting visitor center is located. We watch a pair of films on the lift lock and its construction, and view models of the 7 other lift locks in existence around the world. This is truly a unique engineering marvel.
We return to the boat and have lunch at the lock wall. Then it’s time to proceed up the waterway. Our progress, however, is excruciatingly slow. We must pass 5 conventional locks, and they seem to take forever. Sometimes we have to wait for downstream boats to arrive and get locked down, before we can go up. Sometimes the lock attendants just seem to be going at a slower than usual pace. It also seems that these lock chambers fill more slowly than those we’ve previously experienced. In any case, the sun is high overhead and it’s once again quite warm out, and there is almost no breeze in the lock chambers. It’s nearly 5pm by the time we tie up at the Lakefield mooring wall. Once secured I change into a swim suit and walk down to below the lock for a quick, cooling swim. Then it’s time to grill hamburgers. We visit with other cruisers tied up here (this is a popular place to stop), and then walk into town for ice cream. We pick up some muffins for tomorrow’s breakfast, and grab some groceries at a nearby food store. Back at the boat, we’re enjoying a comfortable evening in the cockpit, with the air at just the right temperature, and no bugs pestering us.