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The Welland Canal

The Welland canal

It was Sunday afternoon May 2oth ( 2001) when Anders called me telling me that he would be in the Welland canal by Monday afternoon. I had known for a week that he was on his way there and I really wanted to go, but with my store, animals, etc. I didn't think I could pull it off. He had been only been gone for a week but I missed him something awful so after I hung up the phone I walked in to see my son Zach and said." How much will it take for you to watch Bandit (our new Rotweiller - Shepard puppy...oh yeah puppy his head is at my waist...ha ha) So he said he’d "baby-sit" and I called a girl to watch my store... talked to my daughter about the horses..then made an important phone call...."Hi Honey, better make room for another passenger in the wheelhouse cuz I'm coming out to see you!" We both were really excited then and he gave me the exact time he’d be at lock 8 where I would board the ship!


5am Monday morning I got in the truck and headed towards Canada.It was a beautiful sunny day!  After driving about 4 hours I hit a front coming in from CANADA..lots of rain and wind. The traffic slowed down quite a bit but there was NO WAY I was going to stop!!!


I stopped at a Tim Horton’s a donut shop which I've discovered you find on about every corner in Ontario they seem to go right along with Sub shops..Subway, Subjuction, Sub village you name it..I can do without the subs but I have to admit I love that vanilla Cappuccino from Tim Horton's though!!!


I drove till about 1:30pm when I arrived in Port Colbourne, Ontario and found lock 8. 

There was a ship in there already but I knew it was to early for the Algolake. 

Anders called me shortly after I arrived to ask exactly where I was 

Since there was another ship in the locks he was going to tie up ABOVE the lock and 

I had to walk down to meet the ship there. I could sense his concern that I might be headed in the wrong direction  but I knew where he was! It is kinda frightening though. He’s not at the lock for long ..If I had been in the wrong place I would of had missed the ship!..that woulda stunk!!!


Course I don't have to tell you how excited I was when I got around the corner and saw the "Coolbeans " She was just coming to the wall and moving sooooo slowly! There were a lot of other people there waiting too. But I only cared about seeing one face there, the guy up in the wheelhouse navigating the ship!


I always think its cool to watch the deckhands get 

off the ship it looks like fun! Course I don't know if I’d actually like to jump off the side 

of the ship though! I'll let them do that.I'm just getting used to that ladder, which all of a sudden isn't quite so bad to climb up anymore! When I got to the ladder Norm, one of the wheelsman was coming down. I asked him if he was wearing the shirt that my boatnerd friends Teresa and Danny sent him. 

He was so he had to take off his coat to show me! It was then I heard this voice from up above my head. Someone saying, "Hey, hurry up and get up here!" I sure recognized that voice and he didn't have to tell me twice!


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The Welland Canal

When we went up to the wheelhouse, looking down into the lock. Anders told me we were going to do a "walk through" which meant he wasn't going to tie up in the lock. But first we had to wait for the other ship to get out. It was about 3:30 when I boarded the ship, Anders was going to have to work 10 hours till the other end of the canal.  


There sure wasn't much space between the ships when the other one went by going UPBOUND (This STILL is weird to me being a non-sailor :o) As to me North is UP and South is DOWN but on the lakes it has to do with sea level.  So even though we were going NORTH we were going down the level of the lakes in the canal so DOWNBOUND. Anders did a drawing for me to understand. LOL


After the other ship had cleared the lock, Anders got to work, he had to take the ship from the wall we were tied up to and move her to the other wall before entering the lock. Course he made it look very easy. Before I knew it we were going through lock 8.


While he is navigating the mate is spotting for the Captain guy in the wheelhouse. The wheelhouse is a busy place as your going through the locks with the mates spotting and the guy in charge of the lock telling you how far you have before you’re "in" . Anders holds 2 walkie talkies, one to talk to the mates on deck and the other to talk to the "lockguy" :o) 

10 meters, 5 meters, 3 meters, 1 meter..its really neat.


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The Welland Canal

I was having so much fun. I don't know who they were but there were a bunch of "boatnerds" watching us go by. When I hollered "hey boatnerds!"They yelled "blow the horn" So I told Anders to blow the horn and of course he did and BIG cheers erupted! 


Too bad it was such a foggy, rainy day...the pics are even worse that before.


Going through the rest of the locks was really fascinating. It looked for sure like you were going down a flight of stairs. Looking down at the next one below was really neat!


The rest of the locks were pretty much right after another and at each one some of the crew would get off, some of them would get on. The crew that has family close by got off in lock 8 and would spend the time home with their families and then get back on later at lock 1. There were changes in watch in the wheelhouse too as every 4 hours the wheelsman and mate change shifts..no rest for the Captain guy though..he works straight through and by 12:30 when we cleared the piers on to  Lake Ontario he sure was ready to have a break! 


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The Welland Canal

But not for long..with only 4 hours to Hamilton where we were headed he got a couple hours sleep then that darn bell went off next to the bed to tell him they were approaching Hamilton..now going in the wheelhouse at night after you've been sleeping is actually pretty neat. Everything is so quiet and peaceful out on the lakes and approaching the cities the lights are dancing everywhere. He asked me "Can you see where we are going?" What are you kidding? It was dark everywhere and there were colored lights all over the place...eventually I spotted the bridge we would be going under. Then onto the dock at Hamilton where we were going to unload. Once the ship was backed into the dock we headed back down and slept til we had to go out again which was 6 hours later, I believe it was around 10:30 or 11:00 in the afternoon.


Once we were back out on the lake again we headed down for some lunch. They always have the BEST food there..I had a bowl of homemade soup it was so good! This picture above shows what the Algolake had unloaded in Hamilton..now THAT'S a big pile!


Before long we were approaching the piers to enter the Welland Canal again...this time I had a sick feeling in my stomach though knowing what was at the other end...(My truck to take me home again) At lock One once again the members of the crew who weren't on watch got off and headed into town or to see their family. Some of the Algoma office staff came aboard and there were people everywhere. They got off at lock 2 and headed home.


Again no traffic in the canal..(just my luck, when you WANT delays there are none!! ) Then I got a real treat..by an unfortunate emergency one of the ships wheelsman had to go home so they got a replacement on board by the time we were in Lock 7 ..Anders learned this guy had never steered a ship in a canal before and it was amazing to watch and listen as Anders navigated the ship and helped the new wheelsman learn the ship in a place not so easy to learn in! I was very impressed..but of course why wouldn't I be right? :o) 


By 9:30 that night we were insight of lock 8 and the lockmaster told Anders he was clear to go right in. ( that knot in my stomach was very very big now...) We entered the lock got tied up and he walked me down the stairs quickly as he had to get back up to the wheelhouse in a hurry! Down the ladder I went and to the truck..I wanted to stay and watch him leave the locks but just couldn't do it..its really hard to leave someone when you know you won't see them again for weeks....I Spent the night at a Holiday Inn in Fort Erie then headed home in the morning. The trip was way to fast..but I sure am glad I went. The canal is more amazing from the inside then from the outside. Lots of fun to spend time with the love of my life too and now am looking forward to spending time out there with him the end of June! 

I never seem to take enough pictures..but a lot of this trip was in darkness so my camera didn't like it much..but I did...Thanks for reading my story..another one will be in the works in July...:o)


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