The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Lock from Hell

Murphy's Law is:  Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  Now, I am not a pessimist.  I don't really subscribe to Murphy's law. 
However, in my experience rarely does only one little thing go wrong all by itself.  In my world, Murphy's law is more like:  When one thing little thing goes wrong...hold on...the fun is just starting! 
We have been through something like a gazillion locks since we nervously locked through the first two back in the Dismal Swamp last May.  We’re pros at this, right?  Uh-huh.  Just when you least expect it, Murphy shows up, and just one thing doesn’t go wrong…hell no…several things combine to make a normally easy procedure a nightmare.  Such was our time at the Pickwick Lock today as we continued up the Tennessee River with Moonstruck.
Murphy was alive and well at the Pickwick Lock today!
It was a little breezy as we waited below the dam to enter the lock, nothing terrible, just enough to make it interesting.  My First Mate went down to prepare the (big ball) fenders on the port side as the lockmaster directed.  Port is not our preference, because we need to lower the tilt on the motor on the dinghy.  It sticks out when it is raised, and the lower unit and prop might hit the lock wall. 
Problem #1:  Carrie yells up to me (yeah, we’re too cool to use the $300 headphones, we’re pros right?), “The battery is dead in the dinghy and I cannot lower the motor”.  No big.  Had it not been quite so windy and had we more time, I might have been able to deal with it.  But, I holler back, “The big fender balls will keep our stern far enough from the lock wall…I hope!” 
Problem #2:  Carrie bellows, “Oh crap, one of the (big ball) fenders just came off its’ line, and it’s floating away!”  We spend about 5 minutes trying to retrieve a 27” diameter ball with me maneuvering the boat close in the wind, and Carrie trying to snag it with a boat hook.  Of course, the lockmaster calls us into the lock at precisely that moment.  I bid adieu to the $159 fender and move forward into the lock, yelling down to my mate, “Just put as many of the smaller fenders out as you can.”
I couldn’t believe it, but a kind fisherman saw our plight, plucked the fender up into his aluminum boat and chased us into the lock.  Sure glad I always slow down when I pass those guys!  No time to tie it on; Carrie thanked him, hauled it into the cockpit and I continued to the wall.
Problem #3:  And, this is a Venus and Mars thing…although I cannot see what’s going on below, I assume that she has put the remaining large ball near the stern, to protect the dinghy motor.  I realized my mistake as we reached the lock wall, but that was not the time to worry about it, as the wind…(remember the wind?)...kicked up and was throwing us against the wall and pushing us past the bollard.  I could hear nothing from below except my mate struggling to get a line over the floating bollard.  I might have, just might have, yelled down in a tone that betrayed my frustration.  She continued to struggle with the line.  I knew she had to be leaning out to reach for the bollard, and the way things had gone in the last several minutes, I would not have been surprised to hear a splash as she fell over the side.  Thankfully, she finally secured the line and I raced down to re-tie the second ball and get it over the port side at the stern so that infernal metallic sound of the lower unit on the outboard hitting the lock wall would be silenced!  I glared up the side of the boat at my First Mate, but the fun wasn’t over.
Problem #4:  The forward fender ball had, once the boat was finally secured, landed precisely in a trough in the side wall of the lock that contains the safety ladder.  So, it was doing exactly zero to prevent the bow from hitting the wall.  The discussion between the two of us at this point is probably best left unwritten, but you get the point.  Not our finest hour.  We did manage to hold the bow off the lock wall enough to secure the fender a few feet back, where it would do its’ job.
The 55 foot ride up the lock was very, very quiet.  I sat up at the fly bridge helm, and my mate stood by her line.  If Murphy had been there either of us would have punched him in the face!
When all was said and done and we were on our way again, with absolutely no damage to the boat, we knew better than to talk about it for a while.  So...we got in a knock down argument about the exact wording on our boat insurance policy (I'm not kidding), which, after a full half hour of argument, turned out to be just another fine Venus and Mars moment.
The moral of the story is…hell, there is no moral.  It was just one of those days.
Don’t worry about us.  We haven’t been married for 26 plus years without knowing how to make up! J
Life is good, and boating is fun!

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