Monday, February 17, 2014

Locking through in Seattle

Every time I run into George, the previous owner of Gray Hawk, he wants to know whether we have used the scanning sonar that he installed.  I’m sure its top of mind, mainly because he spent a lot of money on the project.  I think he said 20 thousand at one point and I have no trouble believing that. 

He had to haul the boat, chop a hole in the middle of the keel, mount a 4 foot long tube, fair the opening where the tube and sonar emerge from the keel and then do all the electronic and cable installation. Plus buying the equipment of course.  He never used the boat so he never used the sonar and the simple truth is that we haven’t used it either.  Actually it was kind of a pain in the ass to use because the display screen he installed was a TV that was supposed to just sit on the dash.  I guess that was fine if you never left the dock but it didn’t work worth crap in a rough sea.  So we never used it.  In fact last spring when we moved back to the prairies we took the TV with us and briefly used it as a TV.

Fast forward to this trip to Seattle and we had George and his bride onboard for supper.  Sure enough, almost the first words out of his mouth were “so how’s that sonar working?”  And of course I had to fess up that we haven’t turned it on.  I neglected to point out that not only had we not used it, we had rendered it unusable by removing the TV.

After George and Catherine left I got to thinking that we really should use the sonar.  At the very least its a damn good depth sounder and it has the potential to be a whole lot more than that.  The way it works is the sonar head emerges below the boat and then we can control the scan area – everything from a narrow (maybe 15 degree) window to a 360 degree scan.  We can look just to one side or just ahead or set it to constantly sweep all around the boat.  We can also control the angle of the head from about 5 degrees up to 90 degrees straight down.  Its really a very powerful piece of equipment, and no doubt it cost George plenty.  Two years ago in Port Angeles we had a commercial fisherman onboard explaining how they use this particular model to search for schools of fish.  Somewhere I wrote down what he explained. 

Of course I didn’t have a display, having turned it back into a TV, but I was wandering around in 2nd Wave, the local marine consignment store, and I happened upon a 12 volt 10 inch square VGA display.  I have no idea what it may originally have been installed in but it is literally made to order for our sonar system.  I plugged the display in at 2nd Wave and it powered up so I coughed up the 30 bucks they wanted and brought it home.  It took a little fiddling with settings and I think I still  have a boogy cable but it works just fine.  Yesterday I got it more or less installed but I’m still looking for a power connection and I think I’ll get a new piece of coax made up for it.

Today we caught the bus to the Hiram M. Chittenden locks, AKA “Ballard Locks”.  They’ve been in use since the early 1900’s acting as the gateway between Puget Sound and Lake Union.  We briefly discussed mooring on Lake Union this trip but ruled it out because we thought the locks were too scary.  We couldn’t have been more wrong. 


There’s two locks, side by side.  This is the small lock in the middle of the channel with the dam and fish ladder to the south of it. 


This is a small boat waiting on the Puget Sound side of the locks, under the bascule bridge for the railway.  If you look close, the bridge is actually open because a big tug was coming in.


This is the tug coming into the big lock.  The smaller lock is to the right of this picture. 


And here’s that same small boat that was waiting under the bridge.  On this lock you have to handle the lines.  If you look close you can see lines running up to the top of the lock from the smaller boat.  As the lock fills the deckhands on the boat will have to keep taking up the slack.  Going down they would have to keep paying out line.  When the boats first arrive on this side, the lock tenders throw light lines down from the top.  They expect you to tie their lines to the loop end of your lines and then they pull them up and loop them over a cleat.

IMG_6856 This is the moment after the gates opened in front of the tug.  It was surprising how little time it took to fill that huge space with water.  I doubt it took 5 minutes to raise the boats about 15 feet.


And finally here’s two boats locking down in the small lock.  On this side there are floating bollards (cleats) on the walls so the boats just tie off to the cleats and then the cleats raise or lower with the boats.  These boats came in with the basin full of water and are just ready to leave after the water dropped with them inside. 

So next time we come to Seattle we will definitely explore Lake Union.  That will give us a much better selection of marinas as well as the opportunity to moor within walking distance of some really nice neighbourhoods in Ballard or Fremont.  It will also let us moor in fresh water which is good to do once in a while because it will kill all the saltwater dependant boogers presently living on our hull.

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