Photo by Kerry Batdorf
Lockport Gates at Night
After a whirlwind of events throughout our two days in Medina, Monday morning found the crew of the Lois McClure preparing for departure once again. Our next destination was the historic town of Lockport, and although we had several stops to make before tying up in the mid-afternoon, the journey was short enough that we were able to delay our departure to mid-morning. The weather was partly sunny and cool, and the crew took part in the various chores of a transit day, enjoying the scenic vistas of the farmlands of Western New York, as well as the company of country singers Ron and Nancy of Medina, who joined us for the day's trip.
Shortly before arriving in Lockport, the C.L. Churchill detached itself from the hip of the Lois to refuel at the fuel station in Gasport, where we also picked up 10 more bags of the ever- needed ice. After retying lines between the two boats, we were once again on our way. To my disappointment, there were no locks to pass through on this leg of the journey, however we encountered enough lift bridges that I will forever remember the delightful clanging bell as we passed under with just enough room to spare. We also passed under several guard gates, consisting of heavy gates that lower into the water and protect sections of the canal from rising water in the event of flooding.
Later that afternoon, we tied up at Upson Park, just below lock numbers 34 and 35. The history behind the locks of Lockport is an interesting one - in order to solve the problem of the dramatic elevation change during the construction of the Eerie Canal in the early 1800's, a man named Nathan Roberts proposed the construction of a double set of 5 locks, one side to be used by eastbound traffic and the other for westbound traffic. The two flights of 5 locks were used through the first enlargement of the canal in the mid 1800's. Two new locks have replaced one set of 5 in the early 20th century, and the remaining original set, now used as a spillway, can be seen on the right side of the canal.
Once we had successfully tied up, we immediately got to work setting up the gangway and the ship's store in preparation for the following day. Finishing the most important and time-consuming tasks early so we didn't have to worry about it in the morning, the crew was able to enjoy some "downtime". The sky had clouded over, but despite impending rain, crewmember Tom Larsen and I made our way up to the town to explore. When we returned after a brief drizzle and slight temperature drop, the shore-head facilities and warm showers were greatly appreciated.
The mayor of Lockport, Mr. Michael Tucker, provided dinner that evening and joined us on deck as we discussed the events for the following day.
Later, as we readied for bed, we heard the peculiar sounds of the freshwater drum, a small fish makes a loud "drumming" noise during mating season. The sound was amplified below deck on the schooner, but I was lucky enough to spend the night in the pilothouse of the tugboat, where the noise was subdued and actually quite lulling.
The next morning we finished setting up the ship's store and stowed all our sleeping gear in the appropriate hiding places. Over the course of the day there was a steady flow of people coming aboard the schooner, enjoying the warm weather and the other events taking place at Upson Park, which included several cover bands and the famous Mama's Ribs, a traveling kitchen run by a family spanning three generations. According to crewmember Len Ruth, they served the best BBQ ribs and chicken ever made, a claim that I for one agree with wholeheartedly.
Wednesday was much of the same routine. The boat opened at 10 AM to the public (the crew having woken several hours and coffee cups earlier) and interpretations lasted until 6 PM that evening. For the entire two days that we were in Lockport, we had a total count of 1544 visitors to the boat. By late afternoon the next vanload of volunteers and supplies had arrived, and quarters were tight that night as we shared sleeping space amongst 16 people.
The following morning the crew woke early again and prepared for departure - next stop, Buffalo. I sadly removed my belongings and transported them to the van, as my rotation had come to an end. Luckily before the 7-hour drive back to Vermont, Elisa Neslon and I were able to take photos from land as the Lois McClure, C.L. Churchill and the Oocher passed through lock numbers 34 and 35, waving goodbye one last time. I was aboard the Lois for 10 days, and over the course of this time I was struck by the attitude of the people who came aboard. For every time that I said "Thank you so much for coming", I was thanked in return. Whether they had just stumbled upon our boat by chance or had eagerly awaited our arrival for weeks, some driving miles out of their way to meet us, everyone seemed to be genuinely thankful and pleased that we had stopped in their town. I can only say the same for being aboard the Lois and wish the crew the best of luck and good sailing for the remainder of their journey.