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Monday, 10 March 2014

American ambitions.

It seems that I have been getting a lot of viewings of this blog from America. I am sufficiently old to still be amazed that people on the other side of the Atlantic are able, and even more amazed that they can be bothered to spend the time looking.

I then pondered what would rivet their interest in English Canals and my blog. I know that lots of North Americans come over for holidays on our canals, but why my blog! Well that started me thinking about what I know about canals over there. I had been up the St Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes via the Welland Canal between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. It was very interesting and we even used to get a bonus of £12 up and £12 down due to the long stand by's we used to have. In fact I have employed the techniques used on the locks on the Welland Canal on Holderness too, very occasionally. The run up to the lock is made at slow speed. There is a long run in jetty that was wooden. When you reach this you turn to it and run along side it, or on it.

St Catherines on the Welland Canal showing the run in jetty. Maybe the technique described  is not used any more as the ship in the photo is just shaping for the lock.

Quite along way out from the mouth of the lock the run in jetty angles towards it. The trick is to steer so that the bow stays on the jetty with the ship heading at the same angle as the lock is aligned, that is towards the jetty. When you reach the entrance to the lock it is midships, or a little opposite lock, and a quick slow ahead to poke her in and then when head and shoulders in , half astern to bring her up before the arrestor wire at the end that prevents damage to the other gate. The locks are 233.5 x 80 x 25ft I seems to remember 26' being our load draft though. It was great fun and very interesting. There are no pumps involved at the locks, just the natural head of water. The lock fills and drains in about 8 minutes I seem to remember. It was so rapid anyway that on the barograph on the bridge you could see the increase in pressure as we went up and down.

Staircase locks No 4,5 and 6 on the Welland Canal.

I also spent sometime running in and out of a little port at the opposite end of the country, Point Comfort in Texas which is south of Houston. The alumina plant we frequented was in the middle of nowhere and we had to pass through the Matagorda Ship Channel from the sea. I was fascinated by the Intercoastal Waterway that was marked on the chart. It seems that the waterway is 3000' long and is made up of three non joined length. Brownsville in Texas to Carrabelle in Florida, then one leg goes south from Tarpon Springs in Florida to Fort Myers in the same state, whilst another canal heads north from Key West to Norfolk Virginia. 

Showing the make up of the Intracoastal waterway of lakes, lagoons, rivers and canal systems.

The canal is made up of inlets, bays lagoons and man made canals. The waterway also connects with alot of the big American rivers too such as the Mississippi, Delaware, Hudson and others. Ultimately you can travel as far north as Boston.

Most of the routes.

It seems that they also have funding issues around maintenance and dredging as the supposed minimum draft is 3.7m and the actual in some few parts is 2.1m! There are no tolls but there is a tax on fuel used and this is supposed to fund the work. The money raised by the tax is held by the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, (sound familiar?) under the US Treasury. They also created a Waterways Users Advisory group to give recommendations on what the money was to spent on. The tax was to rise to 20% in coming years.

The users of these waterways are not only small cruisers that move with the sun from north to south in the winter and back again in the summer, often called 'snowbirds', but very large pusher tugs with huge barges of petroleum,and their products, manufactured good, building supplies etc making the waterway a vital link in keeping large freight off the roads and keeping costs down too. The fact that they interconnect with the rivers to the interior also add to the scope of the freight.

Intercoastal Waterway pusher tug and barges in Texas.

I had a notion to journey from north to south on a Huckleberry Finn type voyage. I never managed it but I have crossed from Lancashire into Yorkshire a couple of times.

Welcome to all those from abroad who end up reading this blog. Hopefully if you do end up coming over on holiday, or other reason and come across our positively little ditches and see Holderness say 'Howdy'.

PS. Following my last blog and the excuse of not being able to find the MIFI, I found it in the bag of cables etc. I had taken it with me all along. Glad I found it but still makes me feel old. Maybe I should volunteer for this blood test diagnosis of Alzheimer's that has been announced.

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