An exercise in patience- by Mitch McLean

Jul 27 2013

Editor’s Note: Due to a lack of internet connection on our sail through Lake Erie, we have a bit of  a back-log of blogs! In the next couple days, the rest of the Young Adventurer’s program blogs will be posted. Today’s blog reflects what the Pangaea crew got up to last week, as we sailed through Lake Ontario, the Welland Canal and into Lake Erie. Keep reading to find out how our adventure ends!

An Exercise in Patience- By Mitch McLean

Mitch watching the wind as we leave Toronto on our Young Adventurer's journey!

Mitch watching the wind as we leave Toronto on our Young Adventurer's journey!

Today we awoke at 0500, in order to arrive at the entrance to the Welland Canal. Consisting of eight locks, the Welland canal raised Sea Dragon and her crew vertically over 300ft into the skyline towards Lake Erie.

Mitch tying Sea Dragon off at the entrance to the Welland Canal, where we waited for over 10 hours for entrance.

Mitch tying Sea Dragon off at the entrance to the Welland Canal, where we waited for over 10 hours for entrance.

The day may have begun early, but that did not mean we had any time to take it easy. It was a tight fit out of our safe harbor from the squalls blowing across Lake Ontario last night. With mere inches between the keel and lake bottom, Sea Dragon dredged her way out into rocking and heavy winded Lake Ontario. We motored in to the entrance of the first lock at 0630 to our disappointment. We would have to wait our turn to enter the canal system. The Welland Canal is a narrow channel connecting each lock, and once entered, there would be no stopping. We dropped dock lines on the transit dock and began our wait. Tanker after tanker began their transit continually pushing back our entrance.

Jacob Doyle learning the lines

Jacob Doyle learning the lines

We were not alone however. Docked in front of us was the Challenge, a three mast day charter out of Toronto. We exchanged pleasantries and took turns touring each others vessels. Lunch was made and cards games played to pass the time. Finally, a radio call came around 1300, informing us that once the tanker Enterprise was clear we could begin our ascent to Lake Erie. We began preparations for departure, setting out dock lines and talking through the procedures of entering each lock. Unfortunately our excitement was short lived, for not more than twenty minutes later we received another radio call telling us that a new tanker had arrived, and we would again have to wait. Today has truly been an exercise in patience.

The massive gates of the welland locks.

The massive gates of the welland locks.

With some time to spare, Asta and I began our next segment of class with our young adventurers. We introduced them to the different study techniques we employ to collect data while on board and recorded our first water quality data. It’s been great having some students on board. Each brings their own unique perspective and energy. We could tell the two brothers, from Toronto were a bit skeptical of our trip at the beginning and it was fun watching them immerse themselves into the sailing and scientific mentality.  Our third student from Michigan came aboard with a wealth of knowledge that she has shared with the brothers and us. I hope her zest and enthusiasm continues in her life.

Hannah Barnard on the bow as we enter the Welland locks.

Hannah Barnard on the bow as we enter the Welland locks.

Once again, we received a radio call informing us to prepare for a 1600 entrance time. Relieved but also running low on energy, I needed to pep myself back up as the locks have been know to take up to twelve hours to get through.

Riley Doyle assisting as we pass through the first of 8 massive locks in the Welland Canal.

Riley Doyle assisting as we pass through the first of 8 massive locks in the Welland Canal.

The first three locks were about what we expected. A torrent of water flooded a three hundred foot long by fifty foot deep canal as we inched towards the sky. I was not, however, prepared for locks four through six. These three locks are a consecutive set of conjoined locks, each with towering doors well over one hundred feet tall. As the monolithic steel doors approached with water cascading over the top and through any small crack, I suddenly felt very small. I was also immediately reminded of the scene in Jurassic Park where the iconic theme song played, as the massive entrance gates swung open.

Men of the ship! Captain Eric, Mitch and Jacob shoot the breeze while waiting for the lock to fill.

Men of the ship! Captain Eric, Mitch and Jacob shoot the breeze while waiting for the lock to fill.

The crew had been razzing me all day as I had found the locks into Lake Ontario slightly stressful to navigate. This was a whole new ball game, with experience under my belt I was prepared for whatever was to be thrown at me. The students played an essential role in handling lines, fending off the lock walls and calling distances. I was very proud of their performance and sailor-like swiftness on deck throughout the night. They were even able to collect water quality data while in many of the locks. Finally it came-just after midnight we passed through the final lock, number eight. After a quick three foot difference in water level, we had completed our journey into Lake Erie, a mere eight hours later. We tied up along the sea wall and crashed for the night, exhausted from the excitement of the day. We all slept soundly knowing we had accomplished a truly monumental feat today. I am still in awe of human engineering.

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Night falls over lock 7 of the Welland Canal.