DURING the 8½ days of our record breaking run we passed through 15 locks and weirs. Two of these were weirs that were portaged.
Yarrawonga Weir was the first obstacle encountered. The six boats had to carried across the weir and the main road connecting Victoria and New South Wales and then re-launched on the downriver side of the weir. This took about 45 minutes.
Torrumbarry Weir (Lock 26) was not operating on our arrival, necessitating another portage. Re-launching posed more of a problem on this occasion as the downriver banks were lined with slippery rocks. With assistance from the Lockmaster the boats were underway 30 minutes after arrival.
Two days were to pass until we came upon the first operating lock – at Euston (Lock 15). From this time we instituted a procedure that was maintained at each lock through to the Goolwa Barrage. The support crew forewarned the Lockmasters of the estimated time of arrival of the boats. The Nav Boat would inform the support crew by radio when their arrival was imminent and this information would be relayed to the Lockmaster who would have the water at the required level by this time – that is, the lock would be full. The gates of the lock would be opened only sufficient to allow passage for the boats and the green light would be on. The boat crews would plane into the lock chamber and each one would then proceed to a position adjacent to its changeover fuel tank that had been placed on the chamber wall by the support crew.
After refuelling all boats would be moved to the rear of the chamber and the Lockmaster would start the process of emptying the lock. As the water level dropped instructions and requests would be passing back and forth between the boat crews and the support crew. Immediately the down river gates would begin to open motors were started and the boat crews would speed off with barely enough room to allow their exit.
Television cameras and representatives from Kentucky Fried Chicken greeted the expedition at Lock 11, Mildura. The boats had to wait for the P.S. Melbourne to clear the lock before they could enter. The entry was filmed and each crew collected a container of chicken as part of a publicity exercise. Similarly, TV cameras were on hand to film events at Lock 10, Wentworth.
As a result of the efforts of the support crew and assistance and co-operation from each Lockmaster passage through the locks was reduced from 30 minutes to a mere 8 minutes.
The locks, while they did cause delays, provided an opportunity to re-fuel and check motors. They also allowed such things as jackets, sunburn cream, sunglasses, soft drinks and chocolates to be obtained from the support crew.
Watching the plug being pulled on over five million litres of water is a fascinating experience.
Depending on the circumstances the boats would be at full speed or subject to speed restrictions.
The gates, at most locks, were only partly opened.
Ted and John negotiate their way through the open downriver gates at Euston.
© Kim Epton 1981-2022
714 words, 10 photographs, one image.
Photographs by David Whitney, Tony Poole, Vic Watt, Roly Ritson
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