Larry and I dove the lock this week – as a fairweather river diver, I’ve been waiting patiently for at least 15C/60F before venturing in. This week the locks sat at about 18C/65F, comfortable in a 7mm wetsuit, hood for me (but Larry went without), and light gloves (we wear brightly coloured garden gloves).
The water level remains high and the surface current strong… ducks zip along the top and sailboats and some freighters require tugs to move them upstream. However at depth the current is relatively “normal” and turbulence in the locks themselves seems fairly predictable.
The exit swim from the locks, starting from 35-45 feet, crosses an uncommonly tough current until you reach the sloping shoreline starting at around 15 feet. From there on in it’s quiet and easy to navigate to shore.
We travelled the middle-outer section for this first dive. Using the entry canal road depth of 13 feet as a guide (3 feet higher than last season), I maintained our approach drift at 33 feet, coming nicely into the north wall of the outer lock (Lock 23). After moving through the lock, we went up its massive 45 foot wall, then across and into the middle lock (Rapide Plat), then maneouvered to the 3 big cribs before starting our exit. Current and back-eddies in the middle lock were normal. Total dive time was just shy of an hour, pretty much the norm for us.
Condition of the locks? Well, the stone walls are unchanged – even the positions of big boulders seem unaffected by the high flows. The wooden structures? That’s another story. The three sluice gates of the Hydroelectric Plant are all now identical… no upper slats at all. And the 3 huge cribs at the end of the locks (and the beginning of our exit swim) are hardly recognizable as three distinct wooden structures. The first two have been pretty much blown apart and the third fairly damaged.
Visibility was fair – 10-12 feet – with a lot of particulate in the water. I had trouble getting good video and, alas, what I got was green green green. I bought a new GoPro this winter – my red filter worked brilliantly in the Caribbean but did nothing in the river. In past years a red filter has worked the same as magenta locally – I’m obviously going to have to fiddle a bit with programming. Anyway, videos to come shortly.