First, re: Castleton. Good information. My transit was 15 years ago, so my info may be out of date. My mast
was also 60 ft. Not sure I'd want to tackle that alone, but if you do it - "good on yer mate" as my Aussie buddies say. The dimensions quoted seem adequate for the Castleton crane, especially with a deck-stepped mast
. I'm sure you can advise him better than I.
With respect to worries about hitting the ends of the mast - I do have some experience with that.
Under normal circumstances, you should have no problem with that, if you conn the boat correctly. Brushing up on your docking
alongside maneuvers would be a good idea (prop walk in forward and reverse, and all that). Due to circumstances too long to go into here, we broke off the wall in one lock and mildly damaged both ends of the mast. Nothing that couldn't be fixed - but a nuisance. So, I would advise you as follows:
1) Dismount everything from the top and bottom of the mast that you don't want to replace. This would include lights, anemometer, windex, antennae, and ALL THEIR BRACKETS AND PLUGS. The most expensive and time-consuming repair I had to do was to re-thread the anemometer cable when the plug
end was sheared off. That was done from the top of the mast and was no fun. (Also, the plug
was integral to the cable, so I had to by the whole thing for $250, even though it was just the plug that got whacked). Check yours.
2) If I were going again, I'd find some nice pieces of carpeting, and secure them around each end of the mast overhanging. If you do bump someone or something, at least it will protect the paint
or the metal (depending on your velocity), and possibly not damage another boat.
3) When I did the Erie, there were two kinds of securing aids in the locks. The lion's share were lines that hung down along each side of the lock wall. The techniques for using these is to motor
into the lock, listen for any specific instructions from the lock tender
, and then position your boat between the lines, one at the bow, the other at the stern. Fend off amidships as the boat lowers down the wall. The lines are slimy from hanging in the water
, so your line handlers will want to wear gloves they don't mind getting dirty. Your fender
covers will also get dirty, and your fenders galled-up if you don't use fender
covers. I made up some "disposable" fender covers for the trip which worked fine. Some people advocate taking tires or hay bales, I think that is overkill for the Erie, especially on a boat your size.
4) The other kind, and we only saw these at Lockport, although they may be more prevalent now, are fixed aircraft cables
running vertically up the lock wall sides. To use these, motor
to a cable and position the boat with the cable amidships. Take a line around the cable and secure it to your amidships deck
cleat, then ride the cable down, fending off the boat at the bow and stern. Be careful to evaluate the type of system when you enter the lock. The cables
are spaced out at a greater distance than the lines to allow for the positioning the boats at the cables. You may be locking through with multiple boats.
If you do these things and take your time, you should have no issues - especially heading downbound. It's substantially easier on the boat and crew going down in a lock - much less turbulence.