When I transited in 1994 they were pretty insistent about smaller boats being able to maintain the minimum speed - 5kn IIRC. That may be the biggest problem for the OP.
Like @Benz I piled a combination of volunteers on board my CG31. In my case it was 3 backpackers and one female Air Force member
from a local base that came with me. Originally I had agreements to exchange services with other cruisers, but they over-committed and went on another boat at the same time. I would not use backpackers again - they were clueless about line handling and lacked physical strength; the best of the lot was the woman airman, who had been doing weight training
. Other cruisers do make good handlers; just find some that are willing to commit and follow through. Still, I would probably just step up and hire the pro's if I were to do it again, for their reliability
, experience, line handling, and just strength.
When rafting, unless the boat is in the middle (not necessarily a choice) the handlers will need to be strong. As it happens the holes on the bottom of the lock are 5 wide, so the upwelling in the middle flows off to both sides. The ideal is to hold the raft in the center, but get a little off to one side and the handlers on the other side will have to work
hard to keep the raft near the center. The larger the raft the greater the loads. There is also a potential coordination problem - the handlers on the side moving towards the wall have to slack off so the other side doesn't have to pull against them (plus the pull of the water
sideways); being on separate boats, with different skippers and advisors, it can be a struggle to coordinate. This happened to me, and my under-powered handlers were overwhelmed (both physically and emotionally) while the other skipper
started yelling orders at my crew (it was his crew that pulled us off-center to begin with, before the filling started). I had a really sharp advisor who told us to ignore the other boat and just do our jobs. Only egos got damaged, but I wouldn't do that again. To be fair, the other skipper
was in a bind: if my handlers failed it would be his boat that hit the wall, but there was no excuse for his behavior - we never got close to the wall. I would have to know and trust the other skipper(s) before I agreed to raft again.
It might seem that tying to a tug would be the easy way to go, but that is actually the source of most of the damage claims. The problem is that the tug's bulwarks (beside the yachts) will rise up, and any breast lines will be strained. The answer is to use only spring lines (lines that lead fore/aft more than abreast) and NEVER cleat them off - be ready to play them as needed.
Back to the OP's question: some handlers will probably want to sleep on deck, as it will be cooler and less stuffy than down below. If you can rig canvas
or a tarp to keep any rain off you should be good.