Up the River through the locks

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End May 24, 2010

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu,
Sunday, May 16, 2010

It is now Sunday afternoon. We are back on the boat and ready to transit the five locks of the Three Gorges Dam. This dam project has been a huge undertaking for the country of China; it is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world and millions of people were displaced from their homes and their lands to make this happen. It was very disruptive not just for the people but for the environment as well. Personally, I have very mixed emotions about the dam. I am sad for the history and the culture that was destroyed to make it happen yet I marvel at the engineering and the scope of the project.

The locks are huge and we will be making the transit with five other ships and a 25 ft cabin cruiser. The dragon boat is directly in front of us, a cargo ship beside her. I never did figure out what was next to us but it was big. Directly behind us was the 25 ft cabin cruiser; she nearly swamped the first time we re-started our engines to sail into the next lock. I am not going to give a lot of facts and figures about the locks; suffice it to say that they were huge and that the amount of water needed to fill one was in the millions of gallons.

Once inside the lock, the ships would tie up to mooring tackle along the side of the lock. The tackle screeched and moaned--metal on metal-- as the water level rose in the lock. However, the ships can't just sit in the water or they would be knocking into one another as the water rose. Noisy or not, the process was pretty amazing. The huge lock doors open in front of us. The ships sail in and moor themselves to the sides. The huge door closes behind us and the water begins to rise as thousands of gallons per minute are pumped into the lock. It takes about 25 minutes to rise up to the level of the next lock. The doors open in front of us and the process repeats itself. There are five locks in the dam and by the time we are done, we are close to 175 meters above sea level. It took us about three hours from start to finish and I did not leave the upper deck the whole time.

Finally, we sailed out of the last lock and onto the lake that formed behind the dam. I was hoping for a breath-taking reveal but he smog dashed my hopes. We sailed on for a bit through the first of the three Gorges known as Xiling Xia and moored for the night in Badong, downstream of the Wu Gorge, so that we could sail through in daylight. Xiling is the longest of theThree Gorges.

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