This week a canal boat suddenly and sadly sank in Cassiobury Park in Watford (reported The Watford Observer). The Grand Union Canal at Iron Bridge Lock was expected to be closed for a few days while the boat was recovered. A Canal & River Trust spokesman said the accident was probably due to “boater error”.
Frighteningly, with a lapse of concentration this can happen to even the most experienced boater.
Here are 5 warning signs that your boat is about to sink in a lock.
1. You’re in a Hurry
Don’t run beside a lock or jump on and off the boat unnecessarily. Taking your time means you can be more aware of everything going on around you, including the positions of other crew members, the paddles and the boat.
2. You’re Distracted
Whether you’re dealing with children, teenagers or your dog, or you’ve popped inside to put the kettle on, make sure that at least someone on the crew is 100 percent focussed on operating the lock! A moment looking in the wrong direction can be disastrous as a narrowboat can sink very quickly in a lock.
3. You’ve Tied the Midrope to a Bollard And You’re Going Downhill
When going up a lock, a boat should be tied up so that it doesn’t move around too much when the water rushes in. When going down a lock, never tie up the boat or it will be left hanging by a rope whilst the water level rapidly falls.
4. Water From Leaking Gates or Open Paddles is Pouring into the Front Deck
Don’t think that your little front deck drainage holes can cope with a rapid influx of water! If your bow is too close to the front lock gate water could be filling your well deck while you are chatting and drinking tea at the stern.
5. You’re Not Aware of the Cill Marker
Keep your boat away from the top and bottom gates to prevent it getting caught on the gate or the lock cill. When I upgraded from a 57ft narrowboat to a 72ft I was travelling solo and operating a lock. I was so conscious of making sure that the stern didn’t catch on the cill that I wasn’t paying attention to my button fender on the bow. It got caught on the front lock gate as I emptied the lock and very quickly the stern continued to go down while the bow remained pointed upwards, tipping the boat to an alarming angle! By quickly dropping the paddles I was able to refill the lock and prevent a disaster.
You may think that these are silly mistakes to make, but an overtired or distracted skipper can be prone to disastrous errors. Have you had any near-misses or almost disastrous moments in a lock? Have you ever had to urgently drop the paddles to prevent a disaster? Go on – admit it! Are there any top lock tips we’ve not mentioned? Let us know on Facebook or leave us a comment below.