Wednesday 1 August 2012

How's Your Vertigo?

The Stratford Canal is beautiful. Hard work - 55 locks of hard work - but well worth it. Especially the aqueduct!

But it also raises a question of narrow canal etiquette.

Everyone knows that you should not "steal" locks when they are prepared against you and for oncoming boats; but while penning through the Stratford's 55 narrow locks we saw a variation on this.

When approaching the top of the Lapworth Flight another boater saw us approaching and visibly raced to start his engine, attach his tiller, untie and set off - pulling out just in front of us to take the flight that was set for a descending boat, thereby leaving it set against us. Sharing being impossible in narrow locks, it took us twice as long to pen through each lock as him.

This happened three times, and only once did the boater ahead of us set the locks for us by refilling them after penning through.

You can see why a boater would rush to get onto a narrow flight first: having to fill each lock before penning through doubles your transit time.

It doesn't win you any friends, though.


  1. My attitude is generally is that if I'm already untying when the boat appears around the bend then I'll take the lock. I won't pull out in front of a boat I can already see unless it's a long straight and I'll be through before he gets there. I usually lift a paddle for a following boat, even when I'm single-handing (assuming they keep up!)

    BTW I've never heard the term penning in relation to canal locks before. Is it more commonly used oop north?

  2. BloggerPlus App3 August 2012 at 08:11

    It is the word used by Naburn & Selby Lockies, and we really got into the habit of using it on the Trent, where you radio ahead to each lock and everything is done for you (oh, the luxury! So different to 55 manual locks in two days on the Stratford...)