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Thomas C King

Do most people actually observe the speed limits on the canals?

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A relatively new boater here. When I first started boating I used my phone to measure the speed so that I had a good idea of how slow to go. Past moored boats I just slow up to a crawl. However, I was wondering if people actually observe these limits in general? I don't exactly have a nice random sample, but the vast majority of boats seem to wizz past our boat when we are moored. I am measuring by how fast they look to be going by rather than sound, compared to how fast we go by when we crawl along. This makes the boat rock and the 'safety pins' get a good tug. We are on the north bit of the Oxford canal at the moment, and previously we were around Braunston on the Grand Union.

 

I'm just curious whether these are written rules that basically most people ignore. I don't plan on ignoring them myself, particularly when going past moored boats...

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you can't rely on sound, only your eyes and their wake will tell you the speed.

 

It's much like cars on the road, some observe limits, some don't.

But with a boat you'll notice the speeders more as it moves your boat about, ones that pass at an appropriate speed you may not even be aware of.

 

as long as you are moored securely and it's not damaging the infrastructure i wouldn't lose any sleep about what others are doing, they certainly won't.

Edited by Hudds Lad
sanity

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The limit is surely singular. As far as I know, there is only one rule, which is not to exceed 4 m.p.h. on any canal. As hardly any canal boats are fitted with speedometers, it's a hard one to observe, but most people at least attempt to.

My method is to imagine a person walking along the towpath beside our boat. If he's stepping out at a brisk walking pace, that's about 4 m.p.h.

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Just now, Hudds Lad said:

you can't rely on sound, only your eyes and their wake will tell you the speed.

 

It's much like cars on the road, some observe limits, some speed don't.

But with a boat you'll notice the speeders more as it moves your boat about, ones that pass at an appropriate speed you may not even be aware of.

 

as long as you are moored securely and it's not damaging the infrastructure i wouldn't lose any sleep about what others are doing, they certainly won't.

I'm not sure that judging speed by wake caused is a very good indication of the speed being travelled. Some boats create far more draw and wash than others due to hull shape.

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There is a large percentage of "boaters" who pass too quickly or don't take account of the water depth and width having an effect on moored boats.

Its an old chestnut, the arrogant ones tell you that we don't moor properly, there may be some truth, but over recent years boats have been travelling faster.

Some places are worse than others, we find boats off the Bridgewater generally speed past, they are used to a wider waterway with no locks.

Also when it is raining or windy the speed goes up, in the later case its because they are not experienced enough to control a boat in a cross wind.

If its too windy, tie up I say.

It is difficult to be objective about speed when none of us have speedometers.

Observations of mine which will bring down the wrath of many is that share boats travel faster than hire boats. Fancy part time shiney boats travel faster than scruffy home boats.

Women at the helm are faster than men and far more offensive if challenged.

Hirers are generally very considerate but when bad are terrible.

Hard hat and stab vest now warn, and ducking to avoid the flak.

TD'

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As has been said above. 4mph is virtually impossible on every narrow canal and most broad canals. Tickover past moored boats is etiquette but is increasingly ignored, especially in the summer when its busy and everyone is in a rush.

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I downloaded an app that uses GPS to record MPH.  Using that, I soon got used to the engine revs needed to maintain that speed. I don't have a rev counter so I put a mark on my control lever housing to mark that speed and just used that as a very rough guide, making allowances for "wind assistance" or the opposite.  Now, of course eyesight alone is a reliable indicator. Generally, I like to cruise a bit slower than 4MPH, anyway. I slow right down for bridges and moored boats.  My boat's a GRP cruiser which pushes the water down, under and out the back, so it doesn't take much to cause quite a wake.  That's another visual guide I use.  As far as being on the receiving end is concerned, a light (2 tons) boat like mine doesn't half get bounced about when a big narrowboat speeds past!  

 

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3 minutes ago, Dave123 said:

As has been said above. 4mph is virtually impossible on every narrow canal and most broad canals. Tickover past moored boats is etiquette but is increasingly ignored, especially in the summer when its busy and everyone is in a rush.

If they can't even reach 4 m.p.h. most of the time, as you suggest, that's unusual definition of "in a rush"!

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36 minutes ago, dave moore said:

Slowing past moored boats seems to be a lost art these days, likewise slowing before entering bridgeholes. I’m afraid that the old courtesies, in the main, are long gone, though in the little boating I do these days I still maintain them. On many parts of the narrow system, I think you’d be hard put to reach 4mph anyway. I won’t go on.......

Complety agree. I pass moored boats on narrow canals at tickover regardless of how many are moored in a line unless very windy. It's just good manners. 

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1 minute ago, mrsmelly said:

Complety agree. I pass moored boats on narrow canals at tickover regardless of how many are moored in a line unless very windy. It's just good manners. 

Hoist by your own petard!   You are a Windy Speeder!👿  Gotcha!

TD'

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I agree with checking wake. 

 

The speed limit is there to keep wear and tear on canal sides down. It is an aspiration, not a requirement. Slow down going past moored boats.

 

Short boats often kick up much more wake than long boats (at the same speed). So they do need to move slower.

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Not only do I pass moored boats slowly I decrease speed well in advance of them so I'm not drawing water from under their boat as I get close although someone will wanted to shout slow down at me last week.

 

As mentioned by Dave above I also slow for bridge 'oles to reduce the likelihood of picking up some rubbish on the blades.

 

General cruising speed I base on not creating a breaking wash, when I check distance traveled against time it usually works out about 3mph.

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27 minutes ago, Tracy D'arth said:

Hoist by your own petard!   You are a Windy Speeder!👿  Gotcha!

TD'

Nope. Fact is in a high side wind sometimes the choice is a few revs or smack into moored boats. We don't move in high winds these days but have in the past. 

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1 hour ago, Naughty Cal said:

I'm not sure that judging speed by wake caused is a very good indication of the speed being travelled. Some boats create far more draw and wash than others due to hull shape.

I would have said that if you are making a wake of any size as you pass moored boats you are going too fast, whatever the underwater profile of the boat is.

23 minutes ago, Alastair said:

I agree with checking wake. 

 

The speed limit is there to keep wear and tear on canal sides down. It is an aspiration, not a requirement. Slow down going past moored boats.

 

Short boats often kick up much more wake than long boats (at the same speed). So they do need to move slower.

Yes, I'd agree with checking wake. I slow down when passing moored boats but you can come past me at whatever speed you wish since I will be moored properly. For me it is the damage to the canal structure by creating a wash that is the first consideration. There are some sections that you will be creating a wash at anything above tickover and, whether or not boats are moored there you need to slow down since all you are doing otherwise is eroding the canal bank.

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On the canals, boats may be going too fast, but it is very unlikely that they are actually breaking the 4 mph speed limit. Over most of the Midlands and South you can't actually achieve more than about 3-3.5 mph. In any event, when away from moored craft, boaters should be adjusting their speed to avoid a breaking wash, and that is usually slower than 4mph. And boats should slow down anyway when passing moored craft. On rivers and the larger canals of Yorkshire boats can go faster, but in doing so will generally create less wash and disturbance to moored craft, so speed is less of an issue.

 

I have tried using walking/running/cycling apps on my phone to get a GPS speed when boating. But though they will display a speed to the nearest 0.1 miles per hour, the speed jumps up and down too rapidly for me to believe that it is a reliable indicator of instantaneous speed. More reasonable for average speed over a period of time.

 

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24 minutes ago, DaveR said:

I use an old car sat-nav on the boat. It is amazing how the speed changes with the depth of the water in the canal - you can hear it with the engine note.

 

Anyway, who is on a mission on the canals? Just take it easy, charge the batteries and get a tank full of hot water in a couple of hours so you can have a shower after the hiking boots come off having explored the area. Too many people only see the canals and not the wonderful areas around them.

I always find this sort of statement a little presumptuous.

 

Next week I shall be on my boat and will pass within walking distance of the Severn Valley Railway, Kinver Rock Houses, Wightwick Manor, Shugborough Hall, The National Memorial Arboretum, the National Brewery Centre and the D H Lawrence birthplace museum. Yet I shan’t visit any of them (even if I could outside of Covid 19 restrictions) or any of the towns we pass through other than for essential shopping purposes. That’s because I will be on the boat to enjoy the canals. There are 40 odd other weeks in the year to visit the places near the canal by car or train. Even the furthest is within 90 minutes drive of home and I’ve visited most of those places without a boat. I sometimes even visit canals by car or train.

 

If I were retired and/or a liveaboard I would most likely take the opportunity to pay some of those places a visit. There is no such thing as ‘a way’ to boat, different people have different circumstances and different interests.
 

And for the record 4mph is pretty much unachievable for my boat on the canals I travel on and I always slow down significantly for moored boats.

 

JP
 

 

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4 mph is actually getting a bit of a move on, find 40 miles of lock free canal with no moored boats and see if you can do it in 10 hours, my guess is that its barely possible and for much of the time you will be dragging a breaking wave behind you. We have done 5 mph over the ground with a bit of current to help on a big deep river for hours on end (easy to work it out as there were markers every km)  but on still water on a shallow and narrow British canal that would be difficult to achieve.

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1 hour ago, mrsmelly said:

Nope. Fact is in a high side wind sometimes the choice is a few revs or smack into moored boats. We don't move in high winds these days but have in the past. 

Heard that lame excuse so many times!!!!

 

Its OK, don't get your lines in a knot, recognise humour when it smacks you in the face.🤗

 

TD'

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Just now, Tracy D'arth said:

Heard that lame excuse so many times!!!!

 

Its OK, don't get your lines in a knot, recognise humour when it smacks you in the face.🤗

 

TD'

Sorry old sport, trouble is there are so many miserable sods posting these days I mistook you for one 😜

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2 hours ago, Athy said:

The limit is surely singular. As far as I know, there is only one rule, which is not to exceed 4 m.p.h. on any canal. As hardly any canal boats are fitted with speedometers, it's a hard one to observe, but most people at least attempt to.

My method is to imagine a person walking along the towpath beside our boat. If he's stepping out at a brisk walking pace, that's about 4 m.p.h.

4 mph is a faster walk than most people imagine.  It's almost speed-walking.  I walk faster than most, and on a flat surface will struggle to average more than 3.5mph.

 

Same with boats on canals, 4mph is actually pretty hard to achieve in a narrowboat on most canals.  Personally I'd prefer the limit to be reduced to 3 mph.

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Just now, doratheexplorer said:

4 mph is a faster walk than most people imagine.  It's almost speed-walking.  I walk faster than most, and on a flat surface will struggle to average more than 3.5mph.

 

 

Yes, as I said, a brisk walking pace.

3 minutes ago, doratheexplorer said:

 

 

Same with boats on canals, 4mph is actually pretty hard to achieve in a narrowboat on most canals.  Personally I'd prefer the limit to be reduced to 3 mph.

If the majority of narrowboats can't achieve it anyway, what is the point of reducing it?

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1 minute ago, Athy said:

Yes, as I said, a brisk walking pace.

 

What most people think of as a brisk pace is about 3 - 3.5mph.  Have you ever measured a brisk pace?

2 minutes ago, Athy said:

 

If the majority of narrowboats can't achieve it anyway, what is the point of reducing it?

Most narrowboats can achieve it, but with difficulty.  I'd prefer they were dissuaded from trying.

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8 minutes ago, doratheexplorer said:

What most people think of as a brisk pace is about 3 - 3.5mph.  Have you ever measured a brisk pace?

 

Yes. It's about four m.p.h. Three m.p.h. would be a steady walking pace. The traditional beat policeman's walk is, I've been told, two-and-a-half m.p.h. and that looks pretty slow.

11 minutes ago, doratheexplorer said:

 

Most narrowboats can achieve it, but with difficulty.  I'd prefer they were dissuaded from trying.

Why? It's only a brisk walking pace after all.

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