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ivan&alice

Narrow Locking Technique

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We'll soon be going up the Lapworth flight from Kingswood Junction on the GU, towards Birmingham.

 

Since we've not done any narrow locks before I thought I'd check if there is anything we should keep in mind regarding technique. In a lock flight normally my wife drives and I operate the locks, staying on foot most of the time, and I jog back and forth between the locks while the lock is filling to open and shut gates to speed up the process (and get a bit of exercise).

 

  1. Driver approaches locks, lockie hop off.
  2. Lockie jogs ahead to next lock.
  3. Lockie fully opens bottom paddle to let any water out.
  4. Lockie opens one bottom gate, hops over to the other and opens that.
  5. Driver drives boat into lock.
  6. Lockie closes one bottom gate, hops over to the other and closes that.
  7. Lockie closes bottom paddle.
  8. Lockie fully opens top paddle (I think there is only one? - so it doesn't matter which side).
  9. Lockie repeats steps 2-4 for the next lock while the current lock is filling.
  10. Lockie jogs back to current lock.
  11. If lockie is not back yet, driver alights boat when current lock is full.
  12. Either driver or lockie opens the top gate.
  13. Driver drives out of current lock and straight into next.
  14. Lockie closes current lock top gate and paddle.
  15. Lockie jogs to next lock to catch up with driver.
  16. Go to step 5.

 

Does this process make sense? A few specific questions:

 

  1. We always tie the boat up in broad locks to prevent bumping around and hitting the gates. I know some people never do and just use the water flow and engine to control the boat. Is roping up necessary/useful in a narrow lock?
  2. Should I fully open the paddles or is it wise to open them partially? (With the boat tied up in a broad lock I tend to be rather more aggressive with the paddles than others, fully opening the paddle on the same side of the boat in a broad lock, the flow tends to pin the boat to the wall and the rope stops the boat moving forward/backward.
  3. To save water I will not set a lock that's against me if there is someone coming around 2-3 locks ahead, but I find that in a busy flight waiting too long can jam up the system. Is there any rule of thumb you'd recommend re waiting for oncoming boats? (This I suppose applies to broad and narrow locks, but stlil worth asking). Any other rules of etiquette I should keep in mind?

 

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If there’s just two working the boat and lock then let the lock worker walk on ahead to prep the next lock once the boat has ascended to a level at which the steerer can step off. The steerer opens the top gate, exits and then closes it. You’ll generally find the lock worker will have the next one ready in time. As ditchcrawler says be careful about having a boat in a lock with no one tending the paddles.

 

The big difference is that in wide locks you’re bothered about being moved sideways whereas narrow locks can draw you back or forward into the gates, particularly if you have a short boat but I don’t think that applies to you?
 

Lapworth is pretty much the most benign flight on the network. Lovely setting and easy to work. Enjoy. I suspect you’ll find them a doddle.

 

I doubt you’ll need to use a rope, I only do when single handing. Best thing with paddles is to see how your boat reacts in the first lock or two and make your own mind up but at Lapworth I think you’ll be OK just drawing them straight up.


As for setting locks just work out who is going to be there first or which sequence will use least water.

 

JP

Edited by Captain Pegg

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7 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

I never leave a boat in a lock going up or down without anyone at the paddles. If the boat hooks up the steerer cant do anything

I will sometimes risk it (up only) if sorting the next lock saves a lot of time or the pound needs the water. I would only go if the boat is already 3/4 up, the front button clear of any lock gate hazards and the steerer able to get off quickly if required.

 

................Dave

 

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Never ever leave the steerer in charge of a lock, its the lock crew that can do something in an emergency. I would remind the steerer that they have a horn..........................................

The only time you can leave with a boat in the lock is when the lock has filled completely, to close the previous lock maybe.

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3 minutes ago, Captain Pegg said:

If there’s just two working the boat and lock then let the lock worker walk on ahead to prep the next lock once the boat has ascended to a level at which the steerer can step off. The steerer opens the top gate, exits and then closes it. You’ll generally find the lock worker will have the next one ready in time. As ditchcrawler says be careful about having a boat in a lock with no one tending the paddles.

 

The big difference is that in wide locks you’re bothered about being moved sideways whereas narrow locks can draw you back or forward into the gates, particularly if you have a short boat but I don’t think that applies to you?
 

Lapworth is pretty much the most benign flight on the network. Lovely setting and easy to work. Enjoy. I suspect you’ll find them a doddle.

 

JP

The governor lets me in, closes up, draws top paddle, I climb out and she walks ahead and I work the rest of the lock, only lost the boat once when it drifted off while I was closing the top gate

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11 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

I never leave a boat in a lock going up or down without anyone at the paddles. If the boat hooks up the steerer cant do anything

 

2 minutes ago, dmr said:

only go if the boat is already 3/4 up, the front button clear of any lock gate hazards and the steerer able to get off quickly if required.

Fair points, I'll have the driver step off windlass in hand before going on ahead in future.

 

 

4 minutes ago, Captain Pegg said:

The big difference is that in wide locks you’re bothered about being moved sideways whereas narrow locks can draw you back or forward into the gates, particularly if you have a short boat but I don’t think that applies to you?
 

Lapworth is pretty much the most benign flight on the network. Lovely setting and easy to work. Enjoy. I suspect you’ll find them a doddle.

We're 65' so no I don't think it would be an issue. Still we always tie up to prevent hitting the gates or being drawn over the cill.

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5 minutes ago, Captain Pegg said:

 

Lapworth is pretty much the most benign flight on the network. Lovely setting and easy to work. Enjoy. I suspect you’ll find them a doddle.

 

JP

A chap managed to sink a boat and drowned himself in it, 

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Looks like your method is designed for maximum speed rather than pleasant boating 🙂.

The locks usually have two top paddles and narrow locks can be fierce shunting the boat forwards and backwards. This can vary lock to lock so open paddles slowly and watch how boat behaves.

Some pounds are quite short so best to get the boat up before emptying the next lock otherwise you spill all the water over the bywash and have to go through a low pound.  Keep a lookout ahead, its difficult for two boats to pass in a couple of pounds, especially if a boat is full length, so you might want to pass in an easier pound.

 

..................Dave

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1 minute ago, dmr said:

Looks like your method is designed for maximum speed rather than pleasant boating 🙂.

The locks usually have two top paddles and narrow locks can be fierce shunting the boat forwards and backwards. This can vary lock to lock so open paddles slowly and watch how boat behaves.

Some pounds are quite short so best to get the boat up before emptying the next lock otherwise you spill all the water over the bywash and have to go through a low pound.  Keep a lookout ahead, its difficult for two boats to pass in a couple of pounds, especially if a boat is full length, so you might want to pass in an easier pound.

 

..................Dave

Locks do vary in the fierceness, but not usually within a flight. Lapworth is fairly benign and you can just whack both paddles up without much drama. Trent and Mersey locks, apart from the ones with 1 gate and 1 ground paddle, are quite fierce and whilst we always whack both paddles up, lots of people are one-click wonders.

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2 minutes ago, nicknorman said:

Locks do vary in the fierceness, but not usually within a flight. Lapworth is fairly benign and you can just whack both paddles up without much drama. Trent and Mersey locks, apart from the ones with 1 gate and 1 ground paddle, are quite fierce and whilst we always whack both paddles up, lots of people are one-click wonders.

I think there is one lock that does behave badly for some reason, possibly the one next to or just below the little shop?

 

I suspect we get extra effects due to our length as we have so much boat in the lock there is nowhere for the water to go 🙂.

 

Flood, virus and now injured dog have forced up to become Rochdale continuous moorers for a while, I really look forward to those benign little narrow locks.

 

..................Dave

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Many narrow locks pull the boat forward when filling. You have to learn your boat, if you can easily hold it back on the prop at the back of the lock near the cill, OK. If not it is better to move forward in the lock before you fill it being careful not to hook the bow in the gate. If all else fails, rope the bow back round the rear lockside stump. Its worse with a shorter boat, like 50 to 60 feet.

The locky is in charge, if necessary drop the top paddles before the boat rams the babby/gate.

 

Edited by Tracy D'arth

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23 minutes ago, Tracy D'arth said:

Many narrow locks pull the boat forward when filling. You have to learn your boat, if you can easily hold it back on the prop at the back of the lock near the cill, OK. If not it is better to move forward in the lock before you fill it being careful not to hook the bow in the gate. If all else fails, rope the bow back round the rear lockside stump. Its worse with a shorter boat, like 50 to 60 feet.

The locky is in charge, if necessary drop the top paddles before the boat rams the babby/gate.

 

Back of the lock near the cill? Are we going up or down?

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1 minute ago, nicknorman said:

Back of the lock near the cill? Are we going up or down?

Many narrow locks pull the boat forward when filling. You have to learn your boat, if you can easily hold it back on the prop at the back of the lock near the cill, OK. If not it is better to move forward in the lock before you fill it being careful not to hook the bow in the gate. If all else fails, rope the bow back round the rear lockside stump. Its worse with a shorter boat, like 50 to 60 feet.

The locky is in charge, if necessary drop the top paddles before the boat rams the babie/gate.

 

 

Sorry, bottom cill that you don't see, going up.    Grumpy boater  with his engine has disturbed me, silly but its me.

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At 65 ft you can't get up much speed surging backwards and forwards before you reach one end or the other, so you will never hit hard (unlike say a 40 ft boat). If the steerer touches the boat on the top cill/gate before you draw a top paddle, the boat will probably stay there until the lock is nearly full, without needing any engine input. There is absolutely no point in reving hard in forward and reverse, just to try and keep the boat in the middle of the lock.

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29 minutes ago, dmr said:

Looks like your method is designed for maximum speed rather than pleasant boating 🙂.

That's a very fair observation! Locking is, I'll be honest, not my favourite part of boating so we do like to get through it so that we can spend more time enjoying the cruising part. I do get a certain joy out of efficiency though and like I say, it's good exercise.

 

32 minutes ago, dmr said:

The locks usually have two top paddles and narrow locks can be fierce shunting the boat forwards and backwards. This can vary lock to lock so open paddles slowly and watch how boat behaves.

Interesting, I checked a photo and could only see one paddle. Normally I fully open the paddle on the same side of the boat and depending on the lock might not even bother with the other one. We always tie up tight and let rope out as needed and rarely use the engine in the lock. In a narrow lock though there is no "side" - so would you recommend say a third of the one then a third of the other? Or perhaps it would be best to get the steerer involved and work both at the same time?

 

Just now, Tracy D'arth said:

Many narrow locks pull the boat forward when filling. You have to learn your boat, if you can easily hold it back on the prop at the back of the lock near the cill, OK. If not it is better to move forward in the lock before you fill it being careful not to hook the bow in the gate. If all else fails, rope the bow back round the rear lockside stump. Its worse with a shorter boat, like 50 to 60 feet.

The locky is in charge, if necessary drop the top paddles before the boat rams the babby/gate.

 

Just now, David Mack said:

At 65 ft you can't get up much speed surging backwards and forwards before you reach one end or the other, so you will never hit hard (unlike say a 40 ft boat). If the steerer touches the boat on the top cill/gate before you draw a top paddle, the boat will probably stay there until the lock is nearly full, without needing any engine input. There is absolutely no point in reving hard in forward and reverse, just to try and keep the boat in the middle of the lock.

Or, avoid the fuss and the risk and just use the rope? What advantage is there to using the engine, especially as I'll have the rope out in a lock anyway to stop the boat? I just find it a much easier way of controlling her, but that might just be lack of skill as a helmsman. I might try locking without the rope on the Lapworth flight, being in a narrow lock seems the best time to practice.

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6 minutes ago, ivan&alice said:

  - so would you recommend say a third of the one then a third of the other? Or perhaps it would be best to get the steerer involved and work both at the same time?

We normally draw one fully, not sling it up and then the second one a bit faster

 

 

Or, avoid the fuss and the risk and just use the rope? What advantage is there to using the engine, especially as I'll have the rope out in a lock anyway to stop the boat? I just find it a much easier way of controlling her, but that might just be lack of skill as a helmsman. I might try locking without the rope on the Lapworth flight, being in a narrow lock seems the best time to practice.

I don't like using ropes tied off in locks and as I am normally steering dont use them to stop the boat, in most cases I stop the boat touching the cill by which time Diana is ready to draw the paddle. I have seen a boat trying to use a rope to stop his boat hitting the top gate, twice, two locks. He tied off, drew the paddle, the boat went both backwards and up, shot forward and because it had gone up the rope was now long enough for it to smack the gate, even in full astern.

 

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12 minutes ago, ivan&alice said:

That's a very fair observation! Locking is, I'll be honest, not my favourite part of boating so we do like to get through it so that we can spend more time enjoying the cruising part. I do get a certain joy out of efficiency though and like I say, it's good exercise.

 

Interesting, I checked a photo and could only see one paddle. Normally I fully open the paddle on the same side of the boat and depending on the lock might not even bother with the other one. We always tie up tight and let rope out as needed and rarely use the engine in the lock. In a narrow lock though there is no "side" - so would you recommend say a third of the one then a third of the other? Or perhaps it would be best to get the steerer involved and work both at the same time?

 

 

Or, avoid the fuss and the risk and just use the rope? What advantage is there to using the engine, especially as I'll have the rope out in a lock anyway to stop the boat? I just find it a much easier way of controlling her, but that might just be lack of skill as a helmsman. I might try locking without the rope on the Lapworth flight, being in a narrow lock seems the best time to practice.

Once you have used your boat in it’s proper environment - i.e. a narrow canal - you may just find locking more enjoyable.

 

Don’t overthink it, Lapworth should be easy enough. As others have suggested at 65’ you’ll not really need to worry about positioning or controlling your boat. The narrow locks at Lapworth, all of the BCN and Worcs & Bham are very stable. Those on the Oxford, Staffs & Worcs and Trent & Mersey less so in my experience when ascending.

 

JP

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I'll  agree that you are overthinking things here.

 

The trick is to ensure that the lock above where you are is ready for you. This is the job of your crew.

 

Take the boat in and put it against the cill/top gate on tickover. Or, to make it more clear, drift in, kiss the cill/top gate, then engage tickover. Hop onto the roof and up the lock ladder. Close bottom gates. Go to top gate, open paddles.

 

No need for a rope. Keep an eye on the boat. You will be next to the top paddles should anything untoward occur.

 

Open gate, take boat out, stop just beyong the gate hop off and close. Or, if crew has set far enough ahead. they can walk back and close up.

 

We moor at the basin at the junction and would agree that the Lapworth flight is lovely.

 

That first lift bridge beyond the top lock is, however, another matter!

 

 

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Treat a narrow flight like your single handed, both of you out of the boat, keeps you both busy, and a lot quicker, even though you take your time.but in summer not much point as other boats coming in other direction will do that for you.

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1 hour ago, ivan&alice said:

 

Or, avoid the fuss and the risk and just use the rope? What advantage is there to using the engine, especially as I'll have the rope out in a lock anyway to stop the boat?

No ropes needed. Just use the engine to stop the boat as it touches the cill or top gate, then leave it in neutral or tick over in forward gear. 

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1 hour ago, ditchcrawler said:

I don't like using ropes tied off in locks and as I am normally steering dont use them to stop the boat, in most cases I stop the boat touching the cill by which time Diana is ready to draw the paddle. I have seen a boat trying to use a rope to stop his boat hitting the top gate, twice, two locks. He tied off, drew the paddle, the boat went both backwards and up, shot forward and because it had gone up the rope was now long enough for it to smack the gate, even in full astern.

It's interesting different people's styles and the reasons for them. I almost always use a rope in a lock, although as you say never tie it off, just wrap it around the bollard enough times for it to hold. I also use the rope to stop the boat in the lock, having gone into one of the Ryders Green locks on the Walsall, picked up a wadge of plastic bags and suddenly having no reverse to stop the boat so I hit the bottom gate (fortunately not very hard having leapt off and tried to stop it on the centre line). Since then I now go in and stop the boat with a rope on a bollard.

 

On a slightly different tack, I use the rope on the narrow locks of the South Oxford to stop the boat being pulled forward onto the top gates by taking the centre line to the furthest forward bollard and pulling the boat up to the gate. When you open the paddles, the first flow of water pushes the boat backwards and then it gets drawn towards the top gate, if there isn't much of a gap the boat cannot build up any significant momentum and just goes back a very short distance then comes forward and nudges against the gate. In the past I've tried holding it on the engine but still ended out hitting the gate, even with full astern on, so didn't use that method again. 

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We tend to work the locks as of single handing with Mrs-M setting ahead and I work the lock with the boat in. I don't like to leave the boat in gear so I get off and put the centre line round the gate beam with a bight to stop it slipping. I tend to pull the boat out with the centre line when going down or step on and user the engine when going up. The next lock is then ready to boat straight in 

 

If I am on my own I will boat up to the gates of the next lock and then get the lock ready.

 

As had been said above Lapworth are generally easy locks, close together with very short pounds. Some of the bywashes can be a pain when they are running fast and some people seem to struggle to pass.

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No one has mentioned it yet, so I will. If you normally boat with side fenders down, take them off. 

Personally I breathe a sigh of relief when I get in to narrow lock territory. Much easier to work if you aren't travelling with another narrowboat than wide locks. 

Jen

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Move point 7 up to point 5 or point 4 and a half.

 

Why wait for the boat to be in the lock to close the paddle?  Once one tail gate is open, close the paddle.

 

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