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Philip

Who works the locks, who steers

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Something I've often wondered; why does it so often seem to be the case that women tend to be working the locks and men 'putting their feet up' staying at the helm? There are exceptions obviously and if the couple are both young and/or sprightly then it isn't as much of an issue, but seems to be too often I've seen elderly women struggling doing the bulk the work on a flight of locks while her other half just stands as 'captain' and (sometimes) gives instructions.

 

I wonder if it is 'how things were done' in the working age, but in this day and age with it still being rife from what I've seen, one or two obvious words come to mind...

 

It isn't just this subject either when it comes to 'catching up with this day and age', a case could be made regarding turning engines off in locks when possible and not lighting the stove unless it actually is cold (ie. not just for the nice effect)...in view of the environmental issues.

Edited by Philip

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I'm sure there are good reasons for and against turning off the engine in locks...

 

As to feet up males steering and females working the locks: until quite recently my wife didn't feel confident about driving into locks so she chose to do the heavy work (except when it was too heavy and I had to get off and assist). Now we divide the work more evenly.

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I'm note sure why but I tend to work the locks while Liam deals with the boat. We do occasionally do it the other way around but not very often. Have never really considered why we do it that way around, it is just the way we have worked into and we each know what we are supposed to be doing and when.

 

As for turning engines off in locks we have always done this with the exception of the locks at West Stockwith, Keadby and Hull where we will have had a good long run on the plane so we just let the boat idle a little while before switching it off. Same going down these locks we let the engine warm up a little before setting off at speed.

 

Lighting the stove or sticking on the diesel heating is a subjective one. We often see boats coming past with smoke billowing from the chimney when it is far too warm on our boat to even consider using the diesel heating.

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6 minutes ago, George and Dragon said:

>>As to feet up males steering and females working the locks: until quite recently my wife didn't feel confident about driving into locks so she chose to do the heavy work (except when it was too heavy and I had to get off and assist). Now we divide the work more evenly.

 

3 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

We both work locks as a team, 

 

I concur with both remarks, but how you use your boat really is nothing whatsover to do with anyone else, so they can all FOAMTOB.

 

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Many years ago I was coming down Tardebigge with a crew of one female (the then girlfriend) - I was working the locks and the GF was steering.

 

An angler shouted - "won't you let her run around and strain at all the lock gear then?" - a reference I think to the number of men encountered who wouldn't let their wives steer!

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It's not an individual instance that raises eyebrows as such, as said above working locks is a team thing and ideally both of the crew should do a bit of both and there may be good reasons why one of the crew isn't working the lock. It's just that it seems like about 75% of the time I come across couples at a lock, what I described in the OP is how it is done.

Edited by Philip

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Quite often if we moor near locks I take a walk and assist other boats at said lock. Generally I’m not allowed to work the locks whilst cruising.

 

If theres a human within half a mile my crew member wont steer The boat, let alone into a lock. She is very competent, but lacks the confidence.

 

Thats my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

 

I use the boat engine to control the boat whilst locking. It remains running, unless on the Thames so far.
 

 

Edited by Nightwatch
  • Greenie 1

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The majority of the time, I'll steer, then when we approach a lock, especially if it's one which we know is heavy, we'll swop round and Mrs. Athy steers while I operate the locks.

 

How on earth are switching the engine off in locks (we don't, as one has more control when it's running) and lighting the stove relevant?

 

 

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Strangely while my wife is fairly insistent on being the main driver of the family car she will not entertain steering a canal boat.

 

That said I do the majority of my boating either on my own, with one of the kids or with friends. I prefer to work locks than to steer through them so we’ll often mix up roles.

 

Ultimately there is no need to draw a line between steering and lock working. Even if I steer and have assistance I will do lock work too. There a number of jobs the steerer is well placed to do such as either closing the top gate or dropping the offside top paddle when descending, and then winding the offside bottom gate paddle before stepping back on.

 

When working as a crew of two and ascending the steerer is also well placed to take over once able to step off so the other member of crew can go ahead to prepare. Even going downhill the steerer can operate the lower gates by stepping off but obviously it’s a bit more challenging.

 

I much prefer to work in such a way than to merely stand on the back of the boat and steer.
 

One of my pet hates is to watch people faffing about with dropping the offside top paddle when filling a lock rather than just getting it full and opening the gate. It’s so easy for the steerer to drop that paddle whether ascending or descending.

 

JP

 

Edited by Captain Pegg

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1 hour ago, Philip said:

 

 

It isn't just this subject either when it comes to 'catching up with this day and age', a case could be made regarding turning engines off in locks when possible and not lighting the stove unless it actually is cold (ie. not just for the nice effect)...in view of the environmental issues.

Which stove?  You'll often see boats with a back cabin range lit when it's not the depths of winter as the kettle will on and in a handy place while steering, and usually with me a pie in the oven. 

Whether that's better for the environment than mooring up and using lpg I couldn't say.

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As a single hander,Wherever possible I switch off the engine and pull the boat into locks with the lines.

Easy going downhill,but not always practical going up.Engine is always switched off in locks,because some of them take forever,and it not only saves fuel,it means I dont have to breath exhaust fumes while waiting and can enjoy a bit of peace without the background engine rumble.

Should add that my boat is outboard powered and has a pull start as well as electric and I use the pull start more often.Saves wear and tear on the starter motor and battery.

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1 hour ago, Philip said:

Something I've often wondered; why does it so often seem to be the case that women tend to be working the locks and men 'putting their feet up' staying at the helm? There are exceptions obviously and if the couple are both young and/or sprightly then it isn't as much of an issue, but seems to be too often I've seen elderly women struggling doing the bulk the work on a flight of locks while her other half just stands as 'captain' and (sometimes) gives instructions.

 

I wonder if it is 'how things were done' in the working age, but in this day and age with it still being rife from what I've seen, one or two obvious words come to mind...

 

It isn't just this subject either when it comes to 'catching up with this day and age', a case could be made regarding turning engines off in locks when possible and not lighting the stove unless it actually is cold (ie. not just for the nice effect)...in view of the environmental issues.

I don’t think so. Bear in mind that you’re describing the woman doing the heavy work so really it’s counter to societal norms of that age. In boating families the women arguably had the harder task as they had to do the normal household chores and work the boats.

 

The element that might give rise to your observation is that the men worked the motor and women the butty when operating as a pair. However the use of motor and butty pairs in wide locks while arguably the most familiar part of the working age to the modern observer was by far and away in a minority of the techniques used on working canals.
 

2 minutes ago, Paddle said:

Turning the engine off in a lock strikes me as downright dangerous.

For the first 150 years of canals no boat had an engine. And all boats have lines. As a single hander you’ll have the engine running but it’s not a whole lot of use if you can’t reach the controls.

 

JP

Edited by Captain Pegg

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I do most the lock work work, the girlfriend does most the steering.

 

When we first moved the boat across the country and were doing it up, she clocked in more hours steering and I the same for working all the different locks. Also many of the locks we've come across have been hard going, which is simply where strength has been a factor! Thus she's just better at controlling the boat at me, especially in sticking situations!!

 

We want to switch it around in the future so we're both experienced in both elements, but currently we feel 'safe' with the set up we have going.  Once we've got the boat sorted and are moving at a slower pace, we will swap. There's only benefits gained from being able to do both parts of the 'job'.

 

Worth noting that we've had several comments, in marinas, from 'old white men' asking why the 'woman' was steering the boat. They then had to eat their words as she marvellously pulled it into position without issue. 

 

(I have nothing against 'old white men' generally speaking - they just seem to be the common demographic willing to make arguably rude comments, normally out of ear shot of the girlfriend...)

  • Greenie 1

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Initially i did all the steering and my better half and my daughter did all the lock working. this was purely down to her lack of confidence and i think fear of not being fully in control of what was happening.

Over time her confidence has built and we now take it in turns to the point we'll almost argue over who gets to steer at XYZ junction or through XYZ tunnel etc. :D

 

my 14 year old daughter however, is another matter, hard pressed to get the bugger off the boat these days, suspect she's counting the days until responsible enough to be left home alone whilst her idiot parents go boating

  • Greenie 1

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I really dislike the offensive assumption that I am a "feet-up captain", while the "liitle woman" does the locks.

If I could wave a magic wand and get SWMBO to steer the boat, I would, but she won't.

  • Haha 1

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Mrs T and myself share the work. Makes it more interesting for both of us.

 

In 2008 we "did" the Tardebigge Flight. At the top lock Mrs T jumped off the boat and twisted her ankle, she steered, I did all the lock flight.

If I hadn't encouraged her to steer I'd have had to tackle the flight as a single hander.

 

The only time she was reluctant to do a lock was when we grounded in the middle of a pound on the Rochdale, guess who got wet feet - me!

 

2006_1220Rochdale_Canal10166.JPG

Edited by Ray T

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We share the work, generally do three each. I would have thought turning the engine off in locks and restarting it, especially in a flight, would knock seven bells out of your starter battery. Also, the person in the lock has no control over the boat. A definite no from me.

  • Greenie 2

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54 minutes ago, pig said:

I really dislike the offensive assumption that I am a "feet-up captain", while the "liitle woman" does the locks.

If I could wave a magic wand and get SWMBO to steer the boat, I would, but she won't.

Ditto

 

  • Greenie 2

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1 hour ago, Captain Pegg said:

For the first 150 years of canals no boat had an engine. And all boats have lines. As a single hander you’ll have the engine running but it’s not a whole lot of use if you can’t reach the controls.

Yes. 

 

The Building of the Empire States Building cost 5 lives (or possibly 14 according to the New York Daily News). Last year the entire UK construction industry recorded 30 deaths. Going back to the nineteenth century 3 navvies died per mile of railway laid (https://wiki2.org/en/Navvy) - I have not found an equivalent number for canals. I like to think of this as progress! Boats with running engines are safer in locks than those without.

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1 hour ago, pig said:

I really dislike the offensive assumption that I am a "feet-up captain", while the "liitle woman" does the locks.

If I could wave a magic wand and get SWMBO to steer the boat, I would, but she won't.

 

5 minutes ago, Laurie Booth said:

Ditto

 

Ditto too.

 

Re turning the engine off: it is the rule to do so in Thames locks and the lock keepers enforce this rule.

  • Greenie 3

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Jan always steers the boat in locks and I work them. Between locks, I usually steer the boat. As far as working boat practice is concerned, my recollections suggest that the man usually steered the motor and the wife steered the butty, but at locks the woman was in charge of the boats whilst the man worked the lock. If they had children of a capable age, they usually assisted with the locks.

 

There were exceptions to the man steering the motor when there were more than two adults on board, examples are two of the the Blue Line crews, on Ian and Lucy, the motor was steered by Laura Carter, and the butty by Rose Whitlock with Bill and Michael Whitlock working the locks, whilst on Roger and Raymond Ernie Kendal steered the motor and Rose Bray the Butty, whilst Arthur Bray worked the locks.

 

 

Edited by David Schweizer

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Mrs-M won't steer the boat in the locks so I steer but then step off and assist with the locks. In a flight I work the lock with the boat and Mrs-M sets ahead.

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21 minutes ago, Alway Swilby said:

 

D

 

Re turning the engine off: it is the rule to do so in Thames locks and the lock keepers enforce this rule.

I thought of that - but of course there's the lock keeper on hand in case anything goes awry.

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