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Hello, 

We really want to figure out if we can work the locks. We are senior citizens, but we have been boating for all of our 53 years of marriage. We are used to boating in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, but we understand how different a narrow boat is. The canals are unique. Handling the boat is not a concern. The locks are the main concern. Are there many areas with no locks? Are there any disabled people who live on a narrowboat? I have arthritis in my spine , hands, knees, hips, etc. Walking distances is a problem for me. I use a mobility scooter when we travel. My scooter has been to England twice, Sweden, Scotland, Alaska, all over the US, and most of the Caribbean Islands. I can walk around our house OK. But I see a lot of people walk from one lock to the next without getting on their boat.  I could not do that distance. We are trying to sort this out. Any help, suggestions, ideas, insight, etc. will be greatly appreciated. Please be kind, though. 😇

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28 minutes ago, Sue Smith said:

Hello, 

We really want to figure out if we can work the locks. We are senior citizens, but we have been boating for all of our 53 years of marriage. We are used to boating in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, but we understand how different a narrow boat is. The canals are unique. Handling the boat is not a concern. The locks are the main concern. Are there many areas with no locks? Are there any disabled people who live on a narrowboat? I have arthritis in my spine , hands, knees, hips, etc. Walking distances is a problem for me. I use a mobility scooter when we travel. My scooter has been to England twice, Sweden, Scotland, Alaska, all over the US, and most of the Caribbean Islands. I can walk around our house OK. But I see a lot of people walk from one lock to the next without getting on their boat.  I could not do that distance. We are trying to sort this out. Any help, suggestions, ideas, insight, etc. will be greatly appreciated. Please be kind, though. 😇

Hi Sue, and welcome!

 

Some people use a bike between locks, although there are (in the main) lock landings where 'mates' can hop off the boat, and back on again when the boat's gone through the lock. Though many lock landings are not really designed for 'older bones'. 

 

Lock beams/gates can be awkward and heavy, not all of the beams are perfectly balanced - this is one area where carrying a bit of weight could be useful! Some lock gates are a bit of a challenge, afterall, we're talking about 17th, 18th century 'technology' - and sweet it is too :) . If you're lucky, on some of the double locks, you could pal up with another boat going through the lock, sharing the work and enjoying a bit of a chat!

 

There are long stretches where there are no locks, such as the Ashby Canal. 

 

https://canalplan.org.uk/cgi-bin/canal.cgi is brilliant and a 'must' for planning canal journeys, it allows you to set your personal criteria. 

Edited by Jennifer McM

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1 hour ago, Sue Smith said:

Hello, 

We really want to figure out if we can work the locks. We are senior citizens, but we have been boating for all of our 53 years of marriage. We are used to boating in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, but we understand how different a narrow boat is. The canals are unique. Handling the boat is not a concern. The locks are the main concern. Are there many areas with no locks? Are there any disabled people who live on a narrowboat? I have arthritis in my spine , hands, knees, hips, etc. Walking distances is a problem for me. I use a mobility scooter when we travel. My scooter has been to England twice, Sweden, Scotland, Alaska, all over the US, and most of the Caribbean Islands. I can walk around our house OK. But I see a lot of people walk from one lock to the next without getting on their boat.  I could not do that distance. We are trying to sort this out. Any help, suggestions, ideas, insight, etc. will be greatly appreciated. Please be kind, though. 😇

I too have an arthritic knee and an undiagnosed lower back/side pain and at 76 sold the boat. It was not just the locks because although a bit slow in moving about  as I above I could ride between locks but it was the maintenance. Painting the cabin sides took to summers an got difficult, the annual repaint of the gloss above the top rubbing band was getting difficult but i suppose changing from gloss to bitumen pan would make that less of a chore. Then there is the fitting around the engine and reaching down around it to clean or retrieve dropped tools etc. Over the last two years I found I was getting more and more unsteady on my feet and felt simply stepping off the boat to moor up was getting a bit hazardous.

 

There are probably many older than me who are still boating so much depends upon how you will feel. Be aware that even working through a lock involves much walking from end to end and in the case of wide beam locks even more with climbing across the lock gates thrown in. I had been finding wide beam locks on the Kennet and Avon difficult for years because you have to walk across the top of the balance beam and instead of a decent step to climb onto the beam they use a sort of metal stirrup that you have to  search for with your toes when you try to get down.

 

My advice is, as @Jennifer McM said hire a boat that allows you an actual or nearly lock free access to the Ashby canal. Also visit a canal lock or two after social distancing is over and ask a passing boater to let you try it. Most boaters are helpfull, especially if you tell them why you want a try of locking.

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I am singlehander, and not very nimble, if I get stuck with weight of lock beams or swing bridge problems I just ask passer by-s to help, they always help, though it usually turns out that the water levels are not equal, or other problems, you live and learn, it's not a big deal.

I have a block and tackle but so far not worked out how to employ it. If you find the windlass a problem, there are fancy ratchet type ones that might help.

I adjust the position of the boat in the lock when I have to climb down ladders, so I just step on the stern.

I find my 57  footer a bit trickier than eg a big yacht because it has no keel, and occasionally I don't move if I don't think I can tie up on a lock landing due to wind, does not happen often. I sometimes walk the full length of the gunnels because the boat won't line up close enough to the landing (I can't trust my knees to jump)), but it's not the end of the world, also I have to confess that I sometimes bump the edging, while manoevering, something that I would never do on a plastic boat.

A manoeverable boat is going to be a great advantage, so not a big widebeam. There are some good old fashioned wider motor boats which are worth thinking about, nicer saloon, and sometimes a proper wheelhouse.  A narrowboat has a number of disadvantages, there is no doubt.

I've not done much actual travel, but there seems to be no 'typical' locks, so I could not be sure that you could cope with everyone, I think the best thing would be to travel around, helping out, and see how you get on. I think it is essential to have sufficient 'hand grip' to hold on to the boat and lock gates to prevent you falling in, other than that, just take your time, occasionally you need a bit of 'oomph' to get things going, but mostly it is technique.

Edited by LadyG

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have you considered doing the steering yourself and letting your significant other do the lock working?

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The problem is that there is often an ‘awkward’ lock on a stretch - I particularly dislike Dallow Lock on the T & M!

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Welcome, Sue.

There are some quite long lock-free stretches on the system. For example Hillmorton (just outside Rugby) to Atherstone Top Lock. the only lock on this section is at Hawkesbury Junction, and that has a rise and fall of only six inches so it's easy to operate. In addition, branching off it is the Ashby Canal, 23 mostly rural and delightful miles, making therefore a virtually lock-free length of nearly 50 miles.

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I find as a single hander that you do a lot of walking at locks.

Tie up on the lock landing,walk to the gate,fill or empty the lock,open the gate,walk back to the boat,drive in,up the lock ladder or step off,walk back to close the gate,walk to the other end,open paddles,walk back to adjust mooring line,walk to the gate to open it,walk back to the boat,down the lock ladder or step on,drive out,tie up on the lock landing and walk back to close the gate,finally walk back to the boat.

it can be worse than this if there are double gates.

You don't say if your other half is fit enough to do the walking.

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4 hours ago, Mad Harold said:

I find as a single hander that you do a lot of walking at locks.

Tie up on the lock landing,walk to the gate,fill or empty the lock,open the gate,walk back to the boat,drive in,up the lock ladder or step off,walk back to close the gate,walk to the other end,open paddles,walk back to adjust mooring line,walk to the gate to open it,walk back to the boat,down the lock ladder or step on,drive out,tie up on the lock landing and walk back to close the gate,finally walk back to the boat.

it can be worse than this if there are double gates.

You don't say if your other half is fit enough to do the walking.

It's more than a crewed boat, but I think OP was thinking of walking the towpath as the boat moved from one lock to the other. The actual distance walked when locking is not any great distance per lock, it's just quite 'inefficient' if singlehanded, but OP won't be singlehand anyways. It drives me crazy that everything is so slow on the boat compared with boat handling on a fully crewed yacht, but one gets used to it, I hope!

Edited by LadyG

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It also depends where you boat - wide canals like the Leeds liverpool are all hesvy locks and swing bridges, but if you stick to narrow canals it's not so bad. Pick a mooring carefully and you could get a fair bit of lock free pottering - the Ashby or the upper Macc are two.

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12 minutes ago, Arthur Marshall said:

 Pick a mooring carefully and you could get a fair bit of lock free pottering - the Ashby or the upper Macc are two.

Great minds - see post no. 7.

Sue and her husband may be enquiring about moorings at Trinity Marina even as we speak.

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8 hours ago, Sue Smith said:

Hello, 

We really want to figure out if we can work the locks. The locks are the main concern. Are there many areas with no locks? 

As already mentioned the locks on narrow canals are easier to work than wide canals. Even then you'll sometimes find a paddle that is hard to operate and requires quite a bit of force to operate. The Lancaster canal (41 Miles long) has no locks. 

 

8 hours ago, Sue Smith said:

Are there any disabled people who live on a narrowboat?

I don't think so. The lifestyle doesn't lend itself to disabilities. Even if you lived in marina, you'd have to contend with narrow pontoons while transporting 50lb bags of coal/gas bottles/full toilet cassettes. If continuous cruising you'd have to transport the same loads, but potentially down a half mile of uneven (and muddy in winter) towpath.

 

Having said that, there are many charities and trusts that run disabled adapted canal boats for holiday hire. These boats have hoists, ramps, hydraulic steering and allow very disabled people to experience canals, although you would need some able bodied crew. 

 

8 hours ago, Sue Smith said:

I have arthritis in my spine , hands, knees, hips, etc. Walking distances is a problem for me. I use a mobility scooter when we travel. My scooter has been to England twice.

Generally speaking, I would say the type of mobility scooter that can travel by aircraft is not suited to use on canal towpaths. The wheels are too small for the terrain. But the larger mobility scooters with big wheels would be fine on the tow path and I'm sure you could hire something like this if you were here on holiday.  

 

It's very difficult to say how you would get on with locks. Only you can judge that after trying it! @Tony Brooks advice is very pertinent, and really does show how it is often the simpler tasks that you don't really think about that cause most problems when mobility problems occur. 

 

 

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1 minute ago, booke23 said:

The Lancaster canal (41 Miles long) has no locks

Well, apart from the six down to Glasson Dock. 

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Norfolk Broads, no locks. Thames electric or keeper operated locks, Belgium and France electric or keeper operated locks mainly decent towpaths for a scooter

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2 minutes ago, TheBiscuits said:

Well, apart from the six down to Glasson Dock. 

Very good point, well made. But as none of the hire companies on the Lancaster allow you down the Glasson branch I didn't mention it! 

 

 

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As well as locks and getting "stuff" to and from a boat there are the steps down into the cabin at  both ends to be considered. The steps  tend to be quite steep and are perhaps not easy to manage if you have difficulty walking

 

 

Haggis

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I may get lynched for the suggestion, but have you considered the canals of the Continental mainland instead? They are generally of a larger guage and a craft wider than 7' allows much better room for wheelchairs. I know of several couples with extremely limited mobility who cope easily - the extra space also allows for remote steering controls. The Netherlands are known for their flatness, so locks are relatively rare, and generally have lock keepers. I prefer France, and although the larger canals mostly have lock keepers too, on the smaller ones they are mostly worked with a zapper - like a telecommand - though you do need a crew person looking after the lines. One friend even has a wheelchair lift down into the accommodation.

 

I'll go and find somewhere to hide now. 🥂 << oh, and you can buy that there much more cheaply than in the UK

 

Tam

Edited by Tam & Di
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1 hour ago, Tam & Di said:

I may get lynched for the suggestion, but have you considered the canals of the Continental mainland instead? They are generally of a larger guage and a craft wider than 7' allows much better room for wheelchairs. I know of several couples with extremely limited mobility who cope easily - the extra space also allows for remote steering controls. The Netherlands are known for their flatness, so locks are relatively rare, and generally have lock keepers. I prefer France, and although the larger canals mostly have lock keepers too, on the smaller ones they are mostly worked with a zapper - like a telecommand - though you do need a crew person looking after the lines. One friend even has a wheelchair lift down into the accommodation.

 

I'll go and find somewhere to hide now. 🥂 << oh, and you can buy that there much more cheaply than in the UK

 

Tam

Why, probably something the OP has not even thought about, good point.

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4 hours ago, Phoenix_V said:

Norfolk Broads, no locks. Thames electric or keeper operated locks, Belgium and France electric or keeper operated locks mainly decent towpaths for a scooter

The Broads have only one functioning lock remaining

The only remaining lock on the Broads is Mutford Lock This is situated between Oulton Broad and Lake Lothing in Lowestoft.

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Sounds like the canals of the U.K. are not for you if you want to explore the whole system.There are parts with few locks,but you have to move your boat on a regular basis,so you will come up against them sooner or later.One of you needs to be in fairly good shape to deal with some of them...If you're not,you soon will be!.:P

The towpaths in some areas will accommodate a scooter,but access at most bridges is via steps.And out of town,the towpath is only good enough for hiking boots and a stick!!.

I have seen a few boats with mobility scooters hanging off the stern,so its cant be impossible!.🙂

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1 hour ago, nbfiresprite said:

The Broads have only one functioning lock remaining

The only remaining lock on the Broads is Mutford Lock This is situated between Oulton Broad and Lake Lothing in Lowestoft.

pedant

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On 02/11/2020 at 10:00, Athy said:

Welcome, Sue.

There are some quite long lock-free stretches on the system. For example Hillmorton (just outside Rugby) to Atherstone Top Lock. the only lock on this section is at Hawkesbury Junction, and that has a rise and fall of only six inches so it's easy to operate. In addition, branching off it is the Ashby Canal, 23 mostly rural and delightful miles, making therefore a virtually lock-free length of nearly 50 miles.

Going the other way from Hillmorton are many lock free miles, all the way to Napton. 

  A suitable boat will offset some of the hardship, getting on and off at locks and for mooring can be as challenging as operating the locks. If your balance is good there are some excellent electric bikes available that may help. 

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37 minutes ago, BWM said:

Going the other way from Hillmorton are many lock free miles, all the way to Napton. 

 

Yes, another 14 miles. In addition, there are usually volunteer lock-keepers at Hillmorton who, if asked, will probably put people through the whole flight. So that's sixty-odd miles of virtually lock-free cruising.

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I'd think about the Norfolk Broads rather than the canals if I had mobility issues. The cruiser boats are more accessible than a narrowboat and the system much less challenging to manage. The whole business of locking is extremely variable but lock beams are not really well suited to spinal issues. I think you need to have one physically mobile and relatively strong person on the canal system. 

One sees loads of older boaters with mobility issues on the Broads though - just returned from a weekend with a 90 yr old chap who was showing me his 1930s wooden broads cruiser with pride - he still takes it out himself. 

Edited by Tigerr
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Another positive that was hinted at in favour of continental cruising is that in the UK unless they have a base to cruise from Sue and partner would have to move every 14 days - there is no similar rule on the continent. I love canals like the Moira, but 60 lock-free miles even at a minimal 6 miles/day is done in 10 days. What then? When we were commercial boating one job was 30 miles each way twice a week, and we never got bored, but that sort of boating not for most, and had a different purpose anyway.

 

I'm assuming that the OP will not be tied to one area and that they would wish to cover a lot more of the country than this, but it would be interesting to get some feedback from Sue on what they think so far.

 

Tam

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