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Cruising on the left!


Felshampo

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I was asked today why boats pass each other on the right. This made me think I once read of a canal that had the opposite rule, historically, of passing on the left. Have I made this up? 

The Worcester and Birmingham came to mind for some reason. 

I'm probably making it up but don't mock its my age. 

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I somehow doubt that a canal had the opposite rule. The rule was made up for international shipping long before canals were invented. 18th century Britain was very conservative about that sort of thing.

The only place I know where they drive (boats) on the left is Myanmar. When I asked why, the answer was along the lines of the British drove boats on the right so when we got independence we swapped over just for the sake of it. Exactly the same happened on the roads, the Brits drove on the left so now Myanmar drives on the right, even though all their buses have doors on the left ie open onto the middle of the carriageway😱

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Before powered boats the rules were set according to the wind direction (starboard tack has right of way etc) then at first "steam gives way to sail" was adequate, but eventually new rules were needed. An idiot official in the Admiralty (whose name I forget) who had never been to sea, decreed that the rule in the Thames Estuary should be that ships heading out to sea should drive on the right and ships coming in from the sea should drive on the left (or maybe it was the other way round). It took 3 head-on collisions and about 30 lives lost before he admitted that perhaps he had made a slight mistake.

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There's a little bit of the Cam where you drive on the wrong side as this somehow makes it better for the rowers. This involves crossing over at either end of the "wrong side" bit.

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27 minutes ago, Felshampo said:

I was asked today why boats pass each other on the right. This made me think I once read of a canal that had the opposite rule, historically, of passing on the left. Have I made this up? 

The Worcester and Birmingham came to mind for some reason. 

I'm probably making it up but don't mock its my age. 

Theres a couple of short sections on the Cam where this happens-its to do with rowers being able to turn.

Posted at same time as DMR...

 

Edited by PaulJ
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Before ships had rudders on their centerlines, ships were controlled using a steering  oar or board. As most sailors were right handed, so the steering oar was placed over or through the right side of the stern. The term starboard to mean right-hand side of a vessel when looking forward. It is generally accepted to be a corruption of steer-board. To aviod the risk of ripping the steering arm off if passing to close to each other, ships would pass larboard to larboard. 

 

The left side became known as larboard, or "the loading side."  As to aviod damage to the steering arm when mooring to the dockside, ships where possable would moor with larboad side facing the dockside..  Over time, larboard—too easily confused with starboard—was replaced with port. After all, this was the side that faced the portside.

Edited by nbfiresprite
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If I recall correctly, the Gloucester and Sharpness used to be 'pass on the left'.  The reasoning being that inbound ships were laden and outbound ships were usually light, and the towpath is on the west side of the canal for the entire length.

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11 hours ago, Felshampo said:

I was asked today why boats pass each other on the right. This made me think I once read of a canal that had the opposite rule, historically, of passing on the left. Have I made this up? 

The Worcester and Birmingham came to mind for some reason. 

I'm probably making it up but don't mock its my age. 

You are correct about the W&B, according to my Pearson's Severn and Avon book 

 

"Two aspects of this canal were remarkable. Boats kept left when passing each other and pairs of donkeys were widely used in place of horses"

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13 minutes ago, phantom_iv said:

It has occurred to me in the past that canal boats passing on the right would require horses to pass on the left (i.e. same as on roads) in order to not get the ropes tangled 🤔

 

I had to draw a diagram of that before I could understand it!   But yes, the horse on the left passes under the tow rope of the approaching horse. 

 

So, we have a potential chicken and egg situation here.  What if the custom of "driving" on the left was already well established by the time of the canals, so that dictated that canal boats must pass port to port?

 

Alternatively, could it be that the maritime custom of passing on the right was transferred to canals, and this dictated that horses pass on the left, and this is the reason we drive on the left today?  

 

Or, do I have too much spare time these days..?

 

 

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23 minutes ago, Neil2 said:

So, we have a potential chicken and egg situation here.  What if the custom of "driving" on the left was already well established by the time of the canals, so that dictated that canal boats must pass port to port?

 

 

Apparently, we drive on the left because going way back to the middle ages and Highwaymen.

 

Most people are right handed, a Gentlemans sword is carried on the left hip and drawn by the right hand, by travelling on the LH side of the 'road' he has room to swing his sword and fight. If he was on the RH side of the road when swinging his sword he would be 'caught up' in the bushes and would be fighting across his body.

 

This is also why a mans Jacket has buttons of the RH side, the LH side passes over the RH side so there is nothing for the sword to 'catch' on when drawing it. So, a mans jacket buttons 'left over right' whilst a womans buttons right over left 

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But that doesn't explain why so many other countries, where the need to draw your sword was just as great, drive on the right. The whole thing is much more complicated, and edicts on which side of the road to travel go back a surprisingly long way.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-_and_right-hand_traffic

Edited by David Mack
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19 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

 

Apparently, we drive on the left because going way back to the middle ages and Highwaymen.

 

Most people are right handed, a Gentlemans sword is carried on the left hip and drawn by the right hand, by travelling on the LH side of the 'road' he has room to swing his sword and fight. If he was on the RH side of the road when swinging his sword he would be 'caught up' in the bushes and would be fighting across his body.

 

This is also why a mans Jacket has buttons of the RH side, the LH side passes over the RH side so there is nothing for the sword to 'catch' on when drawing it. So, a mans jacket buttons 'left over right' whilst a womans buttons right over left 

So did the continent not have any gentlemen with swords then?

 

The buttons/jacket explanation is wrong too. Mens clothes have buttons the way they do because that's the easy way to fasten/unfasten them if you're right-handed, as becomes obvious if you try the other way round. Ladies clothes are the other way round because they would be dressed/undressed by a ladies maid facing them, so they're designed to be easier for this case.

Edited by IanD
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11 minutes ago, IanD said:

So did the continent not have any gentlemen with swords.

 

Alan's post is funamentally correct.

 

On the continent the same practice was undertaken around the same period. It was only subsequently altered. (Accoding to google).

 

 

Edited by The Happy Nomad
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1 hour ago, Neil2 said:

 

I had to draw a diagram of that before I could understand it!   But yes, the horse on the left passes under the tow rope of the approaching horse. 

 

So, we have a potential chicken and egg situation here.  What if the custom of "driving" on the left was already well established by the time of the canals, so that dictated that canal boats must pass port to port?

 

Alternatively, could it be that the maritime custom of passing on the right was transferred to canals, and this dictated that horses pass on the left, and this is the reason we drive on the left today?  

 

Or, do I have too much spare time these days..?

 

 

 

The horse towing the boat(s) on the inside (nearest the tow path) would step OVER the tow line of the boat(s) on the outside. The boat(s) on the inside would then pass over the sunken tow line of the outside boat(s). Passing of lines over animals or boats was avoided. I think though it still means boat horses did pass on the left.

Edited by Captain Pegg
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On the continent there is the practice of blue flagging or boarding. Boats going upstream who need to use the slack water on the inside of bends signal with the blue board to on coming barges who answer and they pass starboard to starboard. There are also places where signs direct the crossing of the stream for bridges or bends . Unfortunately many pleasure boaters and the hire boats do not understand these rules or the signs until they meet a loaded barge on the “wrong” side.

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1 hour ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

 

Apparently, we drive on the left because going way back to the middle ages and Highwaymen.

 

Most people are right handed, a Gentlemans sword is carried on the left hip and drawn by the right hand, by travelling on the LH side of the 'road' he has room to swing his sword and fight. If he was on the RH side of the road when swinging his sword he would be 'caught up' in the bushes and would be fighting across his body.

 

This is also why a mans Jacket has buttons of the RH side, the LH side passes over the RH side so there is nothing for the sword to 'catch' on when drawing it. So, a mans jacket buttons 'left over right' whilst a womans buttons right over left 

See also the direction of spiral staircases in castles and keeps, built clockwise to disadvantage an attacker who would be ascending with his sword in his right hand ;) 

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14 hours ago, Felshampo said:

I was asked today why boats pass each other on the right. This made me think I once read of a canal that had the opposite rule, historically, of passing on the left. Have I made this up? 

The Worcester and Birmingham came to mind for some reason. 

I'm probably making it up but don't mock its my age. 

 

You are not making it up - Tom Rolt reported this in Landscape with Canals

 

Edited to add - he arrived on the Worcester and Birmingham from the Northern Stratford and asked before entering Wast Hill Tunnel

Edited by magpie patrick
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4 hours ago, gatekrash said:

You are correct about the W&B, according to my Pearson's Severn and Avon book 

 

"Two aspects of this canal were remarkable. Boats kept left when passing each other and pairs of donkeys were widely used in place of horses"

 

2 hours ago, magpie patrick said:

 

You are not making it up - Tom Rolt reported this in Landscape with Canals

 

Edited to add - he arrived on the Worcester and Birmingham from the Northern Stratford and asked before entering Wast Hill Tunnel

Thanks for that confirmation. Maybe the dementia isn't progressing as fast as I thought. 

The problem with reading books is you often think that's really interesting and then six months later have no idea where you read it or if you are misremembering. 

Any votes for returning to that system, just for the W&B, maybe starting on the 1st of April. 

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5 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

 

Apparently, we drive on the left because going way back to the middle ages and Highwaymen.

 

Most people are right handed, a Gentlemans sword is carried on the left hip and drawn by the right hand, by travelling on the LH side of the 'road' he has room to swing his sword and fight. If he was on the RH side of the road when swinging his sword he would be 'caught up' in the bushes and would be fighting across his body.

 

This is also why a mans Jacket has buttons of the RH side, the LH side passes over the RH side so there is nothing for the sword to 'catch' on when drawing it. So, a mans jacket buttons 'left over right' whilst a womans buttons right over left 

 

Also, Napoleon was left handed, hence why the French drive on the other side.

 

(ok, this may not be true, but it's a nice story!)

Edited by phantom_iv
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4 hours ago, Dav and Pen said:

On the continent there is the practice of blue flagging or boarding. Boats going upstream who need to use the slack water on the inside of bends signal with the blue board to on coming barges who answer and they pass starboard to starboard. There are also places where signs direct the crossing of the stream for bridges or bends . Unfortunately many pleasure boaters and the hire boats do not understand these rules or the signs until they meet a loaded barge on the “wrong” side.

 

Mandatory crossings with appropriate signage quite often occur at locks too - if I (in the foreground) had to wait on the other side of the waterway I'd be being pulled into the weir. The blue board is augmented by an all-round flashing white light too.

 

Tam

 

Blue boarding.jpg

Edited by Tam & Di
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3 hours ago, Felshampo said:

 

Thanks for that confirmation. Maybe the dementia isn't progressing as fast as I thought. 

The problem with reading books is you often think that's really interesting and then six months later have no idea where you read it or if you are misremembering. 

Any votes for returning to that system, just for the W&B, maybe starting on the 1st of April. 

Even better: start the scheme as a trial for boats travelling out of Birmingham and if it works then in the Autumn extend to those coming into the city.

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