Safety tips for travelling through canal locks

Once fully insured and enjoying the UK's inland canal waterway system, due to our beautiful rolling landscape one cannot escape taking your boat through lock gates from time to time. In fact some lock runs, such as the UK's longest set of locks in the south of Birmingham has in excess of 30 locks that will keep you busy all day!man on canal boat

Locks are fun, good exercise and a great opportunity to meet other boaters passing by or moving down/up locks with you. However from a boat insurance perspective, locks are also one of the key sources of boat insurance claims on inland waterways. So with that in mind we thought it might be useful to give you few tips on how to avoid problems that could otherwise spoil travelling along one of the country’s greatest legacies.

  • Always keep a soft but firm grip of your windlass when opening and closing lock paddle gates. It's important because letting go of it may result in it spinning off in very rapid rotation, the result of which is that trying to grab it again causes a hand injury or that it is sent flying off into the canal or worse still, that it injures someone else, this happens more often than you may think!
  • Always open and close lock paddle gates in a slow and controlled manner keeping an eye on your vessel as you do so. In the event of anything untoward, simply close the paddle gates and investigate.
  • Where lock paddles are particularly hard to open, if possible & the lock allows, have two people open the paddle together.
  • When going upwards always make sure to keep a close eye on the boat when filling locks, keep the bow and stern safely away from incoming rushing water.
  • When going downwards keep the stern of the boat at least a meter clear of the back gates, to avoid hanging it upon the concrete/stone sill at the bottom of the lock.
  • Ensure any ropes are secured to prevent them falling into the water and snagging the propeller.
  • Ensure any ropes tied to the locks whilst filling/ emptying locks have enough slack in them to allow the boat to continue to freely move when water is emptied from locks.
  • canal locksIt goes without saying not to allow anyone to walk down the sides of the boat when moving, but this never applies more so when entering/ leaving locks. We can't be clearer here... to do so is potentially life-threatening.
  • The boat driver should not be tempted to climb on and off the boat roof to assist with paddles. Instead take driving locks in turn to give each other a rest.
  • Keep any on board animals (dogs primarily!) locked indoors or a tight leash when travelling through locks to prevent them trying to jump on/off board.
  • Finally, in the event of any lock operating issues or underwater hazards, phone British Waterways (01923 201120). Leave the removal of any obstacles to the trained professionals!

Whilst we cannot guarantee these to be exhaustive, we hope you find these few safety guidelines useful to enable you to enjoy the Waterways trouble free!

Inland Boat Insurance Price Comparison

We hope you found this article useful, it is provided with best intentions only and also recommend further reading. For comparison purposes also, in case you are interested in buying boat insurance, below are our current lowest and average policy costs based upon live customer data updated daily. If you find you're paying too much for too little, for a quote click on the links below to get a quotation... you can be covered in less than 5 minutes!

Boat Insurance TypeCover TypeCurrent LowestCurrent Lowest Inception DateCurrent Average
Narrowboat insurance » Fully Comprehensive £116.92 08/10/2021 £226.78
Third Party Only £76.60 25/09/2021 £87.85
Houseboat insurance » Fully Comprehensive £143.25 21/12/2021 £268.61
Third Party Only £71.00 01/10/2021 £125.40
Dutch barge insurance » Fully Comprehensive £704.92 05/08/2021 £704.92
Third Party Only £256.92 20/12/2021 £252.86

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