No two locks are ever the same.  Each exhibits their own 'personality', with little quirks and characteristics that will leave you either loving or loathing them!

Whether small narrow single locks or broad, long automated commercial locks, there are a few things to always bear in mind:

  • Always approach slowly.
  • Read any instructions that may be provided.
  • Enter and leave at the slowest possible speed.
  • In larger locks, be prepared to use your middle rope for stability.
  • Manual locks need special care, keep hold of the windlass!
  • Use your 2 way radios and keep good eye contact between the Skipper and 'locker'.
  • Ensure children and pets are under control.
  • Read our advice on lifejackets!
  • Open and close paddles slowly, don't let the water move too fast, it can make your boat feel like a cork in a bottle.
  • To conserve water try to share locks with other boaters if there's room.
  • On flights of locks, walk up to the top to see if anyone is coming down before emptying locks or pounds.
  • Some locks will require the British Waterways key or an anti-vandal 'Handcuff' key.
    PLEASE remember to re-engage the lock after use and DON'T LEAVE YOUR KEY BEHIND!
  • Always close the paddles and gates unless instructed otherwise.
  • Unless it is absolutely necessary or otherwise instructed to do so, NEVER use your boat to push open lock gates.
  • The most stable position for your boat in any lock is usually going to be near where you came in (the back).  This is especially true for large and wide locks.
  • While in a lock ensure nothing on the bow gets caught (like the front fender) on any part of the lock gates - whether going up, or down in a lock.
  • As you ascend some locks, ensure the tiller doesn't become trapped under the walkway provided on some lock gates.

This is all pretty much common-sense, however the most dangerous part of any lock is the CILL - a concrete or stone ledge lurking under the water.  The position will usually be marked in white paint on the side of the lock.  Keep the boat well clear of the CILL, as the water goes down the boat can easily catch and this is a common cause of sinking boats in locks, so:


Having said all this, locks are some of the best, and most enjoyable parts of the boating experience.  Many of the older locks still bear the Masons mark, carved into each individual stone or block.  This is how the 'Gaffer' would calculate daily pay, based upon the number of marks and consequently, work undertaken.


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