HARD on the heels of the warnings in narrowboatworld of the increasing number of boats sinking in locks, the authorities have taken the matter seriously, and are bringing in measures to prevent boat sinkings.
The sinkings are always boater error, the boat being allowed to get its bows caught in the front gate assembly, and thus sinking as water rushes into the stern as the boat tilts, and is either hung-up or sinks. Canal & River Trust are now in the process of installing blocks in the apertures on bottom gates to prevent the bows becoming caught in the gate as water is emptied from the lock, as can be seen in the above photograph.
Trent & Mersey
These are wooden blocks, backed by steel angles—hopefully to keep them from being knocked out—that are at present being installed on the bottom gates of the broad locks of the Trent & Mersey Canal, and it is expected that the method will be 'rolled-out' across the network.
The Trent & Mersey has been chosen as there are numerous hire companies along the stretch containing the broad locks. The problem of course is that people new to boating are impervious to the danger, but more important are rarely instructed on what to do in such a circumstance, such as immediately closing the bottom paddles and slowly opening the top paddles to save the boat. Or—as only too often—they are busy talking to other boaters and not taking attention.
Fenders improperly secured
The problem is exacerbated by many boats having their bow fenders caught in the gate, the fender being improperly secured, by being fastened down and thus prevented from slipping up and releasing the boat, or boats even having solid fenders. The original solid fenders on Canaltime boats, fastened from below were particularly prone, as well as possibly damaging lock gates and other boats, and narrowboatworld campaigned against them until they were eventually replaced by rope fenders.
It is accepted that rope fenders should always be used and never fastened underneath thus preventing them from slipping up if caught in a lock gate.
The cill marking lines are also being repainted, but as one CART worker told us—'a lot of people don't even know what they are for'. So there is little that can be done to help the uninitiated whose boat is so far back in an emptying lock that the boat gets caught on the cill, only the hope that the crew above realise what is happening and quickly close the paddles.
With no apology for again repeating the warning, we again point out to those venturing onto the waterways for the first time that locks can be very dangerous, yet sensible care can make then very safe indeed—it is all down to proper instruction, and at the lock itself.