Canal Cruising Skills - Canal Locks All You Need To Know!
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Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 10:12am

If you intend to cruise the UK canal network then at some point you will come across a canal lock and you are going to need to know how to go through it to continue your journey!

Many boaters find going through the locks the most exciting part of narrow boating trip and enjoy the experience, even planning their journeys to encounter as many locks as possible. Once you know how to operate the locks you too will be able to enjoy this part of cruising.

Interesting Fact

The longest lock flight in the UK is the Tardebigge Flight on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. The flight boasts 30 locks and raises the canal 220 feet!

Our Favourite Set of Locks

Is the flight of 29 locks at Caen Hill, Devizes. It’s so impressive having 16 of the locks that fall in a straight line.  Take a look at the picture below.


So what exactly is a canal lock?

A canal lock is designed to move your narrow boat either up or down a hill using a chamber of water to change the level of the canal. The chamber has two gates at the front and two gates to the rear and uses water within the chamber to move the narrow boat up or down to the new section of waterway.

How does a canal lock work?

You cruise your narrow boat into the lock and close the doors behind you. If you need to go "uphill", water is let into the lock, causing your narrow boat to rise. For a "downhill" journey, the water is let out of the lock, causing your narrow boat to go down too. When you have reached the top or bottom (depending on whether you are going up or down), the doors in front of you are opened, and on you sail on.

How does the water get into the canal lock?

The doors to the front and rear of the lock chamber are called "paddles". These doors are opened and closed by using a "windlass". This is a lever used to turn the cogs, to open and close the paddles. You should make sure you have your windlass before setting off on your journey.

What do I do in the canal lock?

When you get your narrow boat into the lock, use the centre rope from your boat, this will keep your narrow boat steady as the water rises or falls. Don't tie the ropes to the bollard, as this will cause problems - your boat may well hang in mid air as the water level decreases.

How long does it take to get through a canal lock?

It will take around 20 minutes to get through a canal lock. Cruising the canal system whether you are on holiday or you live aboard travelling along the system is a very relaxing and a slow moving experience - so there is no need to rush.

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