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Canal Cruising Skills - How To Cruise A Narrowboat Through A Tunnel

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Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 1:02pm

So what do you need to know?

If you are going to be cruising the UK canal system you will need to know about tunnels as there are plenty to navigate through.

Some tunnels are for one way traffic only and others are wide enough to let two boats past each other. At the entrance of the tunnel will be a set of instructions, entry times or a set of traffic lights. Follow the instructions for each tunnel.

If you find yourself in the situation where you meet another boat in the tunnel (this should rarely happen as the longer tunnels where you can’t see the other end are controlled by the traffic light system), then you would have a ‘conversation’ as to who is going to reserve, allowing the other boat to continue on.

Interestingly the traditional way to solve this problem when the narrow boats were used to transport goods around the canal system was to ‘have a fight’! This also happened at the locks – if they couldn’t decide who had the right of way they would fight for the right of way. Of course we do not encourage this behaviour today!

If the tunnel is designed for one boat at a time, make sure the tunnel is empty before you enter. You will be able to see if there is already a boat in the tunnel as it will have blocked the light at the other end and the boat should have its head light on.

When you enter the tunnel make sure you have on your head light angle the light to point downwards so it doesn’t dazzle anyone approaching you, it is also a good idea to have some interior lights on as well. Sound your horn just the once.

Keep a steady speed and move the tiller as little as possible you will discover that tunnels are rarely straight. If there is a boat in front of you keep around two minutes distance between you.

If the tunnel is wide enough for two boats to pass each other, then reduce your speed to be ‘tick over speed’ so you safely pass each other.

Other Important Factors:

  • Make sure your boat is in good working order you don’t want to break down in the tunnel. If you do break down – switch off your engine.
  • Before entering the tunnel check fuel levels.
  • Turn off all the gas except pilot lights. Do not smoke.
  • Keep passengers inside the boat.
  • Have a water proof torch at hand in case the head light fails.
  • Wear water proofs whilst travelling through the tunnel and make sure anything you don’t want to get wet is either covered or taken inside.

List Of UK Tunnels

The Canal and River Trust have classified each tunnel on the canal system either 1,2 or 3.
No unpowered boats are allowed in class 1 tunnels
Unpowered boats are allowed through class 2 but with certain restrictions
Class 3 tunnels which are usually very short, there are no restrictions.
Letter D in the table means that the tunnel is disused and/or derelict now.
Letter O in the table means that the tunnel has been opened out and is now a cutting.

Area / Canal Builder / Length / Code

Adwick Dearne & Dove Canal John Thomson 432m D
Alton Uttoxeter Canal John Rennie Snr 37m D
Armitage Trent & Mersey Canal James Brindley 119m O
Ashford Monmouth & Brecon Canal Thos. Dadford Jr 343m 2
Ashperton Hereford & Gloucester Canal Josia Clowes 366m D
Ashted Birmingham Canal Navigations (Digbeth Branch) - 110m 2
Aylestone Hereford & Gloucester Canal Josia Clowes 403m D
Barnton Trent & Mersey Canal James Brindley 523m 1
Barrack Hill Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal Thomas Dadford Jr 74m D
Bates Huddersfield Narrow Canal British Waterways 87m 1
Bath No1 Kennet & Avon Canal John Rennie Snr 53m 2
Bath No2 Kennet & Avon Canal John Rennie Snr 51m 2
Berwick Shropshire canal William Reynolds 887m D
Blisworth Grand Union canal William Jessop 2794m 1
Brandwood Stratford Canal Josia Clowes 322m 1
Braunston Grand Union canal William Jessop 1887m 1
Brewins Dudley Canal James Walker 69m 1
Broad St BCN James Brindley 20m approx 3
Bruce Kennet & Avon Canal John Rennie 459m 2
Buckland Hollow Cromford Canal Benjamin Outram 31m D
Bury No1 Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Matthew Fletcher 61m D
Bury No2 Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal Matthew Fletcher 129m D
Butterley Cromford Canal William Jessop 2800m D
Calne Wilts & Berks Canal William Whitworth 92m D
Cardiff Glamorganshire Canal Thomas Dadford Jr 106m D
Chippenham Wilts & Berks Canal William Whitworth 92m D
Chirk Llangollen Canal Thomas Telford 420m 2
Coleford Dorset & Somerset Canal William Bennet 83m D
Combe Hay Somerset Coal Canal Matthew Fletcher 61m D
Coseley Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line Thomas Telford 330m 2
Cowley Shropshire Union Canal Thomas Telford 74m 1
Crick Grand Union canal (Leicester Section) Benjamin Bevan 1500m 1
Curdworth Birmingham and Fazely Canal John Smeaton 52m 2
Curzon St. Birmingham Canal Navigations Digbeth Branch - 147m 3
Cwmbran Monmouth & Brecon Canal Thomas Dadford Jr 80m 2
Deansgate Rochdale Canal - 72m 1
Drakenholes Chesterfield Canal James Brindley 140m 2
Dudley  Dudley No 1 Canal Thos. Dadford Snr 2884m 1*
Dunhapstead Worcester & Birmingham Canal various 216m 1
Dunsley Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal James Brindley 23m 2
Eardington Eardington Forge Canal - 549m D
Edgebaston Worcester & Birmingham canal various 96m 2
Ellesmere Llangollen Canal Thomas Telford 80m 2
Eyre's Regents Canal James Morgan 48m 3
Falkirk Union Canal Hugh Baird 637m 1
Fallingroyd Rochdale Canal John Rennie 95m 3
Fenny Compton No1 Oxford Canal James Brindley 308m O
Fenny Compton No2 Oxford Canal James Brindley 414m O
Foulridge Leeds & Liverpool Canal John Longbotham 1500m 1
Froghall Caldon Canal James Brindley 69m 1
Galton Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line Thomas Telford 112m 2
Gannow Leeds & Liverpool Canal John Longbotham 511m 1
Gosty Hill Dudley No2 Canal Josiah Clowes 509m 1
Gregory Cromford Canal William Jessop 70m D
Greywell Basingstoke Canal John Smeaton 1124m D
Hardham Arun Navigation - 343m D
Harecastle Trent & Mersey Canal Thomas Telford 2675m 1
Harecastle Old Trent & Mersey Canal James Brindley 2650m D
Hincaster Lancaster Canal John Rennie 346m D
Hollingwood Common Chesterfield Canal James Brindley 2820m D
Husbands Bosworth Grand Union Canal (Leicester Section) Benjamin Bevan 1066m 1
Ilminster Chard Canal Sydney Hall 275m D
Islington Regents Canal James Morgan 878m 1
Lapal Tunnel Dudley No 2 Canal Josiah Clowes 3470m D
Leek Caldon Canal (Leek Branch) James Brindley 119m 1
Lillesdon Chard Canal Sydney Hall 288m D
Maida Hill Regents Canal James Morgan 249m 1
Man. & Salford Jct Manchester & Salford Junction Canal John Gilbert 457m D
Morwell Down Tavistock Canal John Taylor 2341m D
Netherton B C N Netherton Branch Thomas Telford 2768m 1
Newbold (New Tunnel) Oxford Canal - 228m 2
Newbold (Old Tunnel) Oxford Canal James Brindley 122m D
Newnham Leominster Canal Thomas Dadford Jr 86m D
Norwood Chesterfield Canal James Brindley 2633m D
Oxenhall Herefordshire & Gloucestershire Canal Josia Clowes 2000m D
Preston Brook Trent & Mersey Canal James Brindley 1133m 1
Putnal Field Leominster Canal Thomas Dadford Jr 302m D
Rain Hall Rock No1 Leeds & Liverpool Canal (Rain Hall Rock Branch) John Longbotham 80m D
Rain Hall Rock No2 Leeds & Liverpool Canal (Rain Hall Rock Branch) John Longbotham 80m D
Romford Romford Canal - 70m D
Rosehill Peak Forest Canal Benjamin Outram 92m O
Rough Castle Union Canal British Waterways 334m 1
Saddington Grand Union  (Leicester Section) Benjamin Bevan 805m 1
Salford No1 Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Matthew Fletcher 32m D
Salford No2 Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Matthew Fletcher 32m D
Saltersford Trent & Mersey Canal James Brindley 388m 1
Sapperton Thames & Severn Canal Josiah Clowes 3490m D
Scout Huddersfield Narrow Canal Benjamin Outram 201m 3
Sellers Huddersfield Narrow Canal British Waterways 325m O
Shortwood Worcester & Birmingham Canal various 560m 1
Shrewley Grand Union Canal William Jessop 396m 1
Snareston Ashby Canal Benjamin Outram 228m 1
Snedshill Shropshire Canal William Reynolds 256m D
Southall Shropshire Canal William Reynolds 257m D
Southampton Southampton & Salisbury Canal Joseph Hill 805m D
Southnett  Leominster Canal Thos. Dadford Jr 1143m D
Standedge Huddersfield Narrow Canal Benjamin Outram 5210m 1*
Stirchley Shropshire Canal William Reynolds 257m D
Strood Thames & Medway Canal Ralph Dodd 3595m D
Summit Birmingham Canal Navigations James Brindley 95m 2
Tardebigge Worcester & Birmingham Canal various 530m 1
Tipton Pensnett Canal Matthew Frost 180m D
Tuel Lane Rochdale Canal British Waterways 99m 1
Wast Hill Worcester & Birmingham Canal Josia Clowes 2492m 1
Waterhouses Hollinwood Branch Canal Benjamin Outram 101m D
Waytown Grand Western Canal John Thomas 37m D
Whitehouses Llangollen Canal Thomas Telford 175m 2
Whittle Hill Leeds & Liv Canal (Walton Summit Branch) John Rennie 237m D
Wolfhamcote Oxford Canal James Brindley 31m D
Woodley Peak Forest Canal Benjamin Outram 152m 1
Wren's Nest Dudley Canal - 100m Approx D

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