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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Should lock gates be closed or left open & what is better, one center rope or two

Before we left this morning we gave the port side of the boat a good wash. Our aim was to polish the paintwork which was in dire need of some TLC. It had been well over a year since that side had been touched.  As Ian had finished re installing and touching up the rust spots around the galley window we could finally get on with it. With the sun beating down we thought it best to move to a mooring with shade to complete our task. So, as we untied our ropes we heard the distinctive ratchet sound as a paddle was being raised and noticed a boat descending the lock behind us. We gestured to them that we would wait at the next lock and set off. I walked on with Jade and as I came round the corner to the lock, a lone boater, with both his narrow boats breasted up, entered at the bottom. First thing he said to me was I hope you have left  the gates open on the next lock. I informed him that we had moored overnight and even if we had come through the lock we would have closed the gates. He then started spouting on about how we make his life difficult as a lone boater closing the gates and we should leave them open on exiting. I then also spouted on about the annoyance of having a lock against you and having to close both gates before being able to proceed. He wouldn't have it. He was right and I was wrong. Now in one of our hand books issued by BW years ago it states that both gates and all paddles to be closed on leaving. So the question is who is right and who is wrong! Me thinks this is one argument that could go on and on!

Now for my next heading. The boat following us arrived at the same time as the lone boater coming out of the lock . He again asked if the next lock had been left open and with a resounding 'no' from the other boaters he went on his way chuntering to himself. We all had a bit of a discussion on leaving gates open and they were of the same opinion as us. Close them! We then shared every lock with Nb Mea Culpa until we moored up below Horton lock near Slapton.

We found out their names, Brian and Joyce, and nicer couple you could'nt hope to meet.  Although they had been cruising for a number of years previously, the past three years they had been tied to the NHS and with this there first outing both had to get their hand in, so to speak. At Horton lock ( our last lock of the day) Brian was trying to come in behind me on the landing. He threw the center rope, which was tied to a ring in the middle, for Joyce to catch. She started heaving on the rope and unbeknown to both of them, had caught on something on their roof. The rope suddenly came free and Joyce fell with an almighty thud onto her back with her head hitting the ground hard. I rushed over and told her to stay still while grabbing the center rope for Brian. This was taken from me as another gentleman appeared and pulled Brian in. Joyce lay there for a while obviously quite dazed but then managed to get up. Luckily no serious damage was done other then hurt pride and a possible headache. So from this incident I wonder if single center ropes are wise. Flicking it over from side to side could create its own problems.  We have two ropes attached to the center with fairleads holding the ropes in position. This means whatever side the towpath is on, a rope is always to hand. I do know of one old school boater who wont have a center rope at all! Instead he depends on lassoing the bollard at a lock and driving the front end in. Quite how that works when mooring up is beyond me but it seems to work for him. I'd be interested to hear of other boaters views on the subject.

Fairlead positioned either side.

Whipsnade White Lion on Dunstable Down. Visible from our mooring

All alone but not for long. Soon the stretch of towpath was full with moored boats.

Glider ready for release

Any idea what this duck is?

 And finally:-


Andy Healey said...

As far as we are concerned, users of NB Centurion, a shared boat 4 times a year, one should always shut the gates if no one in sight, unless notices say otherwise, ie for dodgy leaking lock walls. We always use 2 ropes, even with our uncluttered roof its so much easier and we always have the rope in the fairlead and routed down the handrail back to stern.
Great wildlife pics as usual.

Leo No2 said...

It's interesting. I have been on the Wey for a number of years (soon to move off) and there it is paddles down and gates open. The reason for the gates being open is 1) the waterway is river fed so there's generally no shortage of water and 2) there a 50/50 chance of the next boat using the lock finding it set in their favour. I think the real reason is that water supply is not an issue even on the canalised sections. As someone who single-hands a lot being able to leave the gates open is helpful but I do need to close them if I come across a lock that is set against me but if I come across a flight with all the locks set for me and the gates open I thank my lucky stars!

James said...

In theory, leaving gates open makes life easier in general, because there's a 50% chance it will be completely set for the next people, who won't even need to ise the landing stage and can go straight in, with a little extra work 50% of the time, when you're already on the landing stage. If gates are closed, everyone has to do extra work 100% of the time and it's never set. The work if it's set against you is balanced out by the times it's set for you.

Traditionally, you'd always have a lockwheeler ahead, so could leave gates because the next boat or pair of boats' lockwheeler would set accordingly if needed.

But because of leaky gates, the rule changed to leave them closed, and the way people boat changed completely.

Nev Wells said...

I think it is more about easier cruising for single handers - When I have SH I would prefer to approach a lock with a 50% chance it is straight in as if i have to moor up then closing a gate is less of an issue than stopping roping up opening a gate and untying and motoring in. Having said that the rules on the canal are leave all gates closed so that is what we do if we are crewed up or if I am SH.


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