Recently in Waterways Category

How to Restore a Canal

In reply to: "How shall we restore this canal?" The answer surely has to be: "You restore inwards from the ends".

Over the years few restoration projects have realised this and suffered as a result. Notable amongst these is the Wey & Arun Canal which has been being restored since the 1970's and to date a small isolated section has been restored at the cost of millions. They seem to have picked the most challenging section first

So why should a canal be restored to navigation starting from either, or both, ends?

  • Momentun to restore increases as the gap narrows.
  • The public will not wonder how so much money could have been spent providing a stagnent pond.
  • It's possible to raise funds by providing moorings along the restored length.
  • Unused structures are more susceptable to vandalism.
  • The canal becomes usable for navigation from the outset.
  • Economic benefit becomes evident immediately.
  • Further along the restoration route residents and businesses will want to see the restoration reach them and apply pressure accordingly.
  • No opportunity for protected flora & fauna to occupy the unused water.
  • The infrastructure will be used instead of slowly decaying.
  • The final hurdle will have have the greatest pressure to be overcome. This will more often than not be the most difficult project.
  • The restored section can be handed over to the navigation authority once completed, relieving the restorers of the responsibility for maintenence.

Closing Lock Gates After Passage

It's a contraversial topic wether to “close-up” or not after working through a lock. Here are some, factual I hope, notes on the topic:

The Next Boat Through:

There is always a 50/50 chance that the next boat through a particular lock will be in a particular direction (unless boats are travelling in convoy).

This means that if you close-up, any following boat will be done a (very small) favour. A boat coming in the opposite direction will have to re-open them once more, not a favour at all; indeed they have had the gates shut in their faces.

Thus there is no net advantage to the next boat.


Barring faults, Locks leak least when left empty. That's not my opinion, but that of the Water Manager on the K&A and he should know. They leak the most when they are full with the top gate flapping unsealed.

Top gates have about three times less “seam” to leak compared to bottom and they also tend to suffer less rubbing damage. So that's why locks with a good seal on the top gate always empty on their own.

Water Saving:

The most economical usage method for a lock is to adopt a "one-up one-down" system, i.e. a following boat should wait for one in opposition. Using this method the following boat will not only save one lockfull of water, but also do the least amount of work possible as the opposing boat will work the gates, fill/empty the lock etc., etc. the downside is that it requires some patience on the part of the steerer of following boat.

Catastrophic Failure:

Closing-up should mitigate the consequences of any failure at the uphill end. Upon failure the bottom gates may be closed anyway by the onrush of water. Gates/paddles rarely, if ever, fail without human (or boat) intervention it should be noted.

Crick Boatshow at the Weekend

I'll be working on the Mel Davis Boatbuilders stand (KF72) all over the Bank Holiday weekend. Despite the hard work I look forward to this particular job every year.

If you are in the Northampton area, do come along. Crick Boatshow website is here for location and details.

On the Subject of speed...

Watching a recent episode "Seaside Rescue" on Channel 5 I noted that the Dover Lifeboat was proceeding at "Dead Slow" through the harbour on their way to a medical emergency. They stepped on the gas once clear of the harbour, reaching an apparent 20 knots - this was on the way to help a head injured casualty in the English Channel.

Now if they do that, why can't the average pleasure boater? Thay have no reason to hurry whatsoever.

Frozen In!

For the first time I can remember; the canal frozen solid. The boat is stuck fast in the ice. Perhaps I'll try to see how thick it is a little later, although it's still very chilly.

UPDATE: The ice is 7.2cm thick. That's about 3 inches in old money.