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« Hey for 'Fun, but is it art?' | Main | Gongooglzing with the Google tricycle and the Canalplan pushchair »

Tuesday, 04 August 2009


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Do you happen to know what the "fall" of the Oxford Canal is, i.e., the difference in elevation between Hawkesbury Junction and Oxford? If you do, please reply to me at Thanks.

Doug Bostrom

MAIB covers a cill-related upset in their latest Safety Digest, with a neophyte crew ending up with the pointy end submerged. What a way to end a holiday.

What stands out about this incident is the apparent lack of any practical demonstration of lock operations to the renters. The yard operator seems to have sent the crew off without them ever having encountered a lock before.

From the brief:

"On arrival at the marina the family had to wait
some time before the boat was ready. They
were shown the 10-minute British Waterways
Code for Boaters video and, later, the marina
staff showed the mother and father around th
boat’s domestic arrangements. The marina
manager carried out the formal handover
procedures and gave instructions on how to
operate the boat and negotiate locks. He
showed them the boat’s manual, which
included emergency telephone numbers and
extracts from The Boater’s Handbook."

The family made it through their first lock essentially via the charity of another boat's crew, then fouled up the first time they had to do it on their own.

I'm surprised by the operator's seemingly cavalier attitude to consigning their property and the family's safety substantially to luck. On every occasion we've hired a boat the operators did not take our word for it we were "ok" but instead squired us through the first available lock, making us show that we had at least the basics in hand. The cill was always prominently featured in these hands-on practicum. Even when the operators appeared pressed for time, space was made for for some operational observation and instruction from a yard staffer.

As another poster touched upon, negotiating a lock involves deftly maneuvering an object weighing many tons. It also entails coordinating the operation of some potentially dangerous machinery and of course unleashing the force of many tons of water. Add in the time pressures of other craft awaiting their turn as well as working in view of spectators. It's all quite unnerving for fresh faces, a prescription for an accident of some kind (or matrimonial discord!)

It's absolutely true that persons contemplating a canal journey should do their homework prior to even booking a boat; we're adults and expected to take care of ourselves to the best of our ability. I suspect many of these accidents come down to poor preparation on the part of the crews. At the same time, some of us are all-thumbs or not so fast on the uptake. Watching a crew work a lock might give an operator an indication that some additional instruction would be useful and really ought to be standard operating procedure.

Andrew Denny

Yes, the Lindy Lou fire report was very good. There's a link to the PDF report on the Alrewas tragedy on my earlier blog post (linked above).

Bruce Napier

I've heard some further accounts on the towpath telegraph about how she died, but I won't repeat them here - too upsetting and only hearsay.

There's been a discussion on the canals list about the fact that novice boaters (and some "experts") misidentify the real hazards of boating, which is not to do with drowning, but with the boat as a slow moving but very heavy object.

I thought the MAIB did a good job of the report on the Lindy Lou fire on the Macc, but haven't seen any of their other stuff.



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