Tuesday, 12 April 2011


Being a biker, and very keen on self preservation. I do tend to be over cautious on the road with other users and this rubs off into our boating exploits. The Memsahib thinks that I am "a bit of a mother hen" when I occasionally remind her about possible dangers.

On the road, I use the "three phase" looking ahead road scanning method. I visually check behind (called the lifesaver). I then check the road ahead as far as the next vehicle. Then I check into the distance as far as I can see. Then repeat it all again.
On a bike you also have to read the road surface. A pothole in the road, white lines, and metal grate covers when wet can be very dangerous hazards when you are only on two wheels. I also use the police motorcycle rider positioning techniques, with the maxim "never give up safety for position." - When combined with road scanning, (to the uninitiated) it looks like I am wandering about on the road. But I am placing myself in the safest position on the road. However, it my be safest option to be in the wrong riding position such as to avoid a road surface hazard.

Having done some training with the police on a Bikesafe course a few years ago. This started me appreciating just how much better a trained police rider really is. There is a book that is recommended reading for the course.  - Yes I know another book. - It is called The Police Rider's Handbook to Better Motorcycling. The book is easy to understand and very informative. It covers all aspects of riding a motorcycle safely.

Canals and rivers are also like the roads a dangerous places to be. However, if you can minimise risk by using safety techniques, then so-much-the-better. As was said on the safe riding course "complacency comes with experience." So for me safety checking carries over when working through locks - The Memsahib does sometimes get the hump-on if I remind her of the basic safety rules.  We also have a couple of small handheld radios that each of us carries when locking. They have proved very useful for communicating on some of the bigger locks of when out of sight of each other.

I have my own set of locking rules that I try very hard never to break.
  1. The helmsman is in charge at all times.
  2. Always try to be in line-of-sight with the boat helmsman.
  3. Never let the bow or stern come into contact with the lock gates.
  4. Always be prepared to close the paddle(s) in an emergency.
  5. Never open a paddle more than half way before the lock is half full.
  6. Always walk, never run.
  7. Never jump cross an open gap.
  8. Always visually check the cill marker.
  9. Never walk closer than three feet from the lock edge.
  10. Always remove the hand windlass.
  11. Never have your back to the lock.
  12. Always ask before assisting another boat through a lock.
  13. Never walk down the sides of the boat in a lock.
  14. Always use a centre mooring line in broad locks.
  15. Never be in a hurry.
  16. Always accompany a crew member who is new to operating a lock.
  17. Never operate a lock without the safety ratchet on.
  18. Always check clothing will not get caught in the lock paddle mechanism.
  19. Never let a lock paddle drop.
  20. Always do a quick visual scan of the lock for problems before beginning to operate.



  1. Thats a long list!

    All very sensible of course and mostly common sense. We tend not to think about it too much now. We have developed a nice routine that we try and follow each time. Usually cocked up of course when sharing a lock with someone else who does things differently.

  2. Hi Mike, if only all canal users followed your list of safety rules! I was lucky enough to be able to take, (and pass), the police driving / riding courses and get paid at the same time! The V.I.P driver course was particularly interesting! As a result, when my own son went through the usual process of wanting a motorcycle, (moped), at 16, I actively encouraged him, with a proper training course to test pass level. I believe a motorcyclist always makes a safer driver, and all drivers should have some sort of two wheeled training as part of the process of learning to drive.

  3. Hello Peter and Margaret. Mags (Margaret) AKA as the other half was a police trained driver. However, on four wheels, though there have been times (when she is at the wheel)that I was sure we were running on two. I have just clocked up 48 years on two wheels. I have had three incidents in that time. Diesel on a slow speed tight country corner. Once after leaving the side stand down. The last one being a little old lady who opened her car door in a queue of standing traffic to brush off some crumbs from her packed lunch.

    I have discovered that the older you get the less you bounce. Mick

  4. Hello Rachel.

    I admit I can be a bit of an anal retentive when it comes to navigating locks. Or maybe its OCD - never sure which it is. ;-)

    Mags is going to concentrate on the helms-person role when we get out at Easter - in the main because she has tweeked her sciatic nerve. What are the odds that I fall in!

    Mick and crew

  5. The odds of falling greatly increase the more careful you are trying to be. The same is also said for the more beer you have drunk en route!!

    There is nothing wrong with being careful and thinking about what you are doing. Its such a shame that not everyone does it!!


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