penton hook lock.jpg

HOW TO OPERATE A LOCK

WHAT IS A LOCK?

A lock is a chamber that holds water and either lowers or raises boats between stretches of water of different levels on rivers and canal waterways - AN ELEVATOR FOR BOATS!

 

Locks have 2 sets of gates (top and bottom) and a chamber which the boat enters into.  Locks also have openings (called sluices) at both the top and bottom and it is by opening these that water is allowed in and out of the chamber to raise or lower the water level – and hence, your boat. 

 

It may help to visualise a lock as a huge bath with taps (top sluices) at the higher end and the plughole (bottom sluices) at the lower end.  This may remind you not to run the taps when the plughole is open, which wastes water and would never allow a lock to fill!

If you have a 90 minute session, DO NOT pass through a lock -

failure to comply will result in your deposit being lost.

SAFETY

 

The basic principles of safe locking can be summarised down to five key points.  Although this does not guarantee a problem-free passage, it should ensure that nothing goes drastically wrong.

 

 

1.PREPARATION

​Use a guide book to familiarise yourself with the surrounding area around the lock, its weirs and water flow.  Prepare ropes and fenders in advance. 

 

 

2.COMMUNICATION

Talk through the procedure and everyone’s intentions – just because something looks obvious does not mean that it will be obvious to everyone.  Turn the engine and music OFF so as to hear all instructions.

 

 

3.SPEED

​SLOW DOWN (except for strong winds and currents where a little more power makes things easier – ONLY TO BE USED WITH CAUTION).

 

 

4.ROPES

​Be very aware of rope handling.  NEVER tie up / hold fast a rope to a bollard / cleat as this could hang the boat as water in the lock falls.  Also take care not to allow ropes to bind on themselves as the force involved can jam ropes beyond release.  Make sure that body parts are not caught in the ropes either (or between the boat and chamber).

 

 

5.LEAVING

​Release the bow/front line and pull gently on the stern/back line – this swings the bow a couple of feet from the lock side allowing a central exit from the chamber.

​​

WHEN APPROACHING A LOCK, LOOK FOR THE SIGN THAT WILL TELL YOU IF THERE IS A ‘LOCK KEEPER ON DUTY’ OR ITS ON ‘SELF SERVICE’

MANNED LOCKS (Lock Keeper on Duty)

  • Moor on the lock mooring as close to the lock as practicable.

  • Once your vessel is safely secured, keep an eye on the Control Cabinet which is where the Lock Keeper will usually appear. (If this is your first lock, the Control Cabinet is usually the large green box standing at either end of the lock).

  • Be patient AND respectful.  If you have been waiting a while, it could be that the Lock Keeper is attending to the weir.

  • When the gates are open, wait for the Lock Keeper to signal before moving.  An apparently empty lock can have any number of smaller, slower, craft waiting to leave.

  • The Lock Keeper will beckon you when it is safe for you to approach the lock.  Respond with a very clear wave or thumbs up so they know you have seen their signal. They will often indicate which side of the lock they want you to go.

  • The Lock Keeper may not call vessels into the lock in the order in which they arrived, they will want to make the best use of the space so watch carefully and follow their instructions.

  • You need to get a line (rope) from the bow (front) of your boat and another from the stern (back) secure it around a bollard / cleat.  Keep these lines tight by holding and controlling them in person.  NEVER TIE THEM OFF as you will hang the boat if going down in the lock/water is draining from the lock.  If going up in the lock/ water is entering the lock, keep pulling the line in to ensure your boat keeps alongside the lock wall and is not swept back, forwards or sideways into other boats.

  • Turn off your engine and music when in a lock and your boat is safely secured so you are able to hear any instructions given by the Lock Keeper.

UNMANNED LOCKS (Self Service)

  • Most locks are hydraulically operated so this is a matter of pushing and holding down buttons.  The control cabinets have panels with instructions on them.  

  • If you can’t get sluices to open to fill a lock it is almost certain that the bottom gates are fractionally open or the sluices are not completely down.  In this case, go to the other end of the lock and press either the ‘GATES CLOSE” button and/or the “SLUICES CLOSE” button, then walk back and try again!

GOING UP RIVER

River/lock needs to be same level on arrival, therefore: LOCK NEEDS TO BE EMPTY TO ENTER & FULL TO LEAVE

If the bottom gates (approaching gates closest to the boat) do not open or the lock is full:

 

Ensure gates and sluices at the top end (furthest from the boat) are closed – press ‘CLOSE GATES’ and ‘CLOSE SLUICES’ then: 

 

· Open bottom sluices – press ‘OPEN SLUICES’ every couple of minutes until the lock is empty.
· Open bottom gates – press ‘OPEN GATES’.
· Whilst the boat is entering the lock, close the sluices – press ‘CLOSE SLUICES’.
· Close bottom gate – press ‘CLOSE GATES’.

 

Walk to top end, then:
 

· Open top sluices – press ‘OPEN SLUICES’ every couple of minutes until the lock is full.
· Open top gates – press ‘OPEN GATES’ and exit.
· Once the boat has left the lock, press ‘CLOSE GATES’ and ‘CLOSE SLUICES’.
· Get back on board by crossing over the locks gates (if necessary) and board the boat waiting outside the lock.

 

 

 

GOING DOWN RIVER

River/lock needs to be same level on arrival, therefore: LOCK NEEDS TO BE FULL TO ENTER & EMPTY TO LEAVE

If the top gates (approaching gates closest to the boat) do not open or the lock is empty:

Ensure gates and slices at bottom end (furthest from the boat) are closed – press ‘CLOSE GATES’ and ‘CLOSE SLUICES’ then:


· Open top sluices – press ‘OPEN SLUICES’ every couple of minutes until the lock is full.
· Open top gates – press ‘OPEN GATES’.
· Whilst the boat is entering the lock, close the sluices – press ‘CLOSE SLUICES’.
· Close top gates – press ‘CLOSE GATES’.

 

Walk to bottom end, then:
 

· Open bottom sluices – press ‘OPEN SLUICES’ every couple of minutes until the lock is full.

· Open bottom gates – press ‘OPEN GATES’ and exit.
· Once the boat has left the lock, press ‘CLOSE GATES’ and ‘CLOSE SLUICES’.
· Get back on board by crossing over the locks gates (if necessary) and board the boat waiting outside the lock.

LOCK.jpg