Operating locks is very simple and part of the fun of a boating holiday. However, care must however be taken around locks and your hire operator will brief you fully when you collect your boat.

The lock consists of a chamber into which your boat passes, plus a gate or gates at either end.  The lock has openings (paddles or sluices) at the top and bottom to allow water in and out of the chamber to raise or lower the water level and the boat. These paddles are opened and closed by the crew using a lock handle on the winding gear at the top and bottom of each lock. On major rivers and waterways such as the River Thames and River Severn, the locks are manned and operated for you during the summer.  On the canals, the locks are much smaller and are operated by you and your crew.

Going Up

Close all gates and ensure the top paddles are shut

Open the bottom paddles to empty the lock

Open the doors and enter

Close the doors and the bottom paddles

Open the top paddles to fill the lock

As the boat rises, make sure the bow does not snag on the forward lock gate

Open the top gates and exit

Going Down

Close all gates and ensure the bottom paddles are shut

Open the top paddles to fill the lock

Open the doors and enter

Close the doors and top paddles

Open the bottom paddles to empty the lock

There is a cill (step) behind you under the top gate. As the boat falls, stay forward in the lock or your boat may strike it as the water level falls.

Open the bottom gates and exit

Lock etiquette & safety

Always share a lock with other boats if possible to help conserve water and always wait your turn at a busy lock

Don’t prepare locks ahead of you if you can see boats coming in the other direction

Always make sure all gates and paddles are closed after you leave a lock, unless you see another boat approaching, in which case leave the gates open to help them

Before opening the sluices fully, check how much water is coming in by opening one paddle half way first, as you could flood a boat if you open them too quickly

Keep the boat forward of the top lock gate cill (step) – the word ‘Cill’ and white lines are marked on the lock walls and warning signs are placed on lock gates

Never dangle your arms and legs over the side of the boat or the lock as they can get crushed between the boat and lock side

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