Using Locks


When you approach locks look for the sign that will tell you if there is a Lock Keeper on duty or if it is on Self Service.

Manned Locks

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 the Large, usually green, box standing at either end of the lock)

Lock Keepers have an uncanny sixth sense and invariably know there is a vessel approaching, or waiting, even when you are unaware of him/her. Be patient, if you have been waiting a while, it could be the lock keeper is attending to the weir.

When the gates are opened wait for the Lock Keepers 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 from the bow (front) of your boat and another from the stern (back) dropped over a bollard. Keep these lines tight, if you are going up in the lock keep pulling the line in to ensure your boat keeps alongside the lock wall and isnt swept back, forwards or sideways into other boats.

In Thames locks you are asked to turn off your engine once the vessel is safely secured.

When going downstream be very careful to check your lines are able to run freely around the bollards and are not able to catch or bite in such a way as they stop your boats stately decent as the water drains from the lock.

If there were boats in front of yours and you have to wait for the next lock cycle, please move your boat along the mooring to allow boats to moor behind you.

When going upstream some of the locks are very deep which can make securing lines difficult, lock keepers will take your lines. If asked to throw a line to a lock keeper don’t throw it at them aim it beside them.

Be aware that some locks are side filling, which, depending on your vessel can make holding the lines much harder than in a conventional top end filled lock.


Unmanned Locks

Most of the locks are hydraulically operated so this is a matter of pushing buttons. The control cabinets have panels with instructions on them, read them carefully! 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 gate close button and or the sluices close button, then walk back and try again!

Self service is slower than when the locks are manned because the sluices open in stages. At a few locks you have to open the sluices and then wait two minutes to open them further, but again, read the instructions carefully. 


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