READING your news about the sunken boat on the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation and how many had already sunk this year, led me to do a 'search', and I was amazed at the number, writes James Henry.
Though boats are sunk all over the place, most are sunk in locks, and with the exception of those caught by the protrusion below the water level of Bank Newton Lock (40) on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, all have had their stern caught on the cill.
I have never been able to understand this being allowed to happen, for anyone taking notice of a boat going down in a lock that suddenly tilts, must realise at once what has happened and so close the paddles stopping further water being allowed out of the lock, so saving the boat. Then it is simply a matter of filling the lock until the boat floats free.
It must be obvious to all if boats are caught on the cill and sink, those in charge are not taking notice, or perhaps don't know what is happening and don't know what to do.
And there is the rub. I have hired from four different companies before I was able to afford my own narrowboat, but don't remember any telling of the danger of a boat being caught on the cill, though two of the hire companies did first take me and the boat through a lock. I have always thought, and other boaters I have spoken to think the same that hirers don't want to tell their customers that the boat can be caught and sink in a lock. It would tend to put them off!
Not all hire boats
And so we have boats sinking. But seeing the many pictures of sunken boats, not all are hire boats. I know of one boater whose boat was caught on the cill of Weston Lock on the Trent & Mersey Canal who had been boating for years, but was more obviously more interested in something else as his boat went down, and he told me that when a another boater who had just walked up yelled at him, it was too late, admitting to me it was his own fault as he should have been more careful especially being a singe handed boater.
There really is a solution however, and a very simple one at that—simply make sure the boat is at the front of the lock, away from the cill, when going down. If hire companies are loath to tell their customer about the boat being caught on the cill and sinking, at least they can have a notice plastered on the stern bulkhead telling to keep the boat forward when descending.
Save many boats
I'm sure it would save many boats from being sunk and at the same time prevent hold-ups through the time taken to remove the boats from the locks. (I read it took a week to get the boat out of that deep lock at Bath—pictured.)
You would really think that instead of just marking 'cill' on the ground, Canal & River Trust people would have the gumption to give more detail of the danger, but I expect the Trust shies away from mentioning 'danger' as not really in keeping with promoting its waterways...