Canal Cruising Guide

Whistle Blasts

The captain is responsible for the boat at all times, although at various points he may delegate control to someone else - either a leader or a member. That person will be referred to henceforth as the "pilot". Narrowboats are up to 70ft long, which is a long way to shout, so the pilot communicates with the rest of the crew using a whistle. There are three signals, which are easy to remember because they rhyme:

  1. Whistle One - Attention. One blast is a warning or a signal that the pilot needs something or needs to alert you of some danger. If you are outside the boat look at the pilot as they may want you to do something (such as duck!). If a group of you are inside then send someone to go and see the pilot.
  2. Whistle Two - Mooring Crew. Two blasts means the boat is coming to a stop, and a group is needed to secure her to the bank.
  3. Whistle Three - Lock Party. Three blasts means that locks are coming up, and a group is needed to move the boat through the locks.


Cruising along the canal usually includes plenty of opportunities to get grounded on the mud, or crash into the bank, bridges or any other boats which might come the other way. If you are steering, try and avoid these eventualities (help and instruction will be provided). If you are sitting in the front well, hands must not be trailed in the water as you cruise. The captain cannot see you, and if the boat gets too close to a bridge or the bank your hand could be crushed.

For reasons of safety, no member is allowed to walk along the side of the boat or sit on the roof at the front of the boat. With the captain's permission, you can sit on the roof at the back.

Any member can have a go at steering the boat at any time, as long as the captain agrees that it is safe in that stretch of the canal. This appeals to some people more than others :-). No-one is forced to drive, but we hope that everyone will at least have a go.


We will occasionally pass through tunnels, which can take up to half an hour to pass through, These are great fun but there are a couple of rules to remember, Everyone must be inside the boat or in the front well. (If you stand in the front well, please try to avoid standing in front of the headlight!) Also, everyone who is not inside the boat must wear a lifejacket.

Next: Casting Off and Mooring Up.