Canal Cruising Guide


Locks are used for moving the boat from one level of the canal to another - i.e. going up and down hills. They consist of a box with gates on each end and a means of letting water in at the top (higher level) and out at the bottom (lower level).

Some Technical Terms

These are the names used on the UK canals. Please refer to the diagram.

How It Works

The best way to understand how a lock works is to try it out. Fortunately, you don't need to find a real one and waste 30,000 gallons of water, as there are some simulations on the web.

Here is an explanation of how a lock works. They don't use all the same terms we do (see above) but the idea is the same. That site has a simulation so you can try it out for yourself. They also have a simulation for staircase locks (locks where the exit gate of one is the entrance gate of another), which gives you a whole set of extra possibilities for things going wrong. However, these are rare on the UK canals.

Additional Tips

Now you have the general idea, there are some particular things we do, either for safety or because the UK canals are a bit different to other canals.

If you've never done a lock before then they may seem rather complicated, but they're dead easy when you actually work in a lock party.

Next: Fires, Falling In and Other Unlikely Events.