Bridges and Narrow AqueductsBridge

It is an unwritten rule of the waterways that if you are going to meet another boat then it will be at a narrow section such as a bridge hole or an aqueduct.

Protocol says that the one closer to the narrowing has priority but when meeting another vessel consider other elements such as the position of moored boats and whether they make it easier or harder for either of you to manoeuvre.

For example, if you are not sure who is closer to the bridge or narrowing and you have the towing path to your right or you are heading into the current, (making it easier to manoeuvre), then be the first to give way.

If you are in a convoy, or are meeting a convoy of boats, then the normal protocol is to take it in turns to pass through the restriction. There might be exceptions to this, like the Pontcysyllte aqueduct, where local rules may apply.

When giving a signal for the other boat to come through wave with your arm out to the side so the other boater will be able to see your silhouette.

If you hold your hand out in front of you and draw your hand toward your face then even the best sighted helmsmen may have difficulty seeing your signal.

Use of the horn is also helpful but make sure you use the proper signal, one long blast for Caution, one short blast for Stbd, two short blasts for Port etc.. Unfortunately, quite a few people on the inland waterways, particularly canal travellers don't know the correct signals and might take any horn noise you make as aggressive.

MasterclassMake your decisions early and consider the wind effect on your boat and the approaching boat when you are deciding who is going to have priority.

If the wind is blowing against you then, just like a river flow, you will have greater manoeuvrability and you should give way even if you are closer to the narrowing.

Also look to see if the other boat will be subject to cross wind. It might be that if he stops to wait for you then he will be blown across the waterway and block your path anyway.

If the towing path is on your right and a strong wind is blowing you that way then don't fight it. Allow it to push you to the towing path then wait for the other boat to pass. Take great care if you have to get off the boat to move off, consider getting the crew to use the boat pole.

AvoidDon't try increasing your speed to beat the other boat to the narrowing. He/she might be doing the same thing and you could end up with a collision and both of you getting jammed in a bridge hole.

There are many scars on boats and bridges to prove that some do try. Imagine the embarrassment of closing the canal because of a damaged bridge support just because you tried to save a few seconds. It may take hours for the authorities to extract you and during that time you will be sure to attract a wide audience of other boaters and towing path users, all of whom will be making judgement on you!