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Friday, 9 September 2011

A question of speed

Today we have another guest blog by Peter Underwood.

We have just finished one of the busiest parts of the year on the waterways and, inevitably the question of speed past moored boats raised its head. In fact a friend of ours posted on British Waterways’ Facebook page bemoaning the need to travel at 2mph past lines and lines of moored boats.

The result was the usual flurry of boaters arguing the toss which even developed into what one correspondent described as a ‘willy-waving’ contest about boating skills.

Can I plead guilty on all counts (except the willy-waving)?

When I owned a boat for weekends and holidays there have been times when – determined to complete a route on a long day – I may not have slowed down as much as I could have done.

And when I have been moored and a boat has rushed past at a speed sufficient to keep a water-skier upright I have been known to bellow in a less than polite way.

It has taken years to get to the point where I only complain about the fastest speeding boats and that has probably only come about because I have learned the best way to moor my boat so it is relatively unaffected by large amounts of water being drawn away from underneath it.

I will always try to have my bow and stern lines at a 45 degree angle to the bank, I never use a centre rope when permanently moored and I will use a springer line running towards the centre of the boat at 45 degrees from bow or stern if the mooring site is difficult. In addition, on soft ground I will use crossed pins to minimize any tendency for them to pull out.

That means my complaints about speeding boats are much more muted and I feel less stressed as a result.

As for being the culprit, I acknowledge that I am lucky in that now we are liveaboards and cruise all year round, we rarely put time pressures on ourselves so dawdling past moored boats is rarely as frustrating as it must be for others with a deadline.

Even then, the advice given by British Waterways and others to ‘slow down to tickover’ or limit your speed to 2mph is pretty meaningless. Whether or not you disturb moored boats depends on a variety of factors:

How deep is the canal?

How deep in the water is your boat?

How soft is the bank?

How well are the boats moored?

How wide is the canal?

Loaded working boats, drawing 3ft or more are going to be pushing a lot more water ahead of them and draining more water from beneath the boats they pass than a modern boat with much less below the water line.

A shallow canal means there is less water all round, so when it is moved by a passing boat it has more impact on a moored boat.

My solution is a pragmatic one. I slow down when I come up on a moored boat and I simply check their lines to see whether I am causing too much disturbance. If the moored boat is pulling at its mooring lines then I slow even more and use that as a gauge for the remainder of that section of canal. On a deep river section or a wide canal it is possible to pass a little faster than on a shallow, narrow one like the Shroppie. Commonsense really, although that will never satisfy the moorer who judges speed by engine note and decides anyone with a fast tickover is going too fast.

So far in 2011 I have been shouted at once, by a moored boat on the offside that I simply didn’t see as it was obscured by vegetation and not shouted at anyone – although I have been known to mutter to myself a few times as we rocked and rolled in the wake of a passing boat.

I’m getting more relaxed about it – how about you?


  1. I've only shouted at someone once - a hire-boater who passed me at full revs with a manic grin on his face. Just about everyone else on the mooring gave him an earful as well. (To which he responded "You don't own the canal, mate!") I've never been shouted at - but I did once get a polite mutter " I do wish people wouldn't go past so quickly" (I was on tickover at the time). Setting spring lines as you describe definitely reduces the disturbance caused by passing boats.

  2. I was passing one boat very slowly and I noticed the ropes were very slack, so it moved as I went past. A woman suddenly appeared from the cabin and gave me a mouthful of abuse and told me quite clearly to slow down.
    I told her I was on tick-over at the time and couldn't go any slower. To which the response from her was 'you should still slow down'. I just let it roll over me and hoped the next real speeder ripped her pins out - oh, and the mooring pins as well. ;-)

  3. some people give hire boaters a bad name me and the family have hired boats for the past 20 odd years and some still dont like us to go in a double lock with them haha