South West Herts Narrowboat Project

Day trips


We take safety on the boat very seriously. Our Pre-trip Safety Briefing outlines dangers and safety issues leaders and user groups need to be aware of when using the boat.

Pre-trip Safety Briefing.

This briefing outline is provided as guidance. It is the responsibility of each group leader to make their own safety assessment (having regard to the ages, abilities and circumstances of their group) and brief the group accordingly. It can also be downloaded in pdf format.

Danger of falling overboard
1. It is Project policy that life jackets must be worn by all children and non-swimmers, when outside the boat. Non-slip shoes should be worn at all times.
2. When on the gunwales (edges of the boat) at least one hand should always be holding the rail (beware of gaps in the rails by the side doors).
3. When on the roof of the boat, three points of the body should always be in contact with the roof.
4. When on the steering platform, stand in front of the tiller.
5. The life ring should always be on the roof within reach of the helmsman.
6. Crew should familiarise themselves with the working of rescue lines.

Danger of crushing
1. In no circumstances should anyone try to fend off the boat with their hands or feet or with a pole.
2. When leaving the boat, wait until the boat touches the bank or mooring, then step off. Do not jump while there is a gap.
3. Do not stand on the gunwales while in locks or going through narrow bridges.
4. Beware of low bridges, especially when on the roof: warning of low bridges should always be given by the helm.

Danger of slipping or tripping
1. Loose objects should not be left lying on the decks, roof or cabin floor.
2. Beware of ropes and other equipment which need to be on the roof.

Danger from gas and fire
1. The gas locker should always be unlocked for instant access to valves.
2. On smelling gas, notify the group's leader, close all gas valves and ventilate the cabin. Do not light any flames.
3. No smoking is allowed on board the boat at any time.

Locks are potentially the most dangerous place on the canal for boaters. They are also where boat damage usually occurs. Constant vigilance is required by all. All steerers and leaders should familiarise themselves with the relevant section of the Boater's Handbook (a copy is in the boat cabin). Locks are deep so there is real danger of drowning. There is also a danger of a long fall onto the concrete cill.

As well of the danger of drowning, anyone who falls into a lock faces three additional dangers:
1. Being sucked into sluices > immediately close all sluices (drop paddles).
2. Danger from the propeller > immediately stop the engine.
3. Danger from crushing by the boat > immediately protect from crushing.

Care should be taken when crossing the lock gates. The lock gates should not be moved when people are on them.

Danger from working gear
1. Ensure the ratchet is engaged before raising the paddle.
2. Never leave the windlass (lock key) on the spindle.
3. When lowering the paddle take the weight on the windlass before removing the ratchet.
4. When moving the lock gate, wherever possible lean back on the gate and push with the legs to avoid injury to your back.

Dangers to the boat
1. Always ensure the paddles are down at the far end of the lock before opening any sluices.
2. When locking down, always keep the boat at the front of the lock to avoid the back of the boat hanging on the cill. If this should happen, close all the paddles to stabilise the situation and then refill the lock to float the boat off. (The boat has been damaged several times in this way. If the boat hangs up and the situation is not rectified quickly there is a danger of sinking.)
3. If the boat is in danger of drifting back into the cill or lock gates, lay the tiller over to one side to avoid damage to the rudder and to avoid anyone being knocked overboard by the tiller suddenly swinging to one side.
4. When locking up, always ensure that ground paddles are opened before gate paddles. Do not raise the gate paddles until the gate sluices are covered: there is a danger of water flooding the boat.

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Registered Charity No. 299973.