Paddle Pawl Design Contributes to the Near Sinking of a Narrowboat15 July 2015
Following on from IWA’s recent report on its concerns about CRT’s proposals to implement new paddle pawl designs, an incident was reported to the Association at the end of June that illustrates IWA’s unease at the introduction of a paddle pawl design that would prevent paddles being wound down using two hands.
Boaters who regularly visit the UK’s waterways from New Zealand were boating down Baddiley No3 Lock on the Llangollen canal. Two ladies were operating the difficult lock, needing two hands to move the paddles just one click at a time. The boater left his boat to assist them but suddenly noticed that the bow was hung up on the lock. He asked for the paddles to be dropped as quickly as possible, which proved very difficult as the ratchet on these locks cannot be thrown back but must be held back as the paddle is lowered. Those operating the lock struggled with this as they had insufficient strength in just one hand to lower the paddle. Fortunately, the boater had the foresight to open the upstream paddles whilst the other paddles were lowered, which put more water into the lock than was going out and avoided disaster. A less experienced boater may have been less fortunate.
The boater readily admitted that they should not have had the boat so far forward but also highlighted that if the paddles had been easy to operate he would not have left the boat to help and those operating the lock would have seen the boat was hung rather than putting all their energy into moving the paddles. Furthermore, if the ratchet lock had been like most that can be lifted clear the paddles could have been lowered with two hands more quickly.
This incident illustrates IWA’s concerns about CRT’s proposals and emphasises not just the benefit of having ratchets that can be flipped back rather than having to be held up but also the importance of having locks that are easy to operate as even experienced boaters can find themselves in tricky situations.