Learn the boating lingo
Are you new to boating? Do you know your port from your starboard? Do you know the difference between an on-line and an off-line mooring? If not, don't worry. We've put together an a-z of boating terms so that you can talk like an expert the next time you're out on the canal.
Aft / stern – back of a boat.
Anti-vandal key - commonly used on locks in areas where vandalism is present.
Beam –a boat’s width.
Bow – pointed front of the boat.
Breasted pair – two boats moored together.
Butty boat – a narrowboat without an engine, usually towed behind or alongside a powered narrowboat, has an open hold to carry cargo.
Cill – 'doorsteps' inside the lock, on which the lock gates sit.
Conservation key - commonly used on locks in areas where vandalism is present.
CRT key - Opens sanitary stations, waterpoints and some swing bridges and locks.
Cut – another term for a canal: workers ‘cut’ the ditches to make the canals.
Draught – the depth of a boat / how deep it is under water.
Electricity card – to purchase units of electricity to use facilities.
Elsan disposal – place to empty disposable toilets.
Flight of locks – locks which follow one another in quick succession, with a short section (pound) in between.
Galley – a boat’s kitchen.
Gangplank - a plank used for getting on and off when the boat won’t quite reach the bank.
Gongoozler – someone who stands on the towpath watching the boats.
Guillotine locks – a lock where the lock gate is wound upwards like the blade of a guillotine.
Handcuff key – commonly used on locks in areas where vandalism is present.
Hull – the main body of a boat, not including the cabin.
Inclined plane – a structure used to raise or lower boats from one section of the waterway to another in water filled troughs. There are no working inclined planes in Britain.
Junction – where two or more canals meet.
Lift bridges – a bridge that needs to be lifted for a boat to pass underneath. These are usually found in rural areas. They can be manually, mechanically or electronically operated.
Linear moorings – moorings along the canal where the boat is tied parallel to the towpath.
Lock gates – the mechanism that lets a boat into and out of a lock and also holds the water back.
Navigation lights – used in poor visibility on rivers to show other boats where you are and what direction you are going in. White lights – front and back; green light – right hand side; red light – left hand side.
Offline moorings – moorings in a basin / marina etc, i.e. not along the actual canal.
Online moorings – moorings along the canal.
Paddles – trapdoors in the lock gate or side of the wall of the lock which let water in and out of the lock (Also known as a sluice).
Port – the left side of the boat as the boat is going forward.
Pound – a section of waterway between locks.
Pump out – the facility to empty toilets that have a fixed holding tank.
Restriction – when maintenance work is carried out on a waterway, but the navigation doesn’t have to be closed. Boaters may need to follow special instructions, or be delayed for a certain amount of time etc.
Rudder – used to steer the boat, it is attached to the back of a boat and into the water.
Sanitary key - Opens sanitary stations, waterpoints and some swing bridges and locks.
Screw - the propeller which makes the boat go.
Skipper – the captain or person in charge of the
Sluice - trapdoors in the lock gate or side of the wall of the lock which let water in and out of the lock (Also known as paddles). ‘Sluice’ is also used as another word for a lock or a single guillotine gate separating two waterways.
Staircase locks – locks in which the bottom gates of one lock is the top gates of the next.
Stake – pole / post you hammer into the ground to tie to tie the boat to the bank (used when there are no mooring rings).
Starboard – The right hand side of the boat – going forward.
Stern – the back of a boat.
Stoppages – when work/maintenance is taking place on a waterway, a section of it may need to be ‘closed’ to boaters for a certain length of time. Stoppage notices are issued when this happens. Sometimes, work is done without the waterway having to be closed – a boater may suffer a short delay and this is known as a restriction.
Summit – the highest section of a canal above the top lock.
Swing bridge – a bridge that you move either clockwise or anti-clockwise to let the boat pass through. On larger canals, small boats can sometimes pass under swing bridges without the need to open them.
Tiller – attached to the rudder to control steerage through the rudder.
Tunnel light – large beam, like a car headlight, for use in tunnels to see the way and to be seen by on-coming boats.
Watermate key - Opens sanitary stations, waterpoints and some swing bridges and locks.
Weir – an artificial waterfall often built so the river or canal can run around a lock. The flow of the water is often fast here. Weirs can also be built for other purposes, such as to power a watermill.
Winding hole – a place on the water broad enough to turn the boat around.
Windlass – a spanner-like tool used to open lock paddles or sluices.