Rules of Navigation

These rules are continuously under review, so if you spot an error or can suggest something do get in touch

  1. Boating must be in the same direction ie Bow towards Hempstead Bridge. Boats should ideally turn between the landing stage and Hempstead Bridge to prevent accidents and congestion in this busy location. If this is not possible due to other craft or fishermen being present carry on through Hempstead Bridge and turn there.
  2. Boats should keep close to the bank on their starboard side (towpath side when travelling away from Gloucester). Do not cut corners.
  3. Where it is safe keep away from the bank to avoid tangling with angler's lines.
  4. Try and avoid stopping close to anglers, especially if you intend to rest and talk for a while. Be especially careful not to stop in the middle of a competition. If it is necessary to stop, there should be a gap every 50 pegs in which you can stop without causing too much disturbance to the anglers.
  5. When training, rowers and safety boats are asked to stay clear of moored boats to avoid excessive wash which may cause discomfort and damage. Being disturbed by megaphones and wash early on a weekend morning is not most canal users idea of fun.
  6. Make yourself aware of the bridges on the canal - see separate section “Know your Bridges”. Bridges are to be taken single file and as close to the centre as possible to prevent damage of boat or equipment.
  7. Care should be taken at bridges, rowers must obey the traffic lights even if there seems to be no other boat traffic, always proceed with caution even when you have a green light – the on-coming boat may have made a mistake. Take heed of any advice given by the Bridge Keeper and wherever you can let the bridge keeper know that you have heard and are following his instructions.
  8. When bridges are open, or being opened, they must not be passed through, unless the Bridge Keeper tells you clearly that it is safe to do so (a wave of the arms is not sufficient!). Opening signs include: audible warning, barriers down, Bridge Keeper winding, bridge moving, boats waiting - in other words, be alert to all activity on both sides of the bridge. Even if the bridge keeper has said it is safe for you to go through - you are still responsible for the safety of yourself, other canal users and your boat, so make sure it is the bridge keeper and that you are being signalled. If in doubt, stick to the traffic light rules.
Bridge Traffic Lights
Colour Action Meaning
Red Flashing Stop and Wait.

The bridge is in use - it may be opening, closing or other boats may be passing through it.

Do not proceed even if it looks clear.


Stop and Wait.

Alert the bridgekeeper if necessary

There may be on coming boats or boats which have just gone through the bridge or the bridge keeper may have been detained on some other matter and needs to park the lights on red, so be patient .

If you feel that the bridge keeper hasn't seen you, attract his attention (politely). If you have a whistle, blow one long blast.

Green Proceed Although it is safe to proceed, still keep a look out for other canal users.
No Lights Proceed with caution

If the bridge is unmanned, the lights may well be switched off - you can assume that they will be off on both sides, so be vigilant for on coming boats (and club crews).

Once through the bridge, do not stop until you are at least 100m clear.

  1.  In general crews travelling in the Sharpness to Gloucester direction should be given priority, but where possible give way to any crews racing or doing full pressure training pieces.
  2. When a tanker or other large ship is encountered pull into the side as soon as possible and wait for the ship to pass. Be aware that the ship's pilot has a very limited field of vision in front of him and has no room to manoeuvre past you. Be aware of the "draw" from large ships; use your blades to keep the boat away from the bank.
  3. When turning, wait until all other crews or boats have passed. Do not stop within 100m of the bridge.
  4. When returning to the Club from Gloucester pass through Hempstead Bridge, keep to the correct (towpath) side of the canal and paddle past all the crews waiting before turning and disembarking at the landing stage.

You will notice the number of rules devoted to bridges - this is because most incidents occur near them. So treat them as standing hazards, develop a good 'bridge sense' - it's all part of good watermanship.