Safety announcement

A serious incident occurred in which a sculler was involved in a collision with a narrow boat on the canal. Both boats were travelling down the centre of the canal and neither was aware of the other boat until it was too late. The boats collided, the single was immediately destroyed and the sculler was dragged under water for approximately 30 seconds before being able to surface. We are incredibly fortunate that no major injuries were sustained. This incident could easily have been fatal.

It is of the utmost importance that all rowers take great care when they are out on the canal. Standards of watermanship have been on the decline recently from rowers and pleasure craft drivers. We cannot be putting ourselves at risk through disobeying the navigation rules of the canal.

I am creating a document on navigation rules which all members must read and sign. This will be ready shortly, but in the mean time I will reiterate the basic rules here.

Ben Rodford
Captain, Gloucester Rowing Club

Correct Side

Boats must travel on the correct side of the canal at all times unless overtaking. The correct side is keeping to the Starboard side of the canal. This means staying to the bank on the cox's right, or the rower's left. The middle is not the correct side, boats should be on their side of the middle, leaving a gap in the middle of the canal between themselves and any passing boats in the other direction.

This includes stationary boats. When you stop you must remain on the correct side to allow others to pass you.


Boats must only overtake where it is clear and safe to do so. Crews must check that there is sufficient distance for them to safely overtake before any oncoming boats or potential oncoming boats would get to within an unsafe distance. This means that you must be certain nothing is coming before pulling out to overtake. Do not overtake on corners or before bridges where you cannot be sure it is clear.

To overtake you should check it is clear, pull out to the other side of the canal, pass the slower boat and return back to the correct side as soon as you are safely in front.

Do not overtake shortly before bridges.

When overtaking powered craft such as narrow boats, it is advisable to make the driver aware that you are there. Always pass on the overtaking side (Port bank). If a slower boat is on the wrong side make them aware that you wish to overtake and ask them to get on the correct side.


Traffic light signals at bridges must be observed and obeyed.
Red Light Stop
Red Flashing Light Stop and wait (usually a bridge is opening or closing)
Green Light Go through
No Light Proceed with caution after checking that it is safe to do so

Never pass under an opening or closing bridge. Wait until it is fully opened or closed and has stopped moving.
If a red light is on and no boat is approaching you must wait. Try to get the attention of the bridge keeper (coaches are good for this) and ask them politely to change the light. If passing through a bridge many times on an outing (such as an outing between the club straight and the docks) please advise the bridge keeper that you will be doing this. You must still only pass through if the lights indicate you can or you have been waved through by the bridge keeper.

Expect to wait up to 5 minutes at a red light. If it is still not changed for you and you cannot get the attention of the bridge keeper then proceed with great caution only after having waited for 5 minutes.

Rowers should always make sure they check it is clear through the bridge before passing through.

Rowers should not stop within 100m of a bridge unless they intend to pass through and are waiting for a green light.

This is a new rule within GRC to help us indicate to bridge keepers that we intend to pass and are not just going to turn round before the bridge. Please bear this in mind when turning near Hempsted bridge (turn as close to the GRC landing stage as possible without getting near the bridge) and when planning where to stop and where to spin on your outings.


Rowers and coxes must keep a good lookout at all times for approaching craft. You should be particularly aware around bridges, narrow points and corners. Whenever you get onto a straight you should check it is clear. Check again at least once within each third of the length of the straight.

Launch Wash

Drivers of coaching and safety launches should only expect to be able to closely follow crews when there are no other craft (moving or stationary) present. Launches must be slowed in good time and sufficiently to leave minimal wash when passing moving or moored boats. The bounce from a launch can last for several minutes and is disturbing to moored craft.

General Behaviour

Please be respectful to other users. Do not stop alongside moored crews or use megaphones or shout near them.
We do not own the canal and are not above any other users. The canal is not our own private training water. We must obey the rules of the canal and the internal rules or GRC. Please bear this in mind when planning outings and deciding where to stop, where to do fast pieces of work etc.

Be polite to bridge keepers and thank them for their work when you see them.


Please note any problems you have with other craft being in breach of the rules of navigation or if you encounter red lights not being changed for you at bridges. Please note date, time and bridge/craft involved. These reports will help us communicate any problems to British Waterways.
Message to Coaches and Helpers:

As coaches and helpers you are responsible for your crews and their actions (wholly responsible in the case of juniors). It is not acceptable to allow your athletes to be in breach of these rules.

It has slowly become more and more common to see coaches following rowers, some of whom are paddling on the wrong side of the canal and being allowed to do so by their coaches and helpers. This must not continue. Please ensure that your crews row on the correct side and obey bridge lights at all times. Rowers who are found to be on the wrong side without good reason (overtaking safely) will be turned around and asked to return to the boathouse. If this is a crew which needs escorting (juniors or beginners) then the group and supervisors must return with them.

Please remember that you are not indestructible. Rowers are the most vulnerable users of the canal. Our boats offer us little protection in a collision and we travel at the highest speeds on the canal while looking in the opposite direction. Do not put yourself in danger. If it is unsafe to complete a piece of firm or to overtaking a crew (e.g. with oncoming boats or red lights at bridges) then stop and wait. It will not ruin your session; you can always re-start a piece later and it is much better to do this than put yourself into an unsafe situation.

Narrow boats commonly weigh more than 14 tonnes and cannot stop quickly. Sculling boats weigh 14 kilograms (1000 times lighter) and will not win in a collision.