Bluffers Guide to Canals – talking like a hairy boater

Holiday Top 10sHere’s 10 things NOT to shout on your canal holiday if you want people to think you are a real hairy canal boater! Plus some useful canal words to use to impress the rest of your crew!

1 “Is this called a barge or a longboat?” – Neither, it’s probably a narrowboat but just call it a ‘boat’, unless it’s about 14 foot wide (barge) or you are on the River Severn or in a Norwegian fjord. (longboat). (And in London it could be a monkeyboat!)

2“You cycle up the canal ahead of us and open the lock doors.” – You are ‘lockwheeling’ up the ‘cut’ to ‘set locks’, or even ‘hobbling’.


3Bluffers guide to being a hairy canal boater 2“Throw me that piece of rope to tie up in this lock.” – It’s a ‘line’ or ‘strap’ and real boaters don’t tie in locks, they hold the ‘fore end’ against the gates with the engine, but it does take practice!

4 “Oh dash, our back rope seems to be twisted round the propellor.” – Probably your stern strap is around the ‘fan’, or ‘blades’. Good reason not to use ropes in locks, or was it hanging decoratively off your tiller pin?

5“The engine’s stopped, wind the valves up with the windlasses and let some water push us out.” – ‘Lift a paddle’ and get a ‘flush’.


6“I’ll open the engine compartment and take the lid off the weedhatch, might as well leave it off in case it happens again.” – It’s an ‘engine ‘ole’ and don’t leave the weedhatch open, easiest way there is to sink a boat! Anyway real boats don’t have weedhatches, so just to look ‘trad’, lie on the bank and furtle under the ‘counter’ with the ‘cabin hook’ first.
The hairy boaters“Now we seem to have collided with the side of the canal.” – We’ve ‘stemmed up’ (say it quietly).

8 “You stand on the roof and push off with that long pole.” – Its a ‘shaft’ and good advice is to push from the bank so there’s less chance of taking a headlong dive.

9“Ask the guy driving that other boat if you can pull us off here.” – Ask the ‘steerer’ to give us a ‘snatch’ (Honestly!).


10 “I’m whacked, looks like a good place to moor up opposite that wide bit.” – Sorry but you don’t moor up, you ‘tie’, and the wide bit may be a ‘winding hole’ so you could upset some real boaters who need space to turn! It can’t be that far to the next pub!

Plus here’s a few words and phrases you can throw around in the pub to enhance your hairy boater cred …. josher, little northwich, pigeon box, cratch, bolinder, JP2, hot bulb, speed wheel, breasted up, the welsh. the curly whirly, strapping post... but never never never say out loud …. bowthruster!

Any more Canal Speak to help us all sound more like hairy boaters?

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