Jim Shead Waterways Photographer & Writer
Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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TermDefinition
Abaft Towards the stem of a vessel.
Above board Above deck level.
Admiral Class Narrowboats built by Isaac Pimblott & Sons of Northwich (except for the last two pairs, which were built by Yarwoods,) for British Waterways they are named after admirals from Anson to Mountbatten.
Aegre Tidal wave or bore.
Aft Behind or towards the stern.
After part The rear or stern of a craft.
Albert's Two A working boater's term for the two Cassiobury Park Locks, Nos. 75 & 76, on the GU main line.
Amidships The centre or middle part of a craft.
Ampton Boats These were unusual craft 80 feet long, much longer than the normal canal craft as they worked exclusively over a stretch of water without locks, between collieries on Cannock Chase and the Wolverhampton area.
Animals A boatman's name for donkeys used singlely, or in pairs, for towing boats.
Answer Pins or Anser Pins Hooks and shackles at the stern of a boat used for breasting up or strapping.
Apron Part of the lock bottom where the sills are fixed.
Arm A branch from the main canal.
Astern Behind. Usually at the rear of a vessel, as with a following craft.
Avon Tar Barge The Avon tar barge was bluff in the bows with a rounded counter stem. They worked over the Avon section of the Kennet and Avon, under sail until the First World War.Traffic began during the late 1860s and ended in 1967.
Awash (1) Washed over by waves or lying low, near the surface of the water. (2) The anchor of a craft is awash when lifted clear of the water.
Bacat The experimental system was capable of conveying 140 tons compartment boats across the North Sea within a larger double-hulled vessel. On reaching their home port the smaller craft were to be taken further inland by tugs.
Back door Communicating door of a narrowboat, between cabin and hold or cargo space.
Back end beam or Cabin beam A plank across the hold just forward of the cabin.
Back end rail An iron or steel rail running from side to side on the leading edge of a traditional narrowboat cabin.
Backering A horse towing a boat without anyone on the towpath to drive it.
Balance Beam or Balance. The beam projecting from a lock gate which balances its weight, and by pushing against which the gate is opened or closed.
Ballasting Dredging by hand with a scoop.
Barge Large commercial craft used for conveying goods or minerals over the inland waterways. More than 7 foot beam. Also a small passenger or pleasure craft.
Barge Walk A towpath in Thames-side usage.
Bargee Crewman or owner-skipper of a barge.
Barlow Boat These narrowboats operated in the coal trade, mainly from Birmingham.
Bars Horizontal beams in the structure of a lock gate.
Bats The blades of a propeller.
BCN Birmingham Canal Navigation.
Beam The maximum width of a boat.
BeamsOn a working narrowboat four removable lengths of wood placed across a boat's hold.
Beck A dyke or drain.
Big Engine A Josher fitted with a 15hp Bolinder engine.
Black Boats Thomas Clayton short distance boats used for the transport of bulk liquids.
Blade The propeller.
Block Rope Used with a pulley block to increase the power of a horse pulling a boat out of a lock.
Blow To A warning blast on the horn when approaching a bridge hole or other place where the view is restricted.
Blue Tops The last commercial narrowboats built by the British Transport Commission which were fitted with distinctive blue fibreglass hatch covers.
Bluff The sturdy, blunt, near-upright construction of a craft, normally relating to the bows.
Boat Any type of small craft on the inland waterways. Normally less than 7 foot beam.
Boat Snapper Man employed to move unattended boats during loading and unloading processes.
Boater Person living or working on a canal boat.
Bobbins Short wooden rollers, usually painted, threaded on to the traces of horses, thus preventing chaffing when towing a boat.
Bolinder An early single cylinder diesel engine fitted to many trading boats.
Bollard Wood or metal posts used for tying up boats at locks and moorings.
Bore Tidal wave or aegre.
Bottom Road Working boater's term for the route NE of Birmingham to Coventry.
Bow haulers Men working in gangs to pull boats or barges, from the towing paths.
Box mastSquare-shaped box-like mast or upright of a canal boat. Often telescoping in two sections. Used as a towing post and to support protective covers.
Box Pump A square sectioned pump made from wood with the wooden piston sealed with leather.
Bracing chains On working narrowboats these removable and adjustable chains were placed across the hold to pull in the sides of the boat.
Bracket Open Driving a motor boat at full speed.
Bread and Larders Boatmen who worked the south Oxford Canal.
Breast The end wall at the head of a lock, which supports the sill.
Breast Post Also called a Head or Mitre Post. The vertical post farthest from the hanging point of a lock gate.
Breasting up Two or more boats secured side by side for river navigation or passing through a double lock.
Bridge Hole The opening and channel beneath a bridge.
Brighouse Fender An intricately made rope stern fender for Yorkshire Keels.
Bulk Ornamental structure of wood and light canvas, stuffed with hay, fitted to the front board or cratch of a narrowboat.
Bull Nose or Knuckle Bull Nose is a Thames term for the rounded stonework at the entrance to a lock. Knuckle is the equivalent dockland term.
Bumping Pieces Wooden or iron protective cladding on lock gates or the breast wall.
Butt Strap In riveted iron and steel boats this was used to secure butted joints between plates.
Butty Non-powered boat of a working pair, on the narrow canals. Originally a horse boat but later towed by a motorboat.
BW or BWB British Waterways and its predecessor the British Waterways Board
Bye-Trader Any trader on a canal other than the company owning the canal.
Bye-wash The overflow weir that allows canal water to by-pass a lock.
Cabbage Turn A sharp turn between Wormleighton and Marston Doles on the Oxford Canal.
Cabin beam or Back end beam A plank across the hold just forward of the cabin.
Cabin block Wedge-shaped block on the stern cabin roof of a narrowboat. Used to support the rearmost of a set of top planks
Carvel build The construction of a wooden boat with planks laid edge to edge.
Caulking Making the seams of a wooden boat watertight by sealing them with oakum.
Chalico Protective dressing of horse dung, tar and cow-hair used in boat building.
Change Boat An alternative boat used by working boaters when their own boats were being docked.
Check Pin A horn shaped pin on the lock side, to hold boats on their checking straps.
Checking Strap A rope attached to the stern of a butty boat, which was put around a bollard to slow the boat.
Cill or Sill The brick, masonry or concrete bed at the bottom of lock gates.
Clamp up To freeze up.
Clapping Post or Clapping Quoin The old and modern terms for the vertical sill of a lock against which the lock gate closes.
Clinker build The construction of a wooden craft with overlapping side planks.
Clough A paddle, or small door, used to control the flow of water through a lock or weir.
Cockpit Open space at the rear of a narrowboat's stern cabin.
Coin or Coyn The hollow quoin into which a lock gate heel post is recessed.
Coin Post Old Staffs & Worcs. term for a lock gate heel post.
Compartment Boats Also called "Tom puddings". Once used on the Aire and Calder Navigation and formed into trains to be pushed and/or pulled by a tug.
Contour Canal A canal built to follow the natural levels, or contours, of the terrain thus reducing the number of locks and earthworks required.
Corketts Two A working boater's term for the Ivinghoe Locks, Nos. 32 & 33, on the GU main line.
Cotting A fenland term for uprooting rushes or reeds in a river. See also Roding.
Counter Flat, rounded stern deck of a motorboat.
Cradging A fenland term for re-enforcing a bank with reeds or turf.
Cratch Triangular front board on a narrowboat.
Cross Beam Wide planks across the hold of a boat, slotted to hold stands.
Cross Straps Two short ropes used to tow an empty boat.
Cross Wind To enter a lock or other narrow place at an angle and thus colliding with the sides rather than gliding down the centre.
Crossover Bridge A bridge carrying the towpath from one side of the canal to the other. Also called a Turnover or Roving Bridge.
Cut An artificial channel or canal.
Cutter A small pipe with a vertical loop of brass, fitting above the upright exhaust pipe of a motor boat to break the force of the exhaust under bridges and tunnels.
Dandy Paddle Trent & Mersey boatman's term for a top paddle.
Day boat Also known as a Joey boat. A boat often used for day trips, sometimes without a stern cabin.
Deck lid Hinged cover over a locker, at deck level.
Dipper A metal bowl with a handle used for as an all-purpose utensil.
Dodswell Two A working boater's term for Dudswell Locks, Nso. 47 & 48, on the GU main line.
Dolly An iron or steel stump on the counter of a motor boat, used for towropes.
Doors A fenland term for gates, therefore lock gates are known as sluice doors.
Double Lock A two-rise staircase lock or normal locks placed side by side to increase traffic capacity.
Downhill Runner (or Strap) Another name for a Checking Strap - a rope attached to the stern of a butty boat, which was put around a bollard to slow the boat.
Draw To raise, as in drawing a paddle to allow water through a lock or weir.
Drop To lower, as in dropping a paddle to shut off the flow of water through a lock or weir.
Dummy Bows The false bows attached to the first boat in a train of compartment boats, also called the jebus.
Dunnage or Dennage Scraps of timber used to raise cargo above the floor of the hold, thus enabling slings to be passed beneath.
Dydle A Norfolk term for clearing or dredging a channel.

 

Jim Shead Waterways Photographer & Writer
Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
Home Introduction Waterways List Waterways Map Links Books DVD Articles Photo Gallery
Features Contact me Glossary Boats Events List History Local Waterways Help Photo List