Toilet chat and double-mooring: a guide to canal etiquette

The boating community is growing rapidly, particularly in London. As a result, pressure on mooring spaces and facilities is also growing – making it more important than ever to be a good neighbour in order to make the life aquatic harmonious for everyone.

The general rule is: if someone is outside their boat, say hello. And be prepared to chat about your toilet – boaters love to talk about how they dispose of their waste. Whether you have a pump out, cassette or compost, it’s the quickest way to bond with another boater over a beer on the deck.

Speaking of toilets … slow down when going past moored boats. Being tipped into the toilet thanks to the wake of a speeding boat is quite undignified.

Double-mooring is expected if you are cruising in central London. Always ask the boat you want to moor against if it is OK, as there may be good reasons it is not (they have a new baby, a nervous dog etc). Tie to the towpath not your neighbour’s boat.

What is the canal revolution series?

Few things symbolise the way our cities have transformed more than canals. Around the world, cities have woken up to the power of their urban waterways: from Milan to Manchester, the former economic arteries of industry are being turned into corridors for walkers, boaters and wildlife. Cafes and restaurants are proliferating and canalside living is newly chic – and newly costly. 

As commercial interests muscle in on the last great undeveloped bit of Britain’s cities, Guardian Cities and the Observer wanted to take stock of a crucial moment in history, when we still have a choice: whether to turn canals into sanitised enclaves of wealth, or preserve them as a precious resource for all.

Chris Michael, Cities editor

Make friends with your new neighbours and exchange numbers – you will be walking over their home to get to yours. Don’t hold noisy parties or run your generator at night either – even if you’re not double-moored.

Do not triple-moor. This is only allowed in exceptional circumstances – eg if your boat breaks down

On roads, cyclists are vulnerable – but on towpaths they’re the menace

Do not fly-tip on the towpath. It would be nice if the Canal & River Trust provided more bins but ultimately it is your rubbish: take responsibility for it.

The boat using a lock has priority. By all means, offer to help but ask first. You might think you are helping by opening the top paddles, but if it means the bottom gate swings open and almost knocks the boat owner into the canal then you probably aren’t. Try to go into a lock with another boat if you can; you share the workload and save water.

The canal revolution series looks at what our changing waterways reveal about modern British cities. Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use the hashtag #canalrevolution to join the discussion or sign up for our weekly newsletter

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