It’s always a perverse pleasure when something like this happens on my doorstep.

Stuck on a cill

Ignore the CILL marker and you will end up trapped on your stern gear in an emptying lock.

I get to leave my perfectly floating boat, don my flat cap and wander over to the scene of the incident, shaking my head and sucking my teeth with the aloof smugness of a seasoned campaigner. “What a tit!” we laugh. “Bloody amateurs!...”

I rein in my abuse a bit of course, because I know how easily these things can happen, but this kind of incident does illustrate how detached modern Britain appears to be getting from its boating heritage – and I don’t just say that because a rental boater managed to sink a boat. I say that because the national press is reporting the incident in the most peculiar way.

Sunken canal boat

The recent lock sinkage on the Kennet and Avon Canal in Bath was a perversely attractive opportunity for a spot of gloating.

Across the board, the papers appear to be almost congratulating the man for managing to leap free of the stricken craft at the last minute. In fact, it’s almost as though the boat itself was to blame. Forget the fact that it sank while he was at the helm. Forget the fact that he emptied a lock with his stern gear hovering above the ledge. Forget the fact that (as in every lock) there is a perfectly visible ‘CILL’ marker to make it plain where he needs to position himself. And forget the fact that while this hapless buffoon abandoned ship like a startled chimp, his two companions would appear to have done nothing to arrest the emptying of the lock.

In any case, like I say, as long as nobody gets hurt, I actually quite enjoy the chance to witness the odd boating mishap. It makes you feel just that little bit better about your own (perennially improvable) helming skills and it also helps reinforce the fact that you can never get too complacent. Of course, I won’t be able to move my own vessel until this latest incident is cleared up, but at least I can start the new season fortified by the smugness of a man who has yet to sink his boat...

Disaster afloat is rarely out of the headlines – here's a few of the most popular ones on 10 Boating Disasters and How to Avoid Them and Dramatic Sinking Captured on Video.


Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a journalist, copywriter and magazine editor with a long history in boating and a happy addiction to the water. He’s worked on boats, lived on boats, bought boats, sold boats and – when he’s not actually on board a boat – he can generally be found in his Folkestone office, tapping away at the computer and gazing out to sea.