Safety and rules for using the waterways

  • Boats travel on the right unless directed otherwise, e.g. to use a particular span under a bridge, or corners approaching a lock.
  • Overtaking is done on the left hand side. Make sure it is safe to do so. If you are being overtaken, slow down to allow the other boat to pass easily.
  • Upstream traffic gives way to downstream traffic.
  • Be constantly vigilant regarding the movements of other traffic and observe signs and speed limits. Never travel fast enough to create a breaking wave which would undermine the bank.

  • Always use two lines when in a lock, forward and aft.
  • Do not anchor in the navigable channel or under bridges.
  • Do not tie to trees, or signposts, and do not allow your lines to cross the towpath.
  • Commercial vessels have absolute priority and must always be given way to. Remember that most are ‘constrained by draft’ and need to keep in the centre of a narrow waterway.
  • Do not throw rubbish in the waterway or leave it on the bank. There is a new law in France that all boats must empty their holding tanks at dump stations. But so far we have discovered very few pumping out stations, or grey water disposal points, but the French authorities have agreed to install pump-out facilities along the waterways, and all new marinas will have them. They will then be able to implement the regulations. Rumours are that the EU will require all new boats to have holding tanks within the next five years. If you have a caravan type chemical toilet you may be able to empty this at a toilet block but enquire about whether they have a septic tank first as the chemicals in your toilet may destroy the chemicals in the tank. We take care only to use biodegradable toilet cleaners and washing liquids etc. – it all helps. There are some very good eco-friendly shops in France and biodegradable producst are available at most big supermarkets.
  • You are supposed to wear a life jacket at all times. In practice this rule is generally ignored. On the Rhône you will find signs telling you to wear a lifejacket (gilet-de-sauvetage) in the lock. Some lock keepers will insist on this, others ignore it.
  • Near to bridge piers be careful of the current and the wash and use the span indicated by the signs.
  • Used authorised areas for swimming and water sports.
  • You might be subject to a gendarmerie inspection or be checked before using a tunnel. They will check your safety equipment, (including your first aid kit) and your ship’s papers.

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