Canal Jargon

Canal Jargon "N-Z"

NORTHWICH

Boats, both motors and butties, built by W.J.Yarwoods of Northwich, Cheshire. Not only 'large' (6 plank) and 'small' (5 plank) but also an intermediate size - 'middle'.

OAKUM

Mixture of woven horsehair and tar used to caulk the seams of wooden and composite boats.

PIGEON BOX

The ventilator over the engine room, made from steel or wood.

RAM'S HEAD

The top part of the motor or butty rudder into which the tiller fits.

RUNNING BLOCKS

Semi circular blocks with holes through, used to guide a long towing line, and positioned on top of the mast and stands running to a stud in the butty back cabin roof and enabling the butty steerer to progressively take up the tension.

SALTLEY

Boat built by Fellows Morton & Clayton at Saltley, Birmingham.

SHEARING

Vertical boards of half inch thick oak nailed to the inside of a wooden boat hull.

SHUTTS

The false bottoms of a boat upon which the cargo rests clear of residual water collecting on the boat bottom.

SIDE CLOTHS

Tarpaulin sheets,(2 of) about 2ft wide running the length of the hold, and fixed down with wooden battens to the gunnel.

SIDE STRINGS

Hanging down the stove side of a back cabin behind the chimney and used to tie wet lines for drying.

SKEG

Iron or steel plate used to support the weight of the rudder on a motorboat.

SKEG BAR

A vertical bar to give additional strength to the skeg.

SLIDE

Covers the hatches on the roof of a back or fore cabin.

SNAKES

Iron guards on the top bends of some wooden narrowboats.

SPEED WHEEL

The wheel (usually brass) mounted at the end of the shaft which controls the boat engine's speed.

SPREADERS

Pieces of batten, birdsmouthed over the gunnel and top plank, placed midway between the beams to add support to the top plank.

SNATCHER

A short thick line for towing a butty along short pounds.

STANDS

Shaped planks, located in the boat kelson and passing through a beam, which support the top planks.

STATION BOAT

Boat built by W.J.Yarwoods for the LMS railway, for use on the railway interchange work on the BCN and later converted to long distance by adding a cabin and running gear during the 1950's.

STEAMER

Boat originally designed to be powered by a steam engine.

STEM BAR

The iron bar right at the front of the boat, curved round to the foredeck.

STRAPPING IN

Using a line from the dolly or stud on a boat to pull a top gate closed as the boat moves in.

STRAPPING POST

The post on the top gate an extension of which is used to strap a boat to a standstill and simultaneously close the gate. Alternatively a strong post set in the ground adjacent to the gates and used to bring the boat to a halt.

TALLPIPE

Engine exhaust pipe usually around 3ft in length.

THUMB LINING

Setting a line to the handrail of a gate from the mast, so that reversing the boat pulls open the bottom gate when the lock empties.

TITCH

Small engine exhaust pipe, around 6in high.

TILLER

The demountable bar user to steer a boat; brass on a motor, and curved ash on a butty.

TILLER PIN

Usually made of old bedstead knobs; to locate a motor's tiller bar on its ram's head.

TILLER STRINGS

Two lines stapled to the inside of the hatches for slipping over the tiller bar to hold it either straight, or more usually offset, when unattended in a lock. Avoids water turbulence swinging the tiller into or over the lock walls.

TIPCAT

A fender about 6" in diameter to protect the rear of the butty rudder. Also used to describe the elongated rear fenders on a motor boat which would be capped with a 'button'.

TIPPET CLOTH

An extra cloth about 1ft wide running along the top plank on top of the top cloths.

TOP BEND

The two bends at the front of the boat below the foredeck.

TOP CLOTHS

Large tarpaulin sheets that cover the hold, and overlap the side cloths.

T STUD

TUNNEL HOOK

One each side of a butty stern and used for connecting boats together when being towed through a tunnel, to allow the rudder to be steered.

TURK'S HEAD

Decorative rope fender adorning the top of a butty 'elum.

UXTER PLATE

The steel or iron plate above the propellor that forms the counter bottom.

WATER CAN

Usually holding 2 gallons and storing the drinking water supply on a narrowboat. Usually 2 cans on a butty and 1 on its attendant motor boat or 2 cans on a single motor.

WIND

To turn a boat around. (Pronounced like a strong air movement)

WINDING HOLE

A specially widened point in the canal where it is possible to turn a boat around. (for pronounciation see "Wind")

WIND BACK

Decelerate the boat's engine. Derives from, and pronounced like, the rotation of the boat's speed wheel.

WIND ON

Accelerate the boat's engine. Derives from, and pronounced like, the rotation of the boat's speed wheel.

WATER CAN

Usually holding 2 gallons and storing the drinking water supply on a narrowboat. Usually 2 cans on a butty and 1 on its attendant motor boat or 2 cans on a single motor.

WOOLWICH

Narrowboat motors and butties built by Harland and Wolff of North Woolwich, London, both 'large' (6 plank) and 'small (5 plank).

Z IRON

Alternative, little used, name for the ram's head on a motor boat.

This list is not exhaustive. If you can think of any more words or phrases which might usefully be added then please contact the webmaster by e-mail at dr_jimstorey@yahoo.com