The Visitors Tidal Trent – For Inland Waterways Craft

“If skippers of inland boats visiting the tidal Trent do no more than read the single page Checklist 1 of this document, then they will be significantly better prepared for this river than is currently the case? Checklist 2 is a bonus!!”
 – local boater

DISCLAIMER: Nothing contained in this or other documents within the “Trentlink” Group, should be considered an “instruction” or even “guidance” It is simply “Best Practice and Experience” gathered from local boaters familiar with the river. The safe operation of any vessel on this, and any other river, remain the total responsibility of the individual skipper.

This document consists of:

  • Checklist 1 (pre arrival)
  • Checklist 2 (on the river)
  • General introduction and explanation of the points in Checklist 1.

Checklist 1 (Pre Arrival)

Advance Planning

  1. If using the river as a part of a “ring”, consider using it from north to south. That’s upstream, from Keadby towards Cromwell Lock.
  2. Consider if you will break your journey at West Stockwith (Chesterfield Canal) or Torksey (Fossdyke Canal)
  3. Allow 2 to 3 days for transit
  4. Cromwell Lock moorings are busiest at weekends – program Cromwell for mid week if possible.
  5. Consider – Will you invest in VHF, which may require training?
  6. Check your boat insurance will cover you for journey on the tidal river
  7. Obtain “River Trent (Tidal) Cromwell Lock to Trent Falls” (the “Chart” of the river), this is an essential, and contains all contact details. (Buy Here – The Boating Association)
  8. Consider “Narrowboat on The Trent” (Buy Here – Chesterfield Canal Trust)
  9. Be aware of the information from the “Trentlink” Facebook Group that will contain useful information from local boaters such as explaining how the tide works and how you can calculate your approximate lock time onto the river. See the “Trentlink” Facebook Group “Files” or “Topics” tab, or Post any questions.

Check Equipment

  1. Confirm boat mechanically and structurally in good order.
  2. Carry an anchor and chain. Know how you will rig it, and when, and how you would use it.
  3. VHF, and/or carry a mobile phone – ensure both where you can hear an incoming call!
  4. Consider lifejackets, and navigation lights (A tunnel light is NOT a substitute)

The Week Before

  1. Post for potential “Buddy” boat(s) on the Trentlink Buddy Facebook Group
  2. At least 48 hours before, contact lock keeper. Consider how much “Fresh” there is in the river.
  3. Confirm sufficient (and clean) fuel, and engine checks in good order.
  4. Ensure anchor and moorings on board are attached securely. Do crew know how to use them safely?
  5. Arrive 2 hours before lock time to meet lock keeper and “Buddies”.

Checklist 2 (On the River)

  1. Be aware the lock keepers will give advice, but on this commercial river they will NOT generally stop you from leaving the lock unless the Environment Agency flood gates have been closed. The decision to go onto the river remains entirely with each skipper.
  2. Exchange contact details with lock keepers and “Buddy Boats” at lock at same time. Agree if buddies will stay in close formation? 
  3. When called into the lock (“Green” traffic light), as with all Trent locks, you will generally need to make fast “both ends” to the blue covered wires set into the lock walls.
  4. When leaving Keadby or West Stockwith, expect that a narrowboat may suddenly “list” a few degrees as you enter and cross the river current. This is not unusual – but can be alarming to crew who are not expecting it! 
  5. The nature of the riverbed makes surface “turbulence” a feature on much of the river especially below Torksey. This does not necessarily mark shallow patches, but you may feel the effect. This can be particularly noticeable under bridges (especially Gainsborough) and around the outside of bends. It is best avoided near the banks, especially on bends.
  6. Follow progress on the “chart” and follow recommended track. Each Kilometre has a marker on the bank and on the chart between Nottingham and Gainsborough. (There are no markers on the Gainsborough to Keadby section)
  7. The most common cause of grounding is folk “cutting the corners” which is where the river silts up. Follow the channel on the chart, staying slightly to starboard of the centre of the channel, especially on bends. (Bends at Km 75-76, and Km 64 are particularly prone to silting, (See “Topic” #noticetomariners) but all bends should be treated with care and attention)
  8. Stay away from sunken islands marked on the chart and by signs on the banks. 
  9. Use a cruising speed that does not overstress the engine. In event of any mechanical concerns, endeavour to act before you lose power by engaging the help of “Buddy” early, or by use of the anchor early, to avoid ANY risk of grounding.
  10. If you go aground on a falling tide – endeavour to refloat as soon as possible and stay off the steep banks.
  11. As on any river with a significant current, it is usually advisable to turn and “stem the tide” before manoeuvring onto a jetty, going to anchor, or preparing to enter the locks such as West Stockwith or Keadby.
  12. If breaking your journey at Gainsborough (Km 88) or Dunham (Km 65) ensure the lock keepers are aware of your extended journey time. Gainsbourough pontoon has shallow patches at both ends at low water, and is not advisable if an Aegir is due.
  13. Call the lock keeper by VHF or telephone when approaching so that you can slow down if lock is busy.
  14. The entrances to West Stockwith and Keadby Locks are immediately off the river and at right angles to the flow. Various videos of how this entrance can be found under the “Trentlink” Facebook Group “Topic” tab and marked #locks .


The “Trentlink” Facebook Group (TLG) and this associated Internet site is intended for the skippers of inland waters’ boats, probably with a normal cruising speed of between 4 and 6 knots and who are not familiar with the river.

But whatever your craft, whatever your experience, welcome to the Trentlink Group. Welcome to the River Trent! Contrary to popular rumour elsewhere on the cut – there are NO monsters on the river!

The Checklist 1 – Explained!

1/ If using the Trent as part of a cruising ring, consider advantage of using the river from “north to south” (Keadby to Cromwell):
a/ Single day transit more likely to be possible
b/ Strongest part of river done first!
c/ Most of the journey is on a “rising tide” minimising risk of hard grounding before assistance can be sought…
d/ Moorings tend to be more available at Keadby than at Cromwell
e/ Unless your visiting West Stockwith – the locks are all easy to get into!

But…. The other way is commonly done by local boaters!

2/ There are documents within this website that will help you understand how the Trent tides work.

3/ Identify a 2- or 3-day window that you will want to use, leaving a day “spare” in case of poor conditions on the day, or to allow you to “buddy up” with another boat

  • Use the planning document to calculate what time of day the tides are right for departure on those days – and consider if those departure times will allow a daytime transit. For reasons you can read about, while Keadby to Cromwell can be done in a day (if daylight/lock hours permit), Cromwell to Keadby is generally done in two “bites” allowing a tide to pass while you stop at Torksey.

4/ If you target Cromwell for mid-week (Tues to Thurs) you will have better chance of a reasonable mooring at Cromwell which is heavily used by “weekenders” There is no regulation on this.

5/ VHF radio. The Navigation Authority for the river north of Gainsborough is the Hull Port Authority, Associated British Ports (ABP). Their byelaws (from their website and copied into the Group files here) require VHF north of Gainsborough A VHF is also useful for talking to ALL the lock keepers, and potentially to other boats on the Trent, (including the non-tidal section). But the transmission range of a handheld radio with its aerial close to water level, is limited, so while you may hear “bigger” radios, they may not hear you – and your opportunities to use the radio in ABP waters will probably be small. Thus many “one off” visiting boats choose not to carry a VHF.

A MOBILE PHONE, with a charged battery, and kept where you can hear it may have better capabilities – if you have exchanged numbers with the lock keepers, AND any boat you are travelling with.
Locals tend to have both.

6/ INSURANCE. Most boats insurance seems to cover at least the “canal to canal” section between Keadby and Cromwell locks but may carry other provisos such as not mooring overnight or carrying an anchor.

Failure to comply with Navigation Authority byelaws (VHF and “manning levels” for example) may also invalidate your insurance.

7/ Obtain a copy of the “CHART” of the river called “River Trent (Tidal) Cromwell Lock to Trent Falls” by The Boating Association (Buy Here). This document, while not a true “nautical chart” in appearance as is familiar to seagoing folk, is full of good information and is a MUST to allow you to stay in the deepest part of the river, and to know where you are! (Navigation “Apps” available for your mobile or PC should be treated with extreme caution as depths given by “Sonar Mapping” while looking amazing, are potentially very much in error on this and potentially other tidal rivers)

8/ Obtain a copy of” Narrowboat on the River Trent” by John Lower. (Buy Here). A beautiful simple GUIDE with photos of the whole of the Trent, not a “must” – but a friendly guide.

10/ Your BOAT must be in good order. (Would you sit in the fast lane of a motorway in your car if it was an old banger, you had just purchased? Or if you knew your car had a fault?) If in doubt, get it fixed, or dont go on the river.

11/ Get an ANCHOR, chain and rope. (Known as “Ground tackle”). As important, consider WHEN you would use it, and HOW you would SAFELY use it, especially in the confines of a narrowboat decks. There is a document files to help you select the right equipment, and it is anticipated this will be a topic the TLG will receive requests for help on. But like a parachute in an aircraft… you will probably never use it!

Torksey Lock looking from the Trent toward the Fosdyke. The lock is at the end of a cut from

12/ See 5/

13/ LIFEJACKETS. Personal choice. CRT staff wear them for all activities around the water. Unlike the canals, you won’t be able to “walk ashore” if you fall off, and within the locks, which are deep, you will have some ropes to handle. Some folk wear them all the time, some just for the locks or on unprotected deck areas. Some folks don’t wear them. Design, type, and use is for you to decide.

Navigation LIGHTS. Essential if transiting after dark or in restricted visibility.

14/ It is purely a suggestion of this Group, that you should try to transit (“BUDDY UP”) with another “similar speed” boat if possible, and about a week before your planned date, it is suggested you post on this TLG for a “Buddy” to see if another boat, or boats are heading for the same tide. There is no regulation on this, but you might even consider a tide delay to wait for another boat.

15/ At least 48 hours before your arrival at your lock onto the tidal river, CONTACT LOCK KEEPER. He will confirm or adjust your departure time and can advise you of the general conditions in the river. If asked he may have information of other boats that have not used the TLG. (There is no written requirement to “buddy up”, so it will be voluntary on your behalf if you wait).

16/ FUEL. While there are several suppling marinas in Newark, there are presently no supplies on the Chesterfield. The Fosdyke has fuel at Lincoln and “Stainforth and Keadby” only at Thorne. It is wise to arrive at the lock onto the tidal Trent with full tanks.

17/ ANCHOR: The “Ground tackle” should be fully rigged, secured and ready for use. As important, is to have a plan on how and when you will use it to prevent injury to crew and reduce any damage to boat. (See separate page or post a question)

18/ PLAN to arrive at the lock at least 2 hours before your agreed departure time to allow you to meet the lock keeper, and the skippers of any other boats going through. Discuss:

  • the TIDE,
  • the conditions of “FRESH” in the river,
  • any issues with the lock you’re heading for or other known traffic on the journey,
  • AGREE COMMUNICATIONS, exchanging telephone numbers with Buddies and Lock Keeper. If with another boat, agree if you are to stay in close company. Ensure your phone/VHF is where you can hear a call! If you are using VHF then agree which channels you will be monitoring,

REMEMBER: It is the SKIPPERS RESPONSIBILITY to decide if conditions are right for his craft and his knowledge – not the lock keepers. It is unlikely that you would go onto the river if “Fresh” is reported over 6 or 8 feet (maybe less), or, if ANY section of the river is in flood at High Water. (There will probably be a flood warning in place). “Narrowboat on the Trent” suggests that the author would not go on the river if the wind is above 25mph (Force 7).

Other higher powered, or more experienced local boaters – may make a different decision to you, but if in doubt – don’t go.


The fact that you are even reading this probably means you believe there is something more complicated about this section of river than most? You have probably heard stories that make you (or your “crew”!) nervous?

Actually, it’s like crossing a busy road…. You need to take care, but after you understand how it works, and you have done it once…. You will wonder what you were worried about!

Enjoy Your Trip!