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Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 8:40pm

Post Subject: Why drive on the right hand side?

From my first hire-tour I always asked myself why boats drive on the right hand side of the canals but cars drive on the left hand side of the road. Can you explain why? Kind regards.


Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 10:15pm

Post Subject: Why drive on the right hand side?

In days of old one walked with your lady on your left with your sword also on your left side so that in the event of an attack you could draw your sword with your right hand and fight in the free space to your right. This required you to walk on the left hand side of the road so it became an almost universal custom - that is until Bonaparte did the typical French thing and altered it. The same applied to riding ones horse in that you wanted your sword hand to be closest to an attacker yet free from the hedge. We did no so continue to drive on the left. Because inland craft also got involved with seagoing ships in dock areas they had to adhere to the rules of the sea so everyone knew what the other was supposed to be going to do and the rules require ships on a collision course to turn to port (left) so passing on the right of the other oncoming ship. (see IRPCS or Colregs). It is felt that this may be related to the times when boats were steered by a big oar like affair hung over one side of the boat close to the stern. The pass port to port is not absolute so vessels constrained by draft are allowed to stick to the channel and may request that you pass on the "wrong" side. Competent skippers will recognize situations where this is likely and communicate with the larger vessels skipper by radio (hence the advice that narrowboats should carry VHF marine radio when on commercial waterways. On continental inland waterways the larger boat may hang a blue flag on the side he wishes a smaller boat to pass on (see CENVI rules). Tony Brooks

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