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etiquette - Acknowledging boats in tunnels

We were going north through Saddington Tunnel the other day and as I was approaching the entrance with my tunnel light on I could see an approaching boat's tunnel light, although the boat looked like it was some way off actually entering the tunnel. The light appeared to go off for a while and then came back on. I wondered if this was down to a bend or moored boats at their end of the tunnel, or were they just testing their light?
We met about 200 yards from their end. There is plenty of room for two narrowboats to pass, but we both slowed down and I said hello as we did so. Their reply was to greet me pleasantly but also to complain mildly "but you didn't acknowledge us, and we weren't sure if you were a boat".
I said "oh sorry" automatically, but then thought what else they imagined I might have been.
Saddington has the narrow locks at Foxton plus the lock free Market Harborough arm to its south and the start of the wide locks to the north at Kibworth Top Lock. Since I would assume that a wide beam going through Saddington needs liaison with CRT to book a passage I'm not sure what they hoped to achieve by my flashing my tunnel light at them, which is presumably what they had expected me to do.
Any ideas?

Asked by: Colin Wilks  | 5.06pm, Wednesday 31 October

WW says:

I agree there was nothing to be gained. Alas, some people think that using a horn and a headlight has the same meaning as in a car (or, at least, how most people use them in a car!)
In fact, flashing a light has the same meaning as a horn. One short flash would mean turning to starboard, two turning to port, three engines running astern (slowing down or stopping). To use sound or light signals incorrectly could make things worse.
Plus flashing a tunnel lamp repeatedly (as with rapid sound signals) could mean either "you are taking insufficient action to avoid a collision" or "I broken down/in trouble" though the latter should normally be continuous sounding of the horn.
You did nothing wrong- but it was probably prudent of them to be cautious- they may have been inexperienced. And you are right, if it was a widebeam, then CRT would stop traffic.
Incidentally, people using stern navigation lights in tunnels can be confusing- however some light in the aft deck can be helpful- intend to use a red filtered torch so I can see what I am doing!

Mark Langley  | 6.53PM, Wednesday 31 October

I should add- a long blast on the horn on entering the tunnel, and one long blast leaving the tunnel can help craft know where you are- some boaters seem to turn off their tunnel light before they leave, making them almost invisible!

Mark Langley  | 6.55PM, Wednesday 31 October

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