One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Chiefly US. An apparatus consisting of a boat cradle on wheels, used in hauling boats between different water levels on steep stretches of canals, as an alternative to the use of locks. Now historical.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Documents Assembly State New York, 58th Session. From boat + car.
boat car/ˈbəʊt kɑː/
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