Top 10 Canal Boating Tips for Beginners

With Britain’s inland waterways in better shape than ever, canal boat holidays are becoming increasingly popular and there are now more boats on the canal network than at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Each year, around one fifth of canal boat hirers are newcomers. A licence isn’t required to steer a narrowboat and all our operators provide boat steering tuition as part of their holiday packages, so it’s easy to get afloat.

Here are our Top 10 canal boating tips for beginners to help smooth the waters:

1. Keep to the right – unlike cars on our roads, boats travel on the right side of our canals and rivers so when you meet another boat, keep to the right

2. Steering basics – push the tiller right to go left, and left to go right and put the engine in reverse to stop

3. Use your horn – to warn boats coming towards you when approaching sharp bends and as you enter a tunnel

4. Tunnel prep – switch on your headlight before entering a tunnel, if it’s a one-way tunnel, make sure there’s no boat inside and if you have to wait your turn, stay well clear of the entrance

5. Don’t speed – stick to the 4mph speed limit (you are going too fast if you are creating too much wash) and slow down before passing moored boats

6. Mooring etiquette – when mooring up at busy spots, make sure you don’t leave a big gap and never moor opposite winding holes, on bends, near to bridges, at water points (unless filling up) or on lock landings (unless waiting to lock through)

7. Share locks – always share a lock with other boats if possible to conserve water and always wait your turn

8. Keep the boat forward of the cill – the word ‘Cill’ and white lines are marked on the lock walls and warning signs are placed on lock gates to remind you to keep the boat forward of the top lock gate cill (step)

9. Close the gates behind you – take time to check all paddles and gates are shut after you’ve used a lock, unless you see another boat approaching, in which case leave the gates open to help them and don’t prepare locks ahead of you unless there’s nobody coming the other way

10. Get the Boater’s Handbook – the Canal & River Trust offers a free handbook to read and video to watch before going boating for the first time, offering advice on how to navigate the inland waterways safely https://www.drifters.co.uk/boating-video.html

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