10 Top Tips for Canal Boat Beginners

You don’t need to be an expert to hire a canal boat and each year around one fifth of narrowboat hirers are new to the waterways. 

With Britain’s 2,000-mile network of inland waterways in great shape, and lower carbon staycations becoming ever more popular, there’s never been a better time to dip your toe in the water and set sail on a canal boat holiday.

To help make your first narrowboat holiday smoother, we’ve put together our Top 10 canal boating tips for beginners:

  1. Do some advance prep – boat steering tuition is provided as part of our holiday packages, but if you’d like to get ahead of the game, take a look at the Canal & River Trust’s Boaters Handbook Video for some sound advice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXn47JYXs44
  2. Plan your route – the Canal & River Trust has interactive maps online to help you plan your narrowboat journey, including where to moor each night and canalside pubs to enjoy along the way https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/boating/planning-your-boat-trip
  3. Outside space – if you are bringing your dog, or you simply want a bit of extra outside space, opt for a cruiser stern narrowboat rather than a semi-traditional stern.
  4. Be greener – remember to pack your re-useable shopping bags as well as re-useable plastic bottles and coffee cups to help limit the amount of plastic you acquire on your holiday afloat.
  5. Bring some on board entertainment – for cosy nights in, bring along some cards and board games, as well some DVD’s as a good TV reception isn’t always available on the canals.
  6. Keep to the right – unlike cars on our roads, canal boats travel on the right side of our canals and rivers, so when you meet another boat, keep to the right.
  7. Watch out for the cill – when in a lock and make sure the boat is kept forward of the cill (step) inside the lock and check all paddles and gates are shut after you’ve used a lock, unless you see another boat approaching.
  8. Sharing is caring – if possible, always share a lock with other boats to save water and it means you can share the lock operating work too.
  9. Don’t make waves – there’s a 4mph speed limit on the canals but you’re going too fast if you’re creating too much wash, which disturbs wildlife, moored boats and anglers and it erodes the banks.
  10. 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, on lock landings (unless waiting to lock through) or at water points (unless filling up).