No Experience? No Problem! Narrowboat holidays for novices.
They say you never forget how to ride a bicycle, and the same applies to canal boats. Once you’ve learned how to manoeuvre a narrowboat – and with help from Anglo Welsh’s experienced instructors, learning is a surprisingly straightforward procedure – you’ll never forget how. But be warned, once you’ve experienced a magical journey at the helm of a canal boat you’ll be hooked for life!
Over the last 40 years Anglo Welsh has taught more people to handle a narrowboat than you can shake a canal rope at, and we still love welcoming excited first-timers to Britain’s growing family of canal enthusiasts. In fact, one of the attractions of waterway holidays is that anyone can hire a canal boat with no licence or prior training**.
“If you’re 18 or over and willing to learn, we’d love to teach you,” says seasoned Anglo Welsh instructor Rod Bright, a popular figure on the canal boat scene who has been showing narrowboat novices the tricks of the trade for three decades. “We get people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities coming to us as beginners, but believe me, they all get the same thrill when they first take control of the tiller.”
So how does ‘day one’ on an Anglo Welsh narrowboat work? “First of all, we sit down over a cuppa and talk about which routes are most suitable for beginners,” says Rod. “Then we board the hire boat and show people where everything is: from the tiller, controls and engine to the heating and fuse boxes. Next we focus on safety procedures and canal etiquette. No Anglo Welsh instructor ever leaves a customer alone on a narrowboat without being 100% sure they’re capable of handling things on the canal without any risks.”
Next comes the practical instruction. “We set off along the canal and demonstrate how to steer the narrowboat, how to line up for bridges and navigate locks, and how to tie ropes for mooring,” explains Rod. “You move the tiller left to go right and right to go left which can throw people! When that’s all sunk in, we’ll set the boat up in a nice straight line and hand over the tiller. Once we can see the hirer feels confident and is in control we’ll wave them off on their first solo adventure.”
“Some people are off and running after 45 minutes’ instruction, others take longer; the key thing is we never rush people. And one advantage nowadays is that people often do advance research online which helps them to grasps things more quickly. Common sense and care is the main thing we impress on our customers; narrowboats may trundle along the canal at 4mph, but we’re talking 18-ton vessels, so some caution is required. Things happen more slowly on the water, but unlike driving a car you need to think ahead. Luckily, most canal boats are steered using a tiller at the rear of the boat. That may sound strange but it means that you can see ahead and also see what your boat is doing!”
“It is 30 years since I first steered a friend’s narrowboat and I’ve been hooked on the canal life ever since,” concludes Rod, who is now based at Anglo Welsh’s Wootton Wawen base near Stratford-upon-Avon. “It’s such an exhilarating way of spending your free time it gives me real pleasure helping people discover how easy it is to get started.”
Our team of helpful canal holiday experts are available to take your booking – whether it’s your hundredth time on a narrowboat or your very first go!
Please call us 0117 304 1122
**The Hirer must be aged 18 years or older. There must be two able-bodied people aged 18 years or over to take responsibility of the boat and crew at all times. Whenever the boat is driven by a person aged under 18, they must be under close supervision of a competent person aged 18 years or older.