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Top 12 Canal Boating Tips for Novices

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. To help make your first canal boat holiday smoother, we’ve put together our top 12 canal boating tips for beginners:

  1. 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.

  2. You don’t need a licence to steer a canal boat. And 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

  3. Steering basics. Push the tiller right to go left, and left to go right and put the engine in reverse to stop.

  4. Use your horn. To warn canal boats coming towards you when approaching sharp bends and as you enter a tunnel.
  1. Lock logistics. Always have a steerer on the boat when in a lock and make sure the boat is kept forward of the cill (step).
  1. Close the gates behind you.  Check all paddles and gates are shut after you’ve used a lock, unless you see another boat approaching.

  2. Sharing is caring. Always share a lock with other boats if possible to save water and it means you can share the lock operation too.

  3. Tunnel tricks. Switch on your headlight before entering a tunnel, and if it’s a one-way tunnel, first make sure there’s no boat inside.

  4. Slow down to walking pace. There’s a 4mph speed limit on the inland waterways but basically you’re going too fast if you’re creating too much wash which disturbs wildlife and erodes the banks.

  5. Reduce your speed even further. When you are approaching bridges, locks, bends or junctions, and when passing other canal boats or anglers.

  6. Mooring musts. 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).

  7. Tying up. To keep your boat secure, you need to tie it to the bank with a rope from both the front and the back, and on rivers you should fix your upstream rope first.

    But above all relax & enjoy your trip! 

family enjoying a narrowboat holiday