Tips For Canal Boat Hire Newbies

A canal boat holiday is a lovely, relaxing way of seeing the countryside at a leisurely pace.  Canal boating holidays are usually run on a self-drive boat hire basis, which can be a little daunting if you've never handled a boat before.  Here are some top tips on how to manoeuvre your self-drive hire canal boat.

  1. Prepare for your journey by studying the route you intend to take on a map the day before your trip.  This will allow you to see what mid-water structures or locks you might encounter, as well as highlighting any tourist spots you might want to stop at during your journey.  
  2. When moving through the canal and river system, remember that you may encounter people and dogs swimming, people fishing or smaller vessels on the water.  Always look ahead and take your time; there's no hurry!  
  3. If you're holidaying with your family, note that anyone over the age of 16 is usually allowed to steer the boat, but the person who has signed the boat rental contract is actually responsible for any damage, whether they are in charge of the tiller at the time of any incidents or not.  
  4. When negotiating other traffic on the water, you must always pass left to left (or port side to port side).  If a faster boat is trying to overtake, slow down and allow them to do so safely and unhindered.  If you find yourself needing to overtake another vessel, hoot first and wait for the pilot to indicate that you may pass.  
  5. When negotiating locks, put children and dogs inside the boat's cabin whilst moving through the lock, and ensure that everyone on board is wearing a life jacket.  
  6. Watch the lock traffic lights to see when it's safe to proceed.  The lights are the same as those on the road; red = stop, green = go.  If you encounter any problems when moving through the lock or if the traffic lights appear not to be working, pull on the red cable that you'll see adjacent to the lock entrance.  This will summon the lock keeper who will come to assist you.  Most locks also have a telephone that connects you to the lock control post in case of problems or emergency.  
  7. When passing through the lock, keep at least one boat's distance from the boat in front of you.
  8. While you are waiting to enter the lock, don't tie up your mooring ropes or fasten them around your wrist.  Once inside the lock, you'll need to operate a special pull-rod called a tirette, which will allow you to pass through the lock.  As the lock opens, hold the mooring ropes and use them to keep your boat straight and steady.  
  9. Wait until the lock gates are completely open before exiting the lock.

In conclusion

A canal boat holiday should be a relaxing and de-stressing experience for you and your family.  Follow the tips above for hassle-free self-drive boat hire and enjoy the benefits of a change of pace on the water!