Questions for first time boaters

Here at Waterways holidays we thought it would be helpful for those of you considering your first boating holiday to put a few frequently asked questions together.
Previous experience is not required so a boating holiday is an exciting, fun option to consider when choosing your holiday. It is a perfect way to discover the British countryside at a slow and relaxing pace, taking in the scenery as you cruise along.

Canalside Pub
Canalside Pub

How many people can you fit on a narrow boat?
12 people is the maximum number allowed on a hire boat, this includes infants.

Can you go boating alone?
Yes you can go boating alone; however it is recommended that you choose a lock-free route, like the Norfolk Broads as locks can be tricky to operate on your own. It is also worth noting that some boating companies have a minimum of two people policy.

What are the different types of boat available to hire?
Narrowboats, widebeam boats, motor cruisers and sailing yachts are the main types of boats available to hire.
There are three different types of stern available: a traditional, a semi-traditional and a cruiser stern. The traditional stern narrowboat generally has the smallest amount of space. The semi-traditional narrowboat has a larger rear deck with seats, so this type of narrowboat is ideal for those with children. The cruiser has the largest area on deck so that more of the crew members can stand together with the steerer.
A widebeam boat is like a traditional narrow boat but much wider and allows for more space inside.

Are they difficult to drive?
All boats are relatively easy to drive. You will receive full tuition when you arrive at the boat yard for your holiday, with the exception of the sailing yachts which require you to have previous experience. All of the boats apart from the motor cruisers have a tiller, which you will get used to during the tuition session and with a bit of practice! The boats move at a slow pace so there’s plenty of time to get used to the steering.
Motor cruisers are the most familiar to people as they have a steering wheel. Some of the more modern motor cruisers have bow thrusters which make them easier to moor.

Can the boat run out of fuel?
Normally the boat will hold enough fuel to last you 10-11 nights so for shorter breaks you will be very unlikely to run out. The only reason you would have to top up is if you were going for a longer period. You can top up with fuel at any boat yard.

How do you operate a lock?
You will be provided with a windlass (a lock key) which will enable you to turn the gear to let water into or out of the lock. To enter the lock the water level must be the same as the water level you are entering from. Once the boat is inside the lock you close the paddles to stop water flowing straight through, then open the paddles at the opposite end to let water into/out of the lock. Once the water level in the lock is the same as that ahead of you the lock gates can be opened and the boat can exit the lock.

Cruising through a lock on a canal boat
Cruising through a lock on a canal boat

How do you secure the boat when you’re not on it?
You lock the boat like you would lock a car. We recommend keeping valuables out of sight and the curtains closed when not on the boat.

What entertainment is available on board?
There is usually a Television, generally incorporating a DVD player, so do bring your DVDs along with you. A radio is usually provided on board. Feel free to bring your own cards and games and of course feeding the ducks along the way will provide some entertainment! WiFi is also available on some of our boats.

How far can you travel in a week?
This is a difficult question to answer as it entirely depends on how many hours you cruise for a day. You can only cruise between dawn and dusk and must return your boat back to the place of departure. Generally people cruise for between 4 and 9 hours a day, at a speed of 3-4mph. Operating a lock takes around the same amount of time (15 minutes) as it does to travel one mile. If you add the amount of locks and the actual miles you wish to travel, and then divide by 3, it will work out how long the journey will take. It is also worth noting that the engine needs to be kept running for 3-4 hours a day to keep the boat ticking over.

Are boating holidays suitable for people of all ages?
Yes, as long as you are fit and able. Boating holidays are ideal for families, children if supervised can even steer the boat! You do need someone over 18 on board.

Can you take pets with you?
Yes, 95% of our boats are pet friendly. We do usually ask the sizes of dogs as floor space can be limited on the boats. Some boats will allow a maximum of two dogs so it is worth checking. Other animals are allowed, we’ve even had a duck!

Is there a fridge or freezer on board?
On the narrowboats, widebeam boats and motor cruisers there will always be a fridge, some have a small freezer compartment but not always, so we do not usually recommend bringing frozen goods. The majority also have cookers with gas hobs and a microwave can sometimes be provided.
Sailing yachts do not always have these facilities so it is worth specifying which facilities are necessary for your holiday.

What is the minimum and maximum time you can hire a boat for?
There is a minimum of three nights over a weekend for our boat hire, but some people decide to return the boat Sunday afternoon instead of Monday morning which is generally fine to do. The hire charge will however remain the same regardless. The longest is usually for 14 nights but you can hire for longer if there is availability.

Can you do a one-way trip?
There is one boatyard in Northern England that will allow you to do a one-way trip if you have previous experience. If you have no previous experience you generally always have to come back to the same departure point, so do please bear this in mind when planning your route. For holidays in France you can also book one-ways trips.

Can you fish from the boat?
Yes but you have to have a rod license. There is also no live bait allowed on board and you do have to be moored. Bringing your own equipment is also essential as boat yards do not provide it for you. There is a fishing season between 16th June to 14th March on the Norfolk Broads and some inland rivers.

Boating in Birmingham
Boating in Birmingham
To find out more:

Visit our website or give our specialised boating team a call on 01252 796400.