A blue boat on Kennet & Avon Canal, England, United Kingdom

12 Useful tips for the infrequent boater

In Kennet & Avon Canal, Mini Breaks, Other, Our Journeys, Our Tips, Trip-Types, UK Travel by Janis

A blue boat on the canal.

If it is your first time on a canal boat or it’s just been a while since you took to the water, I have compiled some useful tips, that will make the joy of canal boating even better.

The Canal River Trust website is particularly useful for planning your trip and gives detailed information on the canals and the surrounding facilities.

  • Safety - It's number 1

    Safety is paramount particularly with children; it is so easy to become complacent. As your confidence builds you take these heavyweight goliaths for granted.

  • Research

    Carry out some research prior to your trip to find out where stores, pubs & restaurants are along the way. You may need more provisions or just fancy a leisurely gin & tonic. Often you are unable to see these amenities from the canal side and you will need to go exploring.

  • Plan your Route

    If you are not completing a circular route on your canal trip, then you will need to turn your boat around. Be aware of the turning points along the way and make sure you are aware of the length of your boat. The turning point may not be wide enough if you have an extra long boat.

  • Time - allow plenty of it

    Allow plenty of time to get to your daily end destination. It may take longer than expected navigating through the locks, particularly if the canals are full of activity.

  • Mooring up

    Again Time: Don’t leave mooring up until too late into the evening as you may be disappointed if you are unable to moor near where you had planned. Be flexible.

  • Watch your speed

    It is important that you slow your barge down to tick over when passing other boats, a slight swell of water may dislodge their mooring pegs from the banks of the canal, especially if the ground is wet.

  • Read the signs

    Ensure you read the signs on each of the lock gates you pass through, as often locks differ from each other. Some are required to be left open, others closed.

  • Consideration

    Be considerate to other boaters these canals are a permanent residence for some folks and are to be shared by everyone. It’s the simple things but if you follow 6 & 7 you will be fine.

  • Check you fluids

    Keep an eye on your water levels. You may need to top enroute this if you are away for more than a few nights. Once again plan ahead & understand where your watering stations are. Filling a Canalboat with a hose can take a very long time (30 minutes-1hr), and you may need to wait for another to fill-up.

  • Keep your lock key safe

    Keep your lock key safe, you won’t get far without it (you will normally have at least two, but if you lose one it makes operating the locks much more difficult). We have lost ours overboard before and had to purchase another. Remember they are slippery when wet!

  • Worth Packing

    Don’t forget your mozzie spray those pesky little mites are everywhere. Ahh, also take a torch with you, as the canal paths are not usually lit & maybe crunchy underfoot. I know your phone may have a torch function, but would you want to rely on that?

  • Worth Checking

    If you are planning to eat out on a Sunday evening ensure that the Pub/Restaurant you choose is serving food, it may be Sunday lunch only. You could be left with limited options in remote areas.

Enjoy: Take your time, you are on holiday after all.

About the Author


Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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