For first timers - Page 3

Published: Monday, 13 April 2009

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Owning a boat

IF YOU are interested in owning a narrowboat, the main cost is of course, the boat itself.

Though there is always a tendency to get the largest possible, this is not such a good idea, for not only does a large boat take more handling. particularly for beginners, there is an increased cost of mooring, licence and insurance, all of which depend on the length of the boat.

Narrowboats are by no mean cheap, for built of steel, with a great deal of time having to be spent on fitting out, makes them expensive. Prices vary enormously, depending on the builder and the boat's equipment and fittings. Plenty of secondhand boats are available. It is obviously all a matter of personal choice.

Keeping a boat

THE main cost of keeping a boat is the mooring charge, which various from canal side with virtually no facilities to a marina with full services.

Another charge is the licence, which allows you to cruise the canals and rivers. CaRT issue the licence which covers most of the waterways, though some rivers, like the Thames, as previously mentioned, come under the jurisdiction of the Environment Agency.

Insurance is the least of the costs, with comprehensive insurance covering loss of the boat and third party damage.

But do not forget running costs, which not only means servicing and repairs but also 'blacking' the hull from time to time to stop rust.


THERE are various limitations when cruising, the main being a speed limit of four miles per hour.

Though mooring can be virtually anywhere on the towpath side of the canal, there are a few limitations, such as at lock moorings, under bridges and on bends, etc.

Hire companies will not allow cruising at night, and it is not sensible to operate locks in the dark.


THE following has been included as a result of some of the questions we have received:


You do not need any qualifications to own or cruise a narrowboat.


A licence is not needed to' drive' a narrowboat or cruiser.

Holiday cottage

You do not have to cruise in your boat if you do not want to, for you can use it at its mooring as an occasional holiday home if you wish.


Many marinas supply electricity, with sockets on the mooring piers so that mains equipment can be used and batteries be charged.


A narrowboat can be your permanent home, as some marinas have residential moorings, with all facilities. Some canal side moorings also provide for residential boaters, but with less facilities. However, you may have to pay council tax, which may be included in the mooring charge.


Water can be obtained usually without charge from filling points along all the canals, at marinas and boatyards, and boats can usually carry around 100 gallons or more in a tank.


The huge majority of narrowboats are powered by diesel engines, the fuel being readily obtainable at boatyards and marinas along the waterways. With the engine being so slow running, boating is fairly economical on fuel.


Cooking and some forms of heating uses gas, which is in bottles, obtainable at marinas, etc. along the waterway.


If the boat is not needed it can be safely left during the winter months providing the drinking water system is drained and the engine has anti freeze in its cooling system.

Length restrictions

Length restrictions of narrowboats on canals is controlled by the locks, and though most will accommodate the maximum length of 70 feet, many, particularly the northern canals, will not.

Though a maximum of 60 feet is stated, on some canals, including the major Leeds & Liverpool Canal, we have seen a 58 feet boat having difficulty with these locks.

The Huddersfield Broad Canal is another that can only accommodate shorter boats.

Hiring out

You are not allowed to hire out a privately owned boat unless licenced to do so, appropriate insurance has been obtained and special Boat Safety Scheme regulations have been met.


There are no tolls levied for either cruising the rivers and canals or passing through locks under CaRT's jurisdiction. The privately owned Avon does attract a toll.


Many maps are available showing both the entire canal system or individual waterways. The most common showing the individual waterways is Nicholson's, which in book form, published in eight versions, covering the entire system. However, though its general canal mapping is most reliable, the accompanying information is not, and very often years out of date, being transferred from one issue to another with little modification.

There are other similar publications, including Geo, with the maps of the individual waterways in a different form.


The initials that seem to confuse first timers to the waterway scene are CaRT Canal & River Trust; EA Environment Agency; BSS Boat Safety Scheme; NABO National Association of Boat Owners; IWA Inland Waterways Association; plus many canals such as K&A Kennet & Avon.