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Mon Jan 8, 2018 at 10:30am

Baton down the hatches bad weather is on its way!  

The good old British weather is a general topic discussed most days, here in the UK. With most of us saying we would just like four proper seasons with the corresponding weather, at least we would know what we were getting. But as each year goes by we realise we get what we are given weather wise and we have to make the most of it.

With the summer over, we now have to prepare ourselves as the really bad weather will be on its way and this can cause some issues for boaters who livaboard over the winter months. By being prepared and not panicking when the weather changes, you and your narrow boat will come safely out the other side ready for the spring.  

It has to be said that maneuvering a narrow boat is very hard work in the wind. Trying to steer a very long boat in a long narrow channel on a windy day does have its challenges, and no matter how talented you are at steering, all this changes when the wind gets involved.

Therefore our advice is to moor up during windy spells or you might find cruising becomes more of a contact sport! If the water is flat and smooth then you can consider it safe to continue cruising, however if any sort of high wind movement starts, it might be wise to find somewhere safe to moor. Keep an eye out for weather warnings on the news or through your phone using a weather app.

Our advice during extreme weather conditions is ideally not to cruise, so if the winds are above force 6 its best to moor up. However some boaters feel this is not necessary, so it all depends on how confident you feel about keeping your vessel under control in adverse weather conditions.

Mooring up can also become a little more difficult in the wind, trying to pull the boat in against the wind is extremely hard work, especially if you are trying to do this task on your own. Fortunately the canal community are a very friendly bunch and if you are in any difficulties then someone will come to the rescue if you are near other boaters.

Our advice is; keep your eye on the weather and if you feel you may get into difficulties then find somewhere to stop before the bad weather takes effect.

Once you are moored up its wise to make sure that any items on the outside of your boat are securely tied down or removed until the bad weather has passed. Also check your canopies are secure and your boat is tied up securely.

The towpaths, locks and your boat can become rather dangerous over the winter months as the rain and mud makes everywhere very slippery, add into the factor that it may also be windy or icy, these areas can become potential accident areas. Take extra care and make extra time to carry out outside duties. If it isn't essential try not to use the locks in high winds.

Winter Survival Tips  

The waterways is much quieter place over the winter months as many boaters decide to return to the land as they want a break from cruising and want their creature comforts over the colder months. The thought of days full of rain, wind and snow aboard a narrow boat isn't for all of us!

However for those who do decide to stay on-board, the canal network becomes an idyllic winter wonderland for those who stay to enjoy it.

Follow our simple but useful tips to make the time you spend on your boat this winter as safe and as enjoyable as possible.  

Keeping warm  

The key to a successful winter on your boat is to make sure you are warm and to do this you are going to need one or maybe two heating options. Many boaters have a multi stove as well as either gas or diesel heating.  

Multi-fuel stoves are still the most popular option and come in a variety of prices, shapes and sizes. They are easy to install and even easier to use. Using coal or wood a multi-fuel stove works through dry heat and the fire will draw in much of the condensation from the boat.                  

*Diesel-fired central heating works the same as a domestic boiler found in a house. Simple to use and compatible with a timer, it will heat the radiators and provide hot water. Popular choices are Eberspächer, Webasto or Mikuni.  

*Gas central heating is another option and this will also allow you to heat your radiators and will provide hot water. However, it is not compatible with a timer because Gas central heating on a narrowboat runs from your gas bottle.  

*Both diesel and gas central heating need a yearly service by a qualified engineer.  

Cruising Advice  

Cruising can be affected by strong winds, which we covered above and also if the canal freezes. If the ice becomes more than a few cms thick you should NOT break through it with your boat. Breaking the ice by trying to cruise through it, will put a great strain on your engine and it will also damage the hull, scraping away the blacking. So in situations where cruising isn’t possible, just sit tight until the ice thaws. It’s really not worth damaging your boat; patience is all you need in these situations.  


Keep a good stock of fuel (coal, gas, wood) – it may seem obvious but running out can be disastrous, and that usually happens when the weather is at its worst.  

Keep your water tank full – taps on the cut do freeze during winter and a frozen pipe will disrupt the supply, so don’t leave filling up until last minute. Have around 30% of anti-freeze in your water and heating system.

And lastly stock up on food and drink. You never know when the bad weather might keep you from getting out, so by stocking up you wont go hungry.  


You can keep up with any stoppages that are happening on the network by checking on the Canal and River Trust website. Stoppages occur over the winter months allowing maintenance and repairs to be carried out and also if there are additional problems like; a fallen tree that is blocking the way and needs removing.       

Dress Code  

Now is most definitely not the time to be a fashion victim. Wearing the appropriate clothes will make even the coldest days bearable. Layering is the best way to keep the cold winds out and sensible non-slip foot wear will keep you safe on wet and icy surfaces.

Be sure you have a warm coat and waterproofs to protect you from the elements. If you plan on working the locks you’ll also want some hard wearing gloves to protect your hands. 

Make sure that you dry your clothes out properly if they get wet, or next time you go to put them on you might not want to if they are still damp!

Until next time keep safe and warm!