Top Tips For Narrowboating
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Mon Aug 14, 2017 at 3:23pm


Start by preparing your narrowboat for cruising, a great place to start would be to read Venetian Marinas  blog about preparing your narrowboat for the season ahead. Check for stoppages on the Canal and Rivertrust website. Get all your essential supplies aboard, such as food and warm clothing. Fill up with fuel and water and check your cruising kit is in good order and on board.

Setting Off Safely

Never untie without starting the engine first. Push the boat off from its mooring to avoid scraping the boat along it's side. Keep safe by not pushing the boat too far off before stepping aboard, to ensure that you can step aboard easily. Don't forget that narrowboats don't have brakes as such and you won't be able to stop the boat quickly, so don't place yourself between the boat and a solid object as a nasty accident could occur.

Safety in Tunnels and Bridges

Make sure you have plenty of room to go through a bridge or a tunnel. Check the height to make sure that your boat will fit through without damaging the chimney, remove items from the roof if needs be. Don't allow crew onto the roof or the gunwales of the boat when navigating through. If the tunnel is dark you may encounter rubbish or sunken objects so take care. Make sure to turn on your headlights and use your horn if necessary to warn other passing boaters of danger.


Have a centre line attached to the boat to assist with setting off or mooring up. Moor close together at busy times by sharing mooring bollards and rings, but respect peoples privacy, and if someone has obviously moored away on a quiet stretch give them space.

Turning or manoeuvring

Utilise the space available. Going forward point the tiller where you want the stern of the boat to go. Going backwards point the rudder tip where you want to go, There is a time lag between forward and reverse and you should only move the tiller when the direction of the water flow changes, this will ensure a more effective and efficient turn.

If you're new to boating or a little rusty at it, practise reversing and manoeuvering the boat. It's equally important to learn how to keep the boat still and counteract the current.

Treat Locks With Respect

When navigating through locks, keep decks clear and ropes coiled away to avoid trip hazards. Learn how the different types of locks work, such as staircase locks, and if cruising on a river; flood gate locks. Don't be distracted by anything and keep children and animals safely aboard before entering the lock. Take your time. Operate lock paddles in the correct order, especially when going uphill as the water can be more turbulent. Look out for potential hazards when entering the lock especially if they are narrow. Make sure that the lock gate fully opens to avoid getting stuck. Keep clear of the cill, which is usually marked on the edge of the lockside above, (see cill mark on picture above). Be careful as this step can catch the unattentive and make the boat lurch or even make the boat sink. You'll be surprised how often this happens!


If cruising in a tricky stretch of water or through moveable bridges only allow a trusted and reliable crew member to operate the boat for safety reasons, someone with more experience will recognise any dangers and the risks can be minimised.


Be courteous and assist others, who will in turn help you, especially when going through locks.

Above all enjoy your narrowboating!

Let us know what your top tips are, by commenting below!