Canal FAQ

Canal Holiday Advice

Boating Safely On The Canals

Minimize The Chance Of Accidents.

Canal holiday accidents and injuries are rare, but boats are heavy and water is potentially dangerous. Take some sensible precautions. Children should always be supervised.


Falls and bumps: These is the most common cause of accidents anywhere, and canals are no different. Reduce the risk by:
• Always holding onto the handrail if walking down the side of the boat. Better still, don't walk down the side of the boat.
• Keep off the boat roof, there often isn't room if you go under a bridge
• Never jump ashore when mooring - wait until you're close enough to step off. Take extra care if the surface you are stepping onto is wet or slippery.
• Keep the boat tidy and the ropes neatly coiled.
• Use a torch on the towpaths at night, and don't cruise in the dark.


Collisions: Collisions usually happen through inexperience, carelessness, and driving too fast. Take your time and keep the boat under control, slow down for obstructions and when you can't see ahead. Look out for bridges, other boats canoes, dinghies and floating debris.


Crushing: You don't want to get caught between your boat and anything else, because you'll lose! Never push away from a mooring or try to reduce the impact of a collision with your hands - always use the pole. And don't underestimate the momentum of your boat or another boat.


Operating Injuries: Opening locks, driving stakes into the ground, pulling on ropes, pushing off... boating can involve some work that you might not be used to. If you're using muscles you don't always use, then take care and take it easy, after all, you probably aren't in any rush. Share the load as well - take in turns to do each of the jobs, that way they'll stay fresh and you won't overdo it.


Steering: Don’t stand alongside the tiller when steering, a sensible boater always stands in front of the tiller, see the photo right. If the rudder hits an underwater obstacle it can twist round and knock the steerer off the back of the boat if he or she is standing in the wrong place. This is especially important when going astern.

What If Someone Falls In The Water?

wet crewDon't panic. Consider and assess the situation. Is the person in the water in danger of being hit by your propeller, if so quickly put the engine into neutral. Are they standing up and wading out? Are they wearing a lifebelt? Will they need some help getting out of the canal? Do they seem to be unconscious? Who is the most suitable person to help them?


The way you react will depend on the circumstances, but generally, you should put the boat in neutral into the towpath and get someone to hold a rope to stop the boat drifting away. Go, or send someone, back with a rope and a lifebelt to help the person in the water. If you feel someone must go into the water to help, make sure they take a rope and lifebelt with them. In most narrow canals adults should be able to stand up and wade to the bank. Make sure everyone knows where the safety equipment is before you set off.

Do We Have To Wear Lifejackets?

Canal hire companies will provide lifejackets for everyone if asked. Certainly children and those who cannot swim should wear them. But even swimmers can get in trouble, for instance if they are unlucky enough to hit their head when falling in. Sensible advice is that everyone should wear a lifejacket, modern designs are comfortable and easy to wear. All Canal and River Trust workers usually wear lifejackets.

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