How to find the right hire boat for your group

How do you choose the right canal boat for your narrowboat hire holiday when there are thousands to choose from?

  • What size of hire boat does your group need?
  • What different sorts of canal hire boats are there?
  • How to find the right hire company with the right boat for your party.
  • Are there any Canal Holiday Quality Inspection Schemes?

What Sorts Of Holiday Hire Canal Boats Are There?

Most boats have decks at the front and rear. The rear deck can be longer to allow passengers to sit with the steerer, this is known as a ‘cruiser’ stern. Some boats have a much shorter rear deck which allows the steerer to get some protection from the weather at the back of the cabin. This is the traditional working narrowboat style, and is thus referred to as ‘trad’. There’s an in-between style which has some protection and some room for passengers known as ‘semi-trad’. Our images show a hire boat with a cruiser stern, one with a front seating area and one without any front deck.

Most canal hire boats have robust steel hulls and cabins with diesel engines. Most are 7 foot wide because that is the maximum that can fit in a ‘narrow’ lock. There are also ‘wide’ boats which can be up to 14 feet wide which may be available for hire on canals like the Mon and Brec, the Southern Grand Union Canal and the Kennet and Avon Navigation which have wider bridges and locks.

We’ve more information about the fittings and features you can expect on a canal hire boat in our Hireboat features FAQ.

How Big Does The Boat Need To Be?

Most hire companies rent out their boats according to berths, which may seem to make it very simple – if there’s four of you, you need a 4-berth boat. But bear in mind that the number of berths quoted is usually the maximum number who can comfortably fit on that boat. If you want a bit more space, privacy or convenience you may consider hiring something larger. Also, two family groups will have different requirements from an eight berth boat than four couples or eight singles.

The berths may be in a number of separate cabins, they maybe doubles, singles or bunk type, and they may be permanently made up or have to be converted from a dining area at the end of the day. So check the boat descriptions and layout plans carefully to make sure the boat suits your group’s or family’s needs. And remember that under the terms of your agreement with the hire firm, you will not be allowed to have more people on board than the boat’s maximum number of berths.


How Do We Find and select Boats And Hireboat Companies?

Canal Junction has comprehensive listings for hireboat companies. We specialise in family-owned and run businesses, believing that they usually provide a friendly and reliable service.

Most canal hire companies have online brochures. Read them carefully, make a checklist of the features you want, if you are not sure if a boat is right for you ring the company, they will be happy to help. You may be invited to inspect boats before booking.

See our Canal Junction narrowboat hire firm listings, or go to our canal guide pages to browse individual canals. And our hireboats2go website is an online search facility so you can find late availability canal holidays from over 50 family-run hire companies.


Are There Any Canal Holiday Quality Inspection Schemes?

The Quality Accredited Boatyard (QAB) Scheme is a hire boat operation assessment which is run by British Marine, in partnership with Visit England. The QAB Standard focuses on the systems and procedures hire boat operators carry out in running their hire boat operations
BM also run a Boat Grading Scheme where boats are graded from 1-5 stars, each star has a specific set of requirements that the boat must achieve to be awarded that star. It looks at the quality and condition of individual narrowboats and cruisers, and the comfort and ease of use for those hiring them.


All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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