Planning your narrow boat hire holiday

How do you makes sure you get your hire boat back on time, how do you work out which route you’ve got time to do … Answers to some of your puzzling questions!

  • Where do we have to leave the hire boat at the end of our canal holiday?
  • Do we have to turn round half way through the holiday and come back?
  • How far can we get on our hire boat in a week, or on a short break?
  • Can we stop and moor the boat anywhere we like?
  • What if our hire boat breaks down, will the hire firm come and fix it?

At the end of the holiday do we take the boat back where we got it from?

Nearly always, yes! But that really isn’t a problem, ask any experienced narrow boat holiday hirer. A few firms do offer ‘one way’ hires, but they are usually best for experienced boaters.

Do we have to turn our narrow boat around and come back the same way?

No, but lots of people do cruise and then turn around and return. The unrivalled beauty of the canals may leave you wishing you could turn around again and experience it for a 3rd time! ‘Out and back’ cruises are much easier to plan for first time narrow boat hirers, and everything will look different coming the other way. You can call in to see interesting places you noticed on the way out. Or you could consider a circular routes – the ‘rings’. All hire firms will have suggested ‘out and back’ and ‘ring’ routes on their website and in their brochure. They will be pleased to suggest routes and stopping places, and usually provide or sell detailed canal guide books.

What if we don’t get back to the hire base on time?

If you don’t get the boat back on time you will inconvenience the next hirers and probably have to pay a penalty to the hire firm. If you think you may be late returning let the hire firm know as soon as possible so they can make some plans, don’t leave it until you should be arriving.

How far can we go in a week, or weekend?

Nowhere near as far as you think! But on the canals, that isn’t a problem either. Someone said canals are the ‘fastest way of slowing down’! You can’t travel faster than 4 miles an hour, walking speed, and often you go much slower than that. Plus there are locks, each lock can take twenty minutes even if you don’t have to wait for another boat. So don’t try to do too much, especially on a ring route, or you’ll spend your relaxing holiday in a panic trying to get the narrow boat back to the hire base on time! All narrow boat hire companies have suggested routes, and will give advice about suitable cruises for the time you have.

Can we stop and moor our narrow boat anywhere?

You can moor almost anywhere on the towpath side of canals, free of charge. Hire boats usually come with mooring ropes fore and aft and steel ‘mooring pins’ and hammer. Some have chains which fit behind the piling. Don’t block the towpath by putting your pins in too far from the canal edge. Tie the boat up fairly tightly so that it doesn’t move about too much when other boats pass. Many boaters put something light coloured on top of their pins such as a plastic bag, so walkers can see them in the dark. Many regular moorings have steel rings or bollards to tie to.
Mooring on the opposite side of the canal is not usually allowed since the land is often privately owned.
Any towpath area where mooring is not allowed will usually be signed. However, you should avoid mooring on tight bends or by turning places (‘winding holes’). You should never moor close bridges or close to locks where you will get in the way of other boats using the locks.


What happens if we break down?

Your hire firm will give you full instructions about how to contact them if your narrow boat breaks down. Most people carry a mobile phone so normally you can ring them from the boat, otherwise you will need to find a public phone box, which can be difficult in rural areas. They will want a clear description of what the problem is, and will ask where you are. Nearly all canal bridges are numbered, they will be able to find you from the canal you are on and that number. Most respond quickly and will come out if necessary, although you may be a few days from the base it will probably be no more that 2 or 3 hours by road!
However don’t be tempted to get a problem fixed in a handy boatyard, unless the hire firm tell you to. Not unless you want to pay for it yourself!


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

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