The Narrowboat Experience

Whether you really want to know what life is like on board a narrow boat 'Full Time' (or for a long time, anyway), perhaps in preparation for a retirement plan living on your own narrow boat, or just have a need to relax and enjoy the inland waterways of the UK on an extended break, we can offer you the real experience.

After you've loaded your baggage on board we'll spend some quality time with you on our "handover". First you're going to get a detailed tour of your boat, which will cover where everything is, and how it works.  We'll then leave you to settle in, unpack and check the inventory manifest (which will also supplement our initial guide showing you where 'things' are stowed). The reason we ask you to check the inventory manifest is not just so you know that everything that should be on board is there, but more importantly, as it's a physical check, it enables you to know exactly where to find 'things' when you need them, without having to refer to the inventory or Boat Manual.

Finally, your last 'job' on Day 1 will be to polish the tiller and tiller pin.  This isn't related to any particular waterway tradition, or indication of good luck, it's simply to get you used to handling them.  As you'll need to remove the tiller and pin every time you moor or leave the boat unattended (if you don't, someone else will!), we want you to feel confident handling them both, thus reducing the risk of either being dropped overboard.

Marple Locks

The next day we'll return to continue the handover and go through a thorough basic training course in Handling, Safety and Navigation. We'll also go through daily maintenance and checks, changing gas bottles and filling with water.

Finally, Day 3 is your RYA Helmsman Course.  Your trainer will arrive bright and early and you'll spend the whole day with them building upon your boating skills.  At the end of your course you will be awarded your Accredited RYA Helmsman Certificate.

We'll spend as much time as you feel you need.  Once you're confident that you can safely handle your boat, we'll let you loose on the open waterway to fend for yourself (alright, we're always nearby, the UK is small, and you can contact us 24 hours a day on the support number you will have been given, but you get the gist).

You will probably be very eager to get off cruising and the first couple of days spent settling in, and going through the handover and training, followed by your RYA Helmsman Course may initially seem to be getting in the way of your 'holiday', however the skills,  competencies and confidence gained will last a lifetime and ensure you are well on your way to becoming 'seasoned boaters'.

Stubborn lock on the Llangollen Canal

Unlike traditional boat hire in the UK, we empower you to enjoy the reality of living life afloat. This is a little more than a 'taster', it's the real deal, and an aspect that many believe really makes your trip even more memorable, it makes it your experience. You will be responsible for the day-to-day running of your boat, including filling up with fresh drinking water, ensuring the gas is in good supply, changing the gas bottles when necessary, and all of the daily mechanical checks on the engine and stern gear. For longer journeys you'll have to fill up with diesel every two or three weeks - and get a certain 'holding tank' pumped out!

The longer trips are also going to mean you'll need to arrange for laundry stops, plan shopping outings, work out where the canalside recycling points are for your bottles, plastics and other waste packaging.

Every 200 hours of engine use requires an oil and filter change.  You will be responsible for finding a boatyard and booking the service (we pay for it, though).  You'll also have to refill the stern greaser.

All of these tasks give you the real experience and will start to equip you, should you so desire, for your future life afloat. Our experience is that after your RYA Course and a couple of months cruising, you'll be equally competent and experienced, if not more so, than many live-aboard boaters.

Sun breaking over lock gates

The real factor that truly makes the Narrowboat Experience though, is that we don't have a static base. Unlike most hire companies, where (with the exception of those with access to cruising rings) you have to stop half way through, turn around and hope you get back in time, we give you the freedom to roam as far as you like, wherever you like (provided you stay within the UK Inland Waterways, obviously!). This leaves you totally in control of your schedule. Want to spend a couple of days at a waterway festival? No problem. Fancy making a diversion, or exploring a different waterway? No problem. Wherever you end up at the end of your experience, is where you leave your boat, and are collected or will have your car delivered.

This also means you're going to get a lot of flexibility (albeit possibly not a great deal of choice) as to where you can start your experience, and also means that no two trips will ever be the same! In a sense it doesn't really matter where you start as (for an example) a three month experience will enable you to get to pretty much anywhere on the waterways network.


Cows on the bridge - Llangollen Canal



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