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Canal Boat FAQs

Need some advice? Or perhaps you have a specific boating query you need answering?
We’ve provided a list of canal boat FAQs for you to peruse.
If your question is not answered here, please consult our holiday guide or get in touch with our friendly team now.

What should I wear and what should I bring with me?

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A canal holiday is typically very informal so bring casual, comfortable clothes suitable for operating the boat and locks. These will tend to be:

General clothes -t-shirts and jeans, or trousers, with shorts for hotter days.

Pullover - a good sweater or coat is also useful for cold mornings or evenings.

Gloves - gardening type gloves are ideal for operating locks.

Shoes - the most important item of clothing for the holiday is a pair of non-slip, flat rubber soled shoes. Trainers are suitable but not leather or hard soled shoes - a shoe with a firm grip will avoid slips around the boat and locks. A pair of boots can be useful especially if you want to do any walking.

Other items - we recommend you bring waterproof clothing such as anoraks, sunglasses to avoid the glare off the water, a washing bag and nightwear.

Your boat will be fully equipped with all the necessary crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils. All of the boats have CD and DVD players so you can bring along a supply of your own favourite CDs or DVDs with you. Freshly laundered bed linen is provided on all boats including duvets, duvet covers, bottom sheets, pillows and pillowcases.

LUGGAGE: We recommend that your luggage is of the soft bag type as large suitcases are difficult to store on the boat. Where this is not possible, we suggest that you leave suitcases in the car. Learn more about what to pack for a canal boat holiday.

Where to go and what to do?

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There is a great temptation to undertake long circular cruises or rings only to discover that it is all proving to be much harder work than you first thought. We always recommend an out and return route for beginners - many experienced boaters also prefer this. Working through the locks does take some effort and whilst this activity is part of the enjoyment of a canal cruise, you do not want to make it a chore. A cruising day of about 8 hours is the most that you should plan for, and remember that you might want some time to do other things as well. 

As a rough calculation when planning a route, add the number of locks to the distance in miles and divide the total by 3 to give cruising time in hours.

Guide books for all canals and navigable rivers are available in our marina shops and via our online store if you want to study the route in advance. Places of interest and the facilities you may need are listed and described alongside the maps, so you will always know in advance what is to be found around the next bend.

How much water can the boat store?

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All our boats carry around 100 gallons or 450 litres of water which is delivered to the taps by an automatic electric pump. You are advised to refill your water tank every day. This reduces the filling time, which can be lengthy at some taps and avoids the risk of running out at an inconvenient place or time. There are many water points along your route all will be shown in the various canal cruising guides. Nearly all boatyards have water points (there may be a small charge), but do remember to ask first as there are no special rights or agreements.

What are the toilets on board like?

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All of our boats are equipped with fresh water flushing toilets designed to need emptying only once a week with average use. Should the toilet tank need emptying during the holiday it is a chargeable service that is provided by most boatyards. Having been emptied during the turnaround, the toilet should be entirely trouble free providing it is used correctly. Only human waste and toilet paper should go down the toilet.

Any other items (including sanitary articles, nappies, wet wipes, kitchen towels and quilted toilet paper) should not be flushed down the toilet, but placed in the bags provided to hygienically transfer these items to a suitable bin.

Please note that only 2 ply toilet paper should be used on board. 

How fast does the boat go?

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The maximum speed allowed on the canals is 4mph. If the wash from the boat creates a wave along the back your speed is too high.

The waterways are a resource to be enjoyed by everyone and we would ask you to respect other users. Please slow down when going past other boats particularly when moored.

Fishermen generally prefer you to slow down when going past them, but it is important that you try to stay in the centre of the canal where the water is deepest.

You are not permitted to cruise after dark. The boat is not fitted with navigation lights and the insurance becomes invalid.

Where can I moor?

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Most visitor moorings on canals and rivers governed by the Canal & River Trust and are free of charge. In fact you are permitted to moor anywhere on the towpath side of the canal free of charge so long as you are not causing an obstruction. However at certain privately owned sites there may be a fee for overnight mooring. The River Thames is a typical example, as well as parts of the Kennet and Avon canal and Bristol Dock. 

How do I operate locks?

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Locks are part of the enjoyment and we will explain during your handover how to operate them. There is no mystery to using locks - just a series of step by step tasks.  With the gates closed you open 'paddles' to let water in or out, raising or lowering the water level, so that you can move the boat to a new level. To open the paddles, you use a windlass (L shaped handle) to turn a series of cogs and wheels. Keep a firm grip while operating it and never leave it unattended on the paddle gear. Find out more information about operating locks.

How do I navigate through bridges and tunnels?

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Boats traveling downstream on a river have the right of way. On canals if you are approaching a bridge and can see a boat coming in the opposite direction that will reach the bridge before you slow down and give way to them.

As you enter a tunnel, switch on your headlight and give one long blast on your horn. Keep your speed moderate and stay clear of any boat in front.  

How do I operate lifts and swing bridges?

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Some of these are located around the canal network. If there are any on your chosen route, you will be told how to do them. There will also be instructions on how to operate each one at the site of the lift or bridge. 

What does Gongoozler mean?

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This is the name given to a canalside spectator.

Can I hire a boat just for the day?

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Yes - we have day hire boats at several of our locations - For more information, head to our day boat hire website: www.abcdayboathire.com

Do you have any boats with wheelchair access?

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We don't currently have any in our fleet for weekly hire or short breaks, but we do have a day boat with disabled access operating from Goytre: www.abcdayboathire.com. Alternatively Willow Wren operate a boat - you can contact them on 01788 562183.

Can I pay my balance online?

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Yes, you can. Simply visit to go to our balance payment page. You will need your 6 digit unique reference number and the e-mail address you used for the booking to log in and make a payment. 

What time do we have to arrive / depart?

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We endeavour to have boats ready for collection at 2.30pm on the start day of your holiday. If for any reason you are unable to arrive on time, please contact the start base or Booking Office in order that special arrangements can be made well in advance of your holiday. A late arrival charge may apply. Your boat must be returned and vacated by 9.30am on the last day.

Do the boats have TV aerials?

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All of our TV's and aerials are digital, and as such are able to receive digital TV signals – however, you may not always get signal when out on your travels and sometimes the results obtained can often be disappointing.

Can I still book if I haven't 'driven' a boat before?

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No previous experience is necessary, as our boats are extremely easy to handle and full tuition is given at the start of every holiday. Comprehensive cruising information is in a manual on the boat and details are sent out with the holiday documents to introduce you to the theory of locks and the 'rules of the road'. We provide our own 24hr emergency helpline. 

Do you supply maps & guides?

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A number of guides and maps are available for planning your trip or locating all the sites of interest, pubs, shops and facilities along your route. The guides relevant to each route are indicated on the route information page. These may either be ordered over the phone while you are making your booking, purchased at the start of your holiday from the marina or from our website.

Do you need a license to drive a boat?

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You do not need a driving licence for a narrowboat and the boat itself is licenced by us for CRT waterways. There are a few waterways outside their jurisdiction for which you will need to purchase an additional licence as you enter them, such as the Rivers Avon, Thames and Wey. Our start bases can provide details when you arrive to pick up your boat.

Currently due to COVID-19 you will need to purchase additional licences online rather than via a lock keeper.

Do you provide life vests?

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There are buoyancy aids available free of charge for both children and adults at the marinas (compulsory for children under the age of 18 and non-swimmers). They do not need to be booked in advance and should be requested upon arrival at the marina so the correct size can be fitte

Are we able to bring a travel cot?

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If you would like to use a travel cot or you are bringing your own to use, please contact the booking office. Space is obviously limited and, for health and safety reasons, we can advise on suitable boats that they can be accommodated on. Cot-sides can be provided for very small children on standard berths. Simply indicate this on the booking form.  

Find out which of our boats can accommodate travel cots. 

Do we have to bring our own bedding?

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On all our boats, freshly laundered bedding is provided for each person on the crew list to the bed layout requested. 

Do you provide towels?

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A medium size towel per person is provided free of charge on all boats.

Can we bring pets aboard?

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This really is a holiday the whole family can enjoy together. We do not charge for any of your pets - however there is normally a maximum of 2 allowed. We obviously request that the boat is returned in a clean and tidy condition and reserve the right to refuse pets or charge for any additional cleaning or repairs required as a result of pets being on board during your holiday.  

Is it possible to bring our bikes onto the boat?

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If you are planning to bring bikes on your holiday please check with the marina as not all locations are able to offer this facility. Please be aware that the only place to store them is on the roof of your boat. You cannot place the bikes inside the boat at any time. Any damage to the boat caused by carrying bikes is your responsibility. 

HOLIDAYS FROM GOYTRE WHARF
Due to a really low bridge on the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal, bikes are not permitted on board.

Is it possible to bring canoes onto the boat?

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It may be possible to take a canoe depending on the size of the boat, however, you will need to bring something to put under to protect the roof of the boat. Unfortunately, you will not be able to take canoes from Goytre Marina as there are a number of low bridges along the canal.

However, in general, we do not recommend bringing canoes as they will not be secure at night and may even catch on trees or bridges. Any damage to the boat or the canoe/s will be at your responsibility and you may incur costs.

Are we able to fish during our boating holiday?

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Fishing is prohibited on British rivers between 15th March and 15th June. Fishing is allowed outside these dates and on canals at any time, but a licence is required. This is available from any post office with a 1-day, 8-day or annual licence to choose from. For reasons of hygiene,we regret that live bait may not be kept on the boat. 

Are we able to charge mobile phones aboard the boat?

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All of our boats have a 12-volt electricity supply with a car-type cigar lighter socket that can be used with a mobile phone car adapter lead (we advise that you bring your own lead). On some boats, there is a 240-volt electricity supply that can be used for your own equipment at your own risk. 110- volt AC supply is not available in the UK . 

What additional fees are there that we need to be aware of?

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There is a voluntary environmental offset donation suggested at £5 per car which is donated to the Canal & River Trust Green.

The only additional charges are a fuel deposit and the cost of fuel consumed (if more than the deposit you have paid). The accidental damage waiver is included in the hire price. There is a £30 charge for any additional pets (first pet goes free as well as guide dogs).

Optional high level berths are also now included in the hire price.

Does the fuel for the boat cost extra?

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The boat is ready fuelled for your holiday on arrival, but there is a fuel deposit payable with your holiday booking. This is £90 per week (£50 for a short break) and is not included in the hire cost. When you return the boat to us, the balance is refundable after deducting fuel used. However if you have used fuel in excess of the deposit, you will be asked to pay the difference. 

Are we able to park our car during the length of the boating holiday?

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There is ample open air parking at our bases which is provided free of charge. We regret that we cannot accept responsibility for loss or damage to hirers' vehicles. 

Is it possible to visit to look at the boat we are thinking of hiring?

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We welcome inspection of our boats before you book. Please phone the bases before you arrive to ensure they are open and boats are available for viewing. 

Ready to book your next canal boat holiday? Or perhaps you have a canal boat FAQ that is yet to be answered?
Get in touch with our friendly team to find out more.