Getting Afloat on Inland Waterways

Created on 23/07/2015

Looking for something to do over the holidays? Then take a look at IWA’s latest blog to find out how you could get afloat and enjoy the waterways with friends and family this summer and beyond…

So you have been down to your local canal and admired the passing boats, yes it would be great to be free to travel the waterways. But then there is the cost of buying a boat plus the licence, moorings, insurance, maintenance when you may not have that much time to make use of it. So perhaps not a reality, well there are many other ways of getting on the water and finding out whether it is really for you before you take it further. You can find information on getting afloat with small boats and canoes in IWA's Briefing Note and here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Unpowered craft refer to a wide range of canoes, rowing boats and even sailing dinghies in some situations. These can be hired or purchased at low cost, often stored out of the water avoiding moorings and maintenance and running costs are affordable. 
  • For canoeing we recommend seeking information from Canoe England. By joining Canoe England or an affiliated club you will be covered for your licence and insurance.
  • If you develop an interest in canoeing through short day trips, then you can extend this into longer exploration of the waterways by taking your camping equipment for overnight stops. Many people have travelled the entire Country’s canals and rivers by this means. You can hire fully equipped camping boats, for instance traditional Thames skiffs with a canvas cover to convert them into snug overnight accommodation, so it can become a ‘Three men in a Boat’ adventure.
  • You may think that navigable waterways do not offer much opportunity for dinghy sailing but several rivers have active yacht clubs and many canal reservoirs are now used for leisure activities as well as their role in providing a water supply. As examples you can sail on Rudyard Lake, Staffordshire, or Edgbaston near the centre of Birmingham. 
  • If you are interested in rowing and sculling as a sport look on the British Rowing website to find your nearest club. Rowing Clubs affiliated to British Rowing are able to purchase reduced price EA Boat Registrations through British Rowing and a block licencing scheme has been negotiated with CRT.
  • The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has useful information on getting afloat through sailing on its website. Some yacht clubs run RYA sailing courses and coaching sessions for members and will have a mixed fleet of dinghies available for hire to Club members, so it is not necessary to own your own boat if you want to sail.
  • If powered boats are the thing for you, then try a day out on a trip boat or there may be community boats run in your area. These will be particularly good for groups from schools or community organisations and some specialise in those with mobility challenges. More information is available from the National Community Boats Association.
  • Some boatyards hire out day-boats for your family and friends to have an enjoyable day exploring a stretch of canal and try out the skills of steering and possibly working locks.
  • A next step might be hiring a boat for a few days or longer, there are many hire base around the Country so you can pick the waterways that you want to explore and decide whether you want a lot of locks to work or a leisurely cruise with few locks. Don’t be too ambitious in planning your route particularly if you are new to boating, better to enjoy a shorter route with plenty of time for stops at pubs or during that unlikely rainstorm. Hire boating is really good for the extended family and children will soon get into it and maybe even leave their digital world behind for a few days.

So you have done all this and your enthusiasm for the inland waterways has grown, perhaps now is the time to think about boat ownership. There is much advice available on the IWA website and good second hand small boats of under 30ft are available. Better to experience this and find out exactly what design and fit out you prefer rather than plunging straight into an expensive and full-length craft.

Tags: Boating, Things to Do