So You Want To Go Canal Cruising

An Introduction To Canal Cruising

 (in preparation)

A supplement to the  

Website and eBook by Angela and Cyril J Wood




Hiring a Boat


Buying a Boat


Useful Links

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So You Want To Go Canal Cruising



I am frequently asked how get started in canal cruising. Accordingly, this section of the Canalscape website is aimed at prospective boaters wanting to know more about this fascinating and rewarding pastime. It provides an insight into canal cruising, how to get started, discusses canal features, basic navigation principals and etiquette, how and where to hire a boat from as well as the different types of canal craft and how to go about purchasing one and the pitfalls that can be experienced in buying. It also discusses the basic maintenance a boat requires. There are hyperlinks to various companies and other websites that provide information that will be of interest in the Useful Links Section at the end of this page.

Our canals and inland waterways are (with some notable exceptions) a legacy left to us by the Industrial Revolution. During that period they were the primary means of transporting raw materials and finished articles in the same way that the later railways and today's motorways do, The infrastructure is, in many cases, of listed status and some are Scheduled Ancient Monuments or even UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This, coupled with the relaxed pace of life makes canal cruising a refreshing interlude from the pace and pressures of everyday life and an ideal holiday destination for those not content (or able) to sit on a sun lounger soaking up ultra-violet radiation from the sun or just want something different. It is gratifying to note that our canals and inland waterways receive visitors from all over the world, such is their attraction.

The impressive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site


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Hiring a Boat

Before considering hiring a boat for a holiday it is advisable to take a "test drive" on a day boat to see if it is conducive to all the members of the family of those involved. Canal cruising is not for everyone and there would be nothing worse than spending hundreds if not thousands of pounds on a hire boat holiday if some members of the family discover after the first day that they hate it. This does happen and I have spoken to many people who have hired a boat for a week or a fortnight only to discover that the unpredictable nature of the weather or slow pace of life on the canals does not meet their expectations.

Rambling Thorn is a typical day hire boat from Thorn Marine at Stockton Heath on the Bridgewater Canal in Cheshire

A day boat can be hired for around 150 per day and they usually can accommodate about ten people. If the cost of the hire is split between these ten people it equates to around 15 each. Where else can you have a nice relaxing day in the country for that amount? Day hire routes are usually to cruise in the morning towards a particular destination, have lunch and then retrace your steps (or wake) to where the boat was hired from. Some boats have basic cooking facilities on them but it is more usual to cruise to a particular pub for lunch before turning around for the return trip. The routes are usually not too difficult and have a minimal amount of locks, tunnels, lift/swing bridges or other navigational features. But a word of warning... canal cruising can be really addictive to those who enjoy it.

A group of hirers enjoying a day out on the Bridgewater Canal

Once the "test drive" has been successful and left the prospective boater wanting more, the next step is to hire a boat for a longer period of time. If this is the case then a visit to a hire cruiser base should be planned to view the boats and get an idea of the layout, size and type of boat you might like to hire. Dealing with the size of the boat first... this normally reflects the number of people the boat is to accommodate  The number of beds or, as they are more usually referred to, berths these boats can accommodate ranges from two to twelve. Obviously, the more berths the longer and more expensive the boat is to hire. There is no need to hire an eight berth boat of there are only two of you. The longer boats are usually less manoeuvrable and more difficult to handle.

An idyllic scene of a typical hire boat leaving a lock on the Llangollen Canal

Also, most canal locks are seventy two feet long and the maximum boat length they can accommodate is seventy feet. However, there are some canals whose locks are sixty two feet in length so can only accommodate sixty foot long boats, so it is best to check with the hire cruiser staff that the boat you ultimately hire is suitable for the route planned to cruise. More information regarding locks is given in the Navigation Section of this webpage. Another thing to consider is the layout of the boat. If there are two groups of adults that require their own privacy, open plan boats are best avoided. The double beds need to be separated by either a bulkhead (partition) or parts of the boat such as the toilet/shower compartment. This avoids any embarrassment having to pass people sleeping if the toilet needs to be used during the night. The outside layout of the boat should also be considered. If there are a few people in the party wanting to socialise on the rear deck it is best to avoid boats with a "traditional" stern as there is only enough room for the steerer and possibly one other. A more sensible alternative is the "cruiser" stern which has a large aft deck (usually with the engine beneath) that can accommodate a small folding table and a couple of folding chairs. Some boats have integral aft deck seating or even what is known as a "semi-trad" stern which has the lines of a traditional boat but the functionality of a cruiser stern.

Cruiser stern

Traditional stern

Semi-trad stern

These points might seem common sense but, when viewing a potential hire boat they can easily be overlooked. Most hire boats have a large foredeck where one can relax with a glass of wine or other beverage as the boat passes along our picturesque canals and inland waterways.

Spacious fore deck


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Buying a Boat



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Useful Links

Day Hire and Hire Boat Companies

ABC Boat Hire -

Andersen Boats -

Anderton Marina (Hoseasons) -

Black Prince Boat Hire -

Bridgewater Boat Hire -

Chas Hardern Narrowboats -

Claymoore Narrowboats -

Middlewich Narrowboats -

Midway Boats -

Thorn Marine -

UK Canalboating Hire Companies -


This is just a selection of the more popular hire boat companies in the North West of England...

others can be found by typing "narrowboat hire" into Google or other search engines


Navigation Authority and Other Useful Websites

Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs (and FBCC) -

Boat Safety Scheme -

Bridgewater Canal Company -

Canal and River Trust -

Environmental Agency -

Inland Waterways Association -

Manchester Ship Canal Company -

River Weaver Website -

Unlock Runcorn (Runcorn Locks Preservation Society) -


Useful Commercial Contacts

AKT Solar Panels -

All Seasons Boat Covers -

Apollo Duck (boat sales) -

Aquafax Engineering -

CabinCare (side door & hatch fly screens & blinds) -

Canal Warehouse -

Craftmaster Paints -

Crowther Marine (stern gear) -

Goodwin Plastics (custom made water tanks, shower trays, etc) -

Hesford Marine -

International Paints -

Longford Canal Services -

Midland Chandlers -

Miracle Leisure Products -

Nantwich Canal Centre (Nantwich Marina) -

Uplands Marina -

Narrowboat Paints -

New Blinds (side door fly screens & blinds) -

Rylard Paints -

Seals Direct (window seals, etc) -

Stretford Marine Services (Stretford Marina) -

Thorn Marine -





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or select another book below...



Book 1 - 1960 to 1982


Book 2 - 1983 to 1999

Book 3 - 2000 to 2005

Book 4 - 2006 to 2007

Book 5 - 2008 to 2009

Book 6 - 2010

Book 7 - 2011

Book 8 - 2012

Book 9 - 2013


Book 10 - 2014


Book 11 - 2015


Book 12 - 2016


Book 13 - 2017

Book 14 - 2018 (Coming Soon)

nb Squirrel
Canals on Screen
Canalscape Photography
Photography in One
The History of Lymm Cruising Club
The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal
The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal
Shroppie - The Shropshire Union Canal System
The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal
Mersey Connections 
The Wonders of the Waterways
2011 Gardner Engine Rally Report
Foreign Forays - Canals of the World
Worsley Canal Heritage Walk
Castlefield Canal Heritage Walk
The Liverpool Docks Link
nb Total Eclipse
Don't Call it a Barge
Canis Canalus
Footnote and Acknowledgements
Site Map
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Updated 14/11/2017