Is it Easy to Drive a Canal Boat 4?

When you go on a self-drive canal boat holiday, the ability to steer your own boat will give you freedom to visit places of interest. You’ll also be able to stop and explore local villages, towns, castles and vineyards as you wish. You can do this on a variety of different waterways including the famous River Shannon in Ireland. You don’t need a licence to drive a narrow boat and with the right training, you can be confident steering your way around these beautiful waterways.

A lot of people worry about driving a narrow boat for the first time but it really isn’t that difficult – it just takes some practice. There are a few things to remember, such as the fact that boats pivot from a point halfway along their length, so you must always be aware of both the front and the back of the boat, particularly when turning into narrow gaps, such as bridges or locks.

You control the boat by using the tiller, which is very similar to a car’s steering wheel. Pushing to the right will make the boat move left and vice versa, so you can easily steer in a straight line. However, when you’re navigating tight turns in the canals, it’s important to take it slowly and not yank at the wheel. If you don’t do this, the boat will zig-zag all over the place and end up in the middle of the canal!

Similarly, when passing swimmers, canoeists, rowers and sailing dinghies, slow down so you don’t create a wave. They may not be able to see or hear you coming, so give them plenty of room. And when it comes to stopping, remember that canal boats don’t have brakes, so you must ease off the throttle and move into neutral before using short bursts of reverse gear to slow down and come to a stop.

Other common helming challenges include going aground and negotiating corners. If you do run aground, don’t panic – sluggish water and gentle pole work from a crewmember can usually shift the boat off. And if you’re stuck fast, it’s a good idea to use reverse gear until you have full flotation and water under the propeller.

The other main challenge when hiring a canal boat is entering and leaving locks, but again, this is much easier than you might think! You’ll be fully briefed and trained when you arrive at the boating base and, with a little practice, you will soon be steering like a pro.

Whether you’re taking a relaxing canal cruise in England, a scenic trip on the River Shannon in Ireland or a more adventurous journey through the heart of Europe, a self-drive canal boat will be one of the most memorable holidays you’ll ever have! So, what are you waiting for? Book a canal boat holiday today and discover the wonders of this beautiful country. It’s the perfect holiday for those who love nature, culture and history.