5 Things Every Narrowboat Owner Should Know

Whether you currently live on a narrowboat or you’re considering a lifestyle change and would like to buy one, here’s everything you ever want to know, need to know, and the reality of living on a narrowboat…


1. Finding a mooring spot

Securing a mooring spot is the most important task after you’ve bought a narrowboat. Home moorings cost between £2,000 and £18,000 a year - with a waiting list of five years for the most sought-after spots in London. If you have a residential mooring spot you may also have to pay basic ‘Band A’ council tax. There are 32,000 boats in Britain with licences - 5,000 of which have no home mooring.


2. You need to be ‘hands on’sign up to myboat

Owning and living on a canal boat is best suited to people with a practical bent. Owners must not be afraid to attempt minor repairs to the heating, cooking and sanitation systems. A certain amount of skill with electronics would come in handy, as would the ability to identify why the generator may be misfiring or the engine stalling.

When these types of things go wrong, you’ll struggle getting a repair man out to a remote canal bank.

There are also maintenance chores to keep on top of: engine services and cleaning the bilges and water tanks.


3. Sound signals

1 blast = going to the right

2 blasts = going to the left

3 blasts = I’m trying to stop or go backwards

4 blasts - pause - 1 blast = turning round to the right

4 blasts - pause - 2 blasts = turning round to the left

1 extra long blast = warning at tunnels, blind bends and junctions


4. There are speed limits

The maximum speed on narrow canals is 4mph. On rivers and broad canals limits vary, so check local information before you set out and watch out for speed limit signs on the waterway. The non-tidal River Thames has a limit of 8.5 mph and on the River Medway it’s 5 knots (5.74 mph). You should slow down approaching bridges, locks, bends or junctions and when passing boats or anglers. And remember, whatever the limit, if you’re making waves you’re going too fast - slow down.


5. Overtaking

You will rarely need to overtake on canals and narrow rivers. There isn’t usually enough space to overtake safely. So just keep your distance and stay behind. If another boat wants you to overtake, the skipper should slow down and tell you on which side to overtake - usually the left. If you’re the one overtaking, it’s your responsibility to stay clear of the other boat. Both skippers should go slowly as possible to avoid the two boats being drawn together.


If you’re someone who enjoys a bit of DIY work, download our Ultimate Narrowboat DIY Guide for all of our top tips.


The Uktimate Narrowboat DIY Guide

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