Narrowboat FAQs

Are you a new narrowboat owner? Or seasoned in canal life, but wanting to solve some unanswered questions?


Is there a speed limit for driving a narrowboat?

The official speed limit is 4mph, but the beauty of cruising the canals is taking in your surroundings so generally you will find yourself pushing no more than 2 or 3mph. Be conscious of fellow boaters and wildlife, slowing to a crawl past moored boats and marine life as to not disturb. Going too fast can literally rock the boats, potentially even pulling out their mooring pins!


How do I turn my boat around?

There are designated ‘winding holes’ every few miles along the canal to enable you to turn your boat. Note that not every turning point will have the capacity to turn larger narrowboats, so check the instruction signs before attempting.


Can a live aboard my narrowboat?

You are entitled to make your narrowboat your full-time residence, with permanent moorings offered at many marinas which benefit from a range of on-site facilities and services. Be aware that if you have a permanent mooring you’ll be required to pay council tax at the lowest band (which may be included in your mooring fees, but worth double-checking!) and it is also important to notify your insurance provider of your intention to live onboard.


Do I need a TV Licence?

Legally, residential narrowboat owners are required to have a TV licence to watch live or catch up television and radio onboard. Be sure to pay yours or you could risk a hefty fine.


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What environmental considerations should I take?

Despite needing to manually empty or ‘pump out’ your toilet, the ‘grey’ water generated will be released back into the canals. Therefore it’s important to use environmentally friendly washing up liquids, detergents and toiletries to ensure you don’t cause harm to wildlife.

It is also important to dispose of your rubbish responsibly - there are regular refuse points along the canal, giving ample opportunity to offload.


Can I swim in the canals?

This is not to be recommended. Caution should be taken when considering swimming in the canals - the water can be deceptively cold and often much deeper than it looks on first inspection.


Am I able to fish from my narrowboat?

Fishing is permitted on the canals, but you will require a Rod Licence to do so. Best practice is to seek additional permission for the local angling club to check for any restrictions.


Do I need insurance?

Yes, are required to have a minimum of Third Party Liability insurance to use the Inland Waterway system. For full peace of mind, it’s important to have comprehensive insurance for your narrowboat to cover a whole array of potential disasters, including accidental damage, third party liability and theft. Read our blog A buyer's guide to narrowboat insurance for the ins and outs of choosing the perfect policy.


What documentation do I need to own a narrowboat?

You will need boat ownership papers, licence, Boat Safety Certificate (a ‘boating MOT’ provided by the Boat Safety Scheme) and insurance. Manage this easily using our digital organiser, MyBoat which also gives you exclusive access to perks and discounts with a range of well-known marine brands.


Want an easier way to manage all your boating paperwork? MyBoat is a free digital boat management system, offering exclusive perks and discounts with a range of recognised marine brands.

Sign up to MyBoat: Your free digital boat organiser

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