Passing moored boats

As a narrowboat novice, you wouldn’t imagine that passing moored boats could be controversial. But it is very easy to get wrong and this is the number one cause of complaints made by other boaters to us at Union Wharf Marina. We know that there’s a lot of information to absorb the first time you take out a boat, so we understand completely that this gets forgotten occasionally, but there is a very genuine reason why boaters on moored boats get upset when you go by too fast.

A narrowboat is propelled along by drawing water from the front and expelling it out the back. The more water drawn under and pushed behind, the greater the effect on nearby boats. With usual cruising speeds of 3 or 4 mph, this water movement can create a significant “turbulence” for any moored vessel; disruptive enough to topple bottles – or people – inside.

This motion is further exaggerated in shallow water, as in the canals around Market Harborough. And it applies whether you’re taking out a 30 foot Day Boat or a 70 foot holiday canalboat.

In fact, short boats actually create more wash than long ones.



1. Slow down to the lowest possible speed, often referred to as “tick over,” using reverse gear if necessary.

2. Reduce your speed even if you suspect a boat is unoccupied.

3. Don’t stay in neutral gear as you will lose the ability to steer.

4. Begin your slow-down a couple of boat-lengths before you reach the moored boat and don’t return to 4 miles an hour until you are a good boat-length past it.

5. Keep your speed at tick over for the entire length of moored boats if they are end to end for example on the Market Harborough Arm as you leave the basin or on the approach to Foxton Locks.

6. Other canal users will also appreciate your gentle speed, so slow down when passing anglers, kayakers and canoeists, too.



We are delighted that more and more narrowboat novices are enjoying the canals around Market Harborough. We are putting together a series of Beginner Guides to help you prepare for your holiday and find a few solutions to common problems en route.

It is also a good idea to familiarise yourself with the Canal and River Trust’s Boaters’ Handbook before you arrive.

We offer all kinds of narrowboats, from Day Boats to Boutique Narrowboats and boats suitable for families. All our hires involve full training and we welcome complete beginners.