First thing's first

Setting off on your narrowboat can be a frustration if you are a narrowboat novice, particularly if you find yourself in shallow water. This Beginners’ Guide will help you learn the safe and easy way to move off.


Start the engine and keep it in neutral. If it is first thing in the morning, allow 3-5 minutes for it to warm up before you move off.

Ensuring the driver is ready at the controls, the crew member should step off the boat, keeping hold of the centre line in case the boat starts to drift.

The crew will then untie the front (bow) and back (stern) mooring ropes from the bank. If there is room on the back deck, you can leave them tied to the boat, coiled and ready for use. If space is tight, coil them and stow them on the roof out of the way. Make sure your ropes can’t trail in the water and get caught in the propeller.

Bring aboard the mooring stakes, chains and hammer.


Setting off on your narrowboat

Because the boat steers from the back, you can’t drive away from the bank as you would drive a car away from the kerb. Instead, the crew member should check the area is clear of boat traffic then push the front boat away from the bank – continuing to hold on to the centre line.

This will have the effect of pushing the back in tight to the bank, giving you plenty of time to walk down to the back and climb aboard. If you give the back a little push as you climb in, you will ensure that your propeller is in deep water before setting off.

In shallow water, push the back of the boat out first, then reverse away until there’s room to straighten up.
When the boat’s straight, go into forward gear and accelerate gently to cruising speed.

The Boaters’ Handbook video also explains this well; we’ve lined it up for you at 2’10”


Narrowboat Beginner Guides

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.