Turning a narrowboat using a winding hole

Skippered canal boat hire from Market Harborough 5

Turning a narrowboat requires lots of space and that usually means finding a Winding Hole – or turning point. These are marked on your map and are often miles apart, so you need to plan ahead. Day boats are shorter and there are more places to turn these – check with your trainer during your handover.

A Winding Hole is usually a large notch cut into the side of the canal. It is not always signposted, so you do need to keep an eye on the map to make sure you don’t go past it.


To turn, drive the boat slowly into the notch so that the boat comes to rest gently with the front touching the bank.

Keeping your tiller in the same position ie pointing towards the bank, gently engage FORWARD gear. The boat will then pivot against the bank, all the while touching.

Once your boat’s length is close to the bank, you can engage REVERSE. Take the boat back a long way out of the Winding Hole and when you are clear, you can then drive on forwards and away.

Watch a video about turning round

Have a look at Aaran’s video below, to see an example of how it’s done. This particular Winding Hole is along the Market Harborough Arm travelling towards Foxton, between bridges 8 and 7.

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.