Thursday, 13 September 2012 2:19 PM
Booking a holiday onboard a canal boat is likely to fill you with excitement, especially if you're new to this type of getaway. Learning to steer and moor a boat is all part of the fun, but to make sure your break is memorable for all the right reasons, it's wise to follow a safety checklist.
Give some thought to what you'll need to take with you before you embark on your canal boat holiday and allow adequate time to familiarise yourself with the boat and the relevant equipment before setting sail.
The following points are all worth checking over to ensure your holiday goes without a hitch.
What to arrange in advance
If you want to book a break on a boat, there are certain criteria you need to meet in order to satisfy safety concerns. You won't usually need experience onboard to go boating, or a licence, but you are required to be at least 18 years old to captain the vessel. If you plan to sail in Ireland, this age barrier rises to 21.
At least two adults are required onboard to handle the boat, and children are often welcome as long as the minimum number of adults is met.
In order to travel you'll also need to have a collision damage waiver in place, which will cover any accidental damage to the boat. You can usually choose between a refundable or non-refundable waiver, with the former often costing a lot more than the latter. If you can afford to pay the refundable waiver - which is around £1,000 in many cases - you'll get it back when you return the boat undamaged. A non-refundable option can be between £100 and £250.
Another consideration should be travel insurance; although not essential, it's well worth having some cover in place to account for the loss of belongings, holiday cancellation, medical expenses or repatriation costs.
Give some thought to when you want to travel, and bear in mind that canals open by April 1st, with some welcoming guests a little earlier - around mid-March - and most will have closed by November 1st.
You'll also need to consider what you might need to take with you. Along with the obvious clothing and toiletries, think about your safety onboard. Some boating firms advise you pack non-slip shoes to wear on deck, as wet surfaces can be slippery. This is potentially even more applicable to children and those whose health or age means their balance is affected.
When you're onboard
Once you've reached your boating base, a representative from the boat hire company will show you around your vessel and provide you with a hands-on demonstration of the boat, as well as an in-depth briefing.
During these important sessions, you will learn the basics of boating, as well as how to use the appliances onboard. Many canal boats travel at between 6 and 8 km per hour and are steered with a wheel in a similar way to a car. A single lever usually controls the speed forwards and backwards.
Before you travel you can watch video clips and read up on how to drive and moor your boat, while support teams will be able to offer help and advice at the boat hire bases along the waterways.
There will be safety equipment onboard that usually includes a couple of fire extinguishers, a first aid kit and a fire blanket, while there will also be a life jacket for each person on the boat. Vessels often have navigation lights to aid safety and you might also have a flare box, depending on where you're travelling to.
In addition, you should have a map/guide onboard, and this will provide useful in a number of ways. Not only will you be able to clearly see potential routes you can follow, you'll also be able to locate marinas and see whether they are public or private. There are often details about mooring at the marinas and whether they have facilities like showers or electrical hook-ups, but it's a good idea to phone a couple of hours before arriving to see if there are any moorings available.