A canal boat holiday is a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of the English countryside at a leisurely pace. You will have whole days to spend observing wildlife, or just pleasantly passing the time with a good book. Depending on your route, you can also stop off at some interesting urban points and enjoy some of the attractive heritage architecture of the canals.
It’s a truly memorable experience, but for many people it will be their first encounter with being a canal boat passenger or in charge of steering a vessel. Of course, it’s a very calm and controlled environment and nothing like navigating the stormy high seas!
Nonetheless, there are always certain dangers presented by bodies of water. Your hire company should help you become familiar with the boat and they will inform you of essential rules at handover. To make sure that you stay safe and get the most out of your holiday with no unwelcome surprises, here are some general safety tips to remember.
Wear non-slip shoes
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice: wear comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. There will be a lot of stepping on and off the boat, to navigate locks, operate swing bridges, make shopping trips, and so on. Even when you are just moving around on the deck, it will often be wet and slippery.
A slip resulting in a wretched ankle or muscle sprain is the last thing you need on holiday, so put fashion concerns to one side and invest in some good quality deck shoes.
Do not jump into or swim in the water
If the weather is very hot, it might seem tempting to take a cooling dip in the water. However swimming in canals is dangerous, as they may contain submerged objects and weeds that you can become entangled in. Canals are also very cold even in the middle of summer, so you will risk cold water shock and hypothermia.
Keep arms and legs inside the vessel at all times
When the boat is moving, always keep limbs inside the vessel to avoid the risk of catching them on solid objects. When you are sitting on deck, also keep an eye out for overhanging tree branches and upcoming tunnels and bridges.
Have emergency equipment to hand
There should be a well-fitting life jacket for every person on board, and it is good practice for children to wear these at all times. Remind youngsters not to run about on the deck or go too near to the edges of the boat, or to play on locks and bridges.
Always observe the canal rules
Canal boats are subject to certain rules to maintain safe passage for everyone. These will be in place for passing through tunnels, opening swing bridges, and navigating locks. Stick to the speed limit (usually 3 or 4 mph) and observe any mooring restrictions. Do not moor near bridges, locks, weirs, bends, marina entrances, or other junctions.