Want to be a continuous cruiser?

Great! Boats and boaters are a big part of the draw of canals. Continuous cruisers, as the name suggests, bring an added element of vibrancy. If they’re not on the move they’ll be setting up home for 14 days just about anywhere, except where there are relatively short stretches of long term or visitor moorings.

Fradley Junction
Fradley Junction

It’s not just the vibrancy of this section of the boating community that everyone loves. You'd also bring more tangible things such as improved towpath security and early identification of maintenance issues. For most continuous cruisers, boating isn’t a hobby, it’s their life and passion. This is why many volunteer for the Trust and can often be found picking up litter or manning lock gates.

But what’s it really like?

Hard work. Could you honestly say you'd enjoy trudging along the towpath with firewood when the rain is horizontal and the wind chill is -5C. Of course, it’s not like that every day, but you should expect as many depressingly cold, wet and grey days as gloriously sunny ones – perhaps more given the last couple of years weather.

There are other factors - monitoring battery and water levels, emptying sanitary tanks, the list goes on – that make it a more challenging lifestyle than you might first think.

For first hand advice and information visit the Association of Continuous Cruisers website.

What rules would I have to follow as a continuous cruiser?

The law is quite ambiguous, using terms such as ‘bona fide used for  navigation’ to mean that the boat will be ‘navigating in good faith’. As managers of 2,000 miles of canals and rivers we have to interpret this law. We have to translate it into something that not only creates a literal framework for us to manage the waterways by, but also something that boaters can understand. This has been done, and revised, over many years and it’s called the ‘Guidance for boaters without a home mooring’.

The Guidance, in brief, sets out one main concept:

  • You must use the boat to genuinely cruise in a mainly progressive fashion (A to B to C to D rather than A to B to A to B) from place to place and must not stop for more than 14 days in any one place, except in exceptional circumstances beyond your control.

The only thing you might question is ‘what is a place?’ There is a very good description in the Guidance but, to save you time, it’s different depending on where you are. In London, a borough might be considered a place but in a rural setting a village will be a place and the gap between it and the next village might also be a place.

What happens if I don’t follow the rules?

If your cruising pattern isn’t wide ranging enough (i.e. you’re staying in one area) or you stay in one place for too long then, ultimately, we might remove your boat from the water. We don’t ever do this lightly and it is our last resort. Before this happens we’ll tell you if we think you’re breaking rules and give you a chance to rectify the situation.

Ultimately, we want every single continuous cruiser to understand that, while we don’t like doing it, we will remove your boat from the water if you consistently break the rules.

To help you see whether your circumstances ‘fit’ the continuous cruising lifestyle, you only need ask yourself two questions:

  • Are you free of fixed obligations, such as education, employment or healthcare, in any one area?
  • Can you commit to moving to a new place every 14 days?

If you answered no to either question something in your circumstances would have to change for you to become a footloose, rule-following continuous cruiser.

Despite the hard work, continuous cruising can be an incredibly liberating and rewarding lifestyle. It’s your responsibility to ensure you know the rules but, that said, if you’re considering it talk to your local enforcement officer who’ll be happy to discuss the pros and cons. Alternately, get in touch with the Residential Boat Owners Association – it’s a great source of advice and information.

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