Boating with children
With the summer holidays approaching, it’s the perfect time to book a hire boat for a week or even take an extended cruise. Narrowboating is the kind of family holiday where you can take everything with you - including the kitchen sink! But how do you keep the kids clean, dry, amused and safe? With a few top tips you can cruise through the stunning English countryside practically stress-free.
Take waterproofs and wellies for everyone. Occasional showers are a dependable part of the British summertime fun and kids love to splash in towpath puddles, or go off exploring on nature trail walks.
Take a laptop computer and dongle or a good ‘smart’ phone to locate the useful internet resources below. You may need a 12v charger for this depending on your boat’s electric system.
To find the nearest children’s playground to wherever you are moored check the website of the local borough council. The home page should have a link to leisure facilities and playgrounds; parks and gardens can usually be found in this section.
For children’s activities check out our activities and events pages. For days out not specifically related to the waterways see www.ideasforthekids.co.uk.
For eating out,find a child friendly canal-side pub in the relevant Nicholson’s guide, try www.canalsidepubguide.co.uk or look up your waterway on the CRT website to find pubs and restaurants alongside it. The Nicholson’s Waterways Guide to your chosen navigation is essential for planning your journey and locating water points, sewage disposal points and other vital facilities (published by Harper Collins).
On an extended cruise you will need to find your nearest launderette. Before setting off, order a copy of The Aylesbury Canal Society Laundrette List from www.iwashop.com. Updates are posted on the ACS website www.aylesburycanal.org.uk. Alternatively use www.upmystreet.com to ‘Find My Nearest...’ For this website you will need to find out your current postcode. Simply Google the nearest canal-side pub or business, plus the word ‘contact’. This usually brings up an address and postcode.
Useful books for all other amenities that you may need are the First Mate Guides by Carole Sampson. They will help you to locate your nearest bank, post office, telephone box, internet cafe, doctors, dentist, vet, hospital, chemist, transport links, shops, restaurants, launderettes and more. They are available at selected chandleries or direct from Carole Sampson. www.canalmate.co.uk.
Staving off boredom
If the kids are too young to help or don’t want to help with the locks then indoors they may enjoy jigsaws from The Inland Waterways Association or canal-themed books. Muddy Waters are the canal-based adventures of narrowboat characters, and the Bert and Betty stories are about the boat people who lived and worked on England’s canals in Victorian times. There is even a collection of Boat Babies poem books for very young children - www.TheBraunstonBoaters.com. If all else fails, your laptop (see point 2) doubles as a DVD player!
Hire boat companies will provide life jackets free of charge. They can also be purchased from your nearest large chandlery. Some people use toddler reins secured to a mushroom vent on the roof of the boat to keep their child from falling overboard, as was done by Victorian working boat families. This can be a sensible thing to do providing you’re aware of risks from brushes with overhanging branches, low bridges, flying ropes etc. There’s no substitute for close and constant supervision.
Sellotape a list of basic lock rules to the kitchen cupboard and get your children to repeat them back to you:
- No running
- Stay close to a grown up
- Hold hands when told to
- Keep away from the edge
- I said, KEEP AWAY FROM THE EDGE!
Be prepared and you may find that discovering rural England at a lazy three miles per hour with your family by your side is a holiday memory to treasure.
These tips were brought to you by Peggy Melmoth, who writes about narrowboating with kids at www.narrowboatwife.blogspot.com.