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Boating on rivers

Almost 15% of our network is made up of rivers. If you’re venturing out on one for the first time, here are a few considerations to enjoy your time on the water.

Lady on moored narrowboat talking to volunteer on bank

Cruising on rivers

Rivers are generally wider than canals and have a flow on them unlike canals. When you're taking a bend in a boat it's a great idea to keep this in mind and stick to the outside of the bend where the water flows faster, making the channel deeper.

Remember when approaching locks that local trip boats and commercial traffic take priority. Be prepared to wait your turn.

When going through manned locks always accept the instructions or advice from the lock keeper. If you have any queries about your route don't be afraid to ask and always give your intended destination.

If venturing onto the tidal sections of the rivers always speak to the lock keeper to find out what time you will have to leave to catch the tide right to enable you to lock through at you next destination. Get a Sissons Chart for the section you will need as these will give you vital information for your navigation. Also be aware of large commercial traffic on the river, they need the deepest course so be prepared to take avoiding action. Navigation lights are compulsory on all tidal sections.

Mooring on rivers

When mooring up to a pontoon, always try and moor up against the flow of the river, even if this means going past and turning around. This will give you more control and manoeuvrability to moor up safely.

Unlike canals, it is not advisable to moor alongside the riverbanks as there may be large boulders and rocks just under the water, or they may be just shallow mud.

If you moor to a non-floating pontoon be aware that river levels can rise and fall over night so moor on long lines, especially if heavy rains have fallen in the previous few days as it takes time for the rain water to filter down.

Be prepared

Ensure that your craft is carrying a sufficient size anchor and length of chain (making sure it is attached to the boat) in case of emergencies such as engine failures. This is especially important if you're navigating any tidal sections of the rivers.

It may sound daft, but make sure you have enough fuel for your journey. Refuelling facilities on rivers are few and far between, especially for petrol.

If possible have a VHF radio on board. However, you should first obtain a ship's radio licence from OFCOM and pass the short-range operator course to get your certificate.

Always carry a life ring or horseshoe lifebuoy with a good length of line attached in case of a person overboard situation.

Ensure your crew are briefed on water safety before your trip.

Last Edited: 05 July 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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