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Planning a longer cruise

Here’s some things to think about when planning a longer cruise.

Three people sit in the front of a narrowboat on a sunny day.

There are many wonderful places to visit on our network, so taking a longer than two-week cruise will either allow you either extend your cruising range to visit new places, or to spend longer exploring places that you may have previously dashed past.

When to go?

If you've got kids you are going to be limited to the school holidays and a long cruise is rarely going to be an option, unless it's summer holiday time.

The downside of summer school holidays is that the waterways are likely to be very busy. Outside of the school holidays the waterways tend to be quieter, except in very popular areas where you may still encounter queues for locks and facilities and competition for mooring spaces.

Spring and autumn are perennially popular times for extended cruising. Winter offers a chance of solitude and generally quieter cruising but weather and planned maintenance can affect cruising plans.

Family boating at Farnhill on Leeds & Liverpool Canal

Where to go?

If you have a good home mooring location, you might be able to do a cruising ring. We're got quite a few suggestions on our boating pages.

The availability of suitable moorings, especially if you have any mobility issues, planned maintenance works and even your boat dimensions and suitability for the waterway need to be factored in too.

There's a big difference between narrow inland canals and large tidal rivers and we've got all sorts of types waterways in our care. Again, there's helpful information on our boating pages.

Other limiting factors are the number of and general fitness of the crew. Weather conditions will also play are part.

Maps, route planners and more

From books and maps to online guides, navigation aids and even other boater's blogs, it's easy to find out what you need to know.

Whilst the modern mobile phone or tablet is the present-day equivalent of the “Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” it's also a good idea to ensure you've got something written down on paper as well because paper doesn't need charging or a GPS signal.

It's also a good idea to ensure that you have a written copy of any important navigational notes and useful telephone numbers. You could also make a note of the location of launderettes, train stations close the canal, supermarkets, farm shops and particularly good pubs.

Explore the rural Oxford Canal

What to take?

If your boat is your home then there's not so much packing as it should be on board already, but it's still worth taking time to review supplies.

Of greatest importance is making sure that not only is the boat engine in fine fettle but that you have fuel, oil, a variety of tools, spare fan belts, spare cables, an electrical tester, spare windlasses, mooring pins, mooring chains, spare rope, an anchor if you need one, lifejackets, torches, a boat pole and a gang plank.

Many boaters ensure they go boating with a push-bike, they are so handy for lock-wheeling. Do ensure you keep these securely locked up when not in use as sadly there are bike thieves out there.

Don't get caught short

Other useful things include the chimney for the stove and some fuel if you are going out in the summer and intending to come back in colder weather.

A spare cassette toilet is also advisable whether or not you are an advocate of the pump-out toilet. Far too frequently Elsan points or pump out machines are out of order, often due to misuse, but that's a subject for another blog. Just make sure you're not caught short!

The same goes for water. It's a pain to run out or to get to water point only to discover it's slightly different to the one you normally use and that you haven't got the right type of hose connector or even a long enough hose. It pays to have a few spares.

Last Edited: 12 September 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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