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.
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 us 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.
What rules do I have to follow as a continuous cruiser?
The law says that you must not stay in the same place for more than 14 days and that you must use your boat 'bona fide' for navigation - in other words 'in good faith'. If you can't do this easily, you should choose the home mooring option instead.
We care for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers so we have to interpret the law relating to continuous cruisers. We have to translate it into something that not only creates a framework for our staff to apply consistently, but also something that is clear for boaters. This has been done, and revised over many years and it’s called the ‘Guidance for boaters without a home mooring’.
Do read the guidance in full, but in a nutshell, it explains that you must use the boat to genuinely cruise (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. If you're planning on continuously cruising then it's best to get an idea of what range of movement we'd expect you to be doing over the course of your licence period.
What happens if I don’t follow the rules?
If your cruising pattern isn’t wide ranging enough or you stay in one place for too long then, ultimately, we might have to remove your boat from the water. We don’t ever do this lightly and it is our last resort after a series of clear written warnings.
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.
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 – they're a great source of advice and information.