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10 reasons to take up canoeing
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Desmond Family Canoe Trail
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We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.
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. Here’s some things to think about when planning a longer cruise.
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, the weather is often better in September than it is in June. Winter offers a chance of solitude and generally quieter cruising but weather and planned maintenance can play havoc with cruising plans.
The main limiting factor on “where” is the location where you normally keep your boat as most people will need to do a there and back trip. If you are lucky with your home mooring location, you might be able to do a cruising ring. We’re got quite a few suggestions on our boating pages.
Other limiting factors are the number of and general fitness of the crew. Weather conditions will also play are part. I can promise you that my ideal boating holiday doesn’t involve 14 hour days cruising in the pouring rain to ensure you get home in time. Been there, done that, got the very soggy T-shirt!
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.
There’s many resources to help you plan the detail of your trip before you go as well as resources you can use whilst on the journey. 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. In addition I also like to make a note of the location of launderettes, train stations close the canal, supermarkets, farm shops and particularly good pubs.
Debbi boating on the Rochdale canal
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.
One boater friend of mine swears by his Di Blasi folding street legal motor bike as a transport solution if you need one whilst boating, but obviously not for use on the towpath. 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.
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! 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.
I’ve been counting down the days to my long cruise. The engine is serviced, the boat is painted, I’m stocked up on spares and I’ve got a plan A, B, and C for cruising depending weather and unplanned stoppages.
After all the planning and preparation, it’s finally time to relax, let loose the ropes and go boating. I may pass you on my travels. Here’s hoping the bottom’s not too close to the top!
Find out what the Canal & River Trust's boating team have been up to.