Coronavirus and boating FAQs

Many of your questions regarding coronavirus and boating are answered on this page.

Can I go boating in England and Wales?

Yes, you can go boating. You can cruise freely and stay overnight on your boat, or a holiday hire boat, as long as you are one household or support bubble. In Wales, an “extended household” can also socialise inside your boat.

From no earlier than 17 May, indoor mixing on your boat will be allowed with up to six people or, if it is more people, two households.

Please refer to the government guidance for England and Wales for more information and contact your licence support officer if you have specific issues.

Government guidelines should be followed at all times – this includes; social distancing, wearing masks where necessary, and regular handwashing, especially before and after using any facility or structure.

Are towpaths open?

Our towpaths remain open for people to enjoy exercise and being in the outdoors, close to nature. We’re following the government’s advice and taking the appropriate action so that everyone who visits, or lives on or around, our canals and river navigations is able to enjoy their time by or on the canal whilst remaining safe.  Enjoy your local canal but please follow the advice around social distancing, keeping your distance from both other people and moored boats where people may be living aboard.

Our plea to everyone visiting our canals and river navigations is to act always with consideration and respect.

Below are answers to some of your other most frequently asked questions. Jump straight to the section you'd like to read:

General advice for boaters  Boater facilities and services
Boat licences and Boat Safety Scheme Other activities
Support for boaters needing extra help Contacting the Trust

Updated 4 May 2021

General advice for boaters

Is boat movement still restricted?

Yes, you can go boating. You can cruise freely and stay overnight on your boat, or a holiday hire boat, as long as you are one household or support bubble. In Wales, an “extended household” can also socialise inside your boat.

How can I access the Covid vaccine if I am a continuous cruiser?

You will need to be registered with a GP surgery.  If you’re not, you can temporarily register with a GP near to you.  You do not need proof of address to register.  Visit the NHS site for more information, and if you are having problems registering, call the NHS England Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 22 33.  Appointments are being arrange by text and/or letter, so please make sure your details are up-to-date and your post is being checked.

How do I reduce the risk of transmission through touching facilities or locks that have been used by others?

In line with the government advice to all, it is advisable to wash your hands or use hand gels frequently and wear a face mask in enclosed public spaces to reduce the risk of catching coronavirus.

Can I use an employee-operated structure?

Please book passage in advance to use one of our employee-operated structures.

Support for boaters needing extra help

What should I do if I am self-isolating and need help but don’t have any support networks?

Please get in touch via our online webform or contact your local boat licence support team. We will work with partners to support boaters self-isolating as best we can without adding to the risk of transmission.

Are Waterways Chaplains still helping boaters in need?

The work and ministry of Waterways Chaplains at this time is especially important, especially for those who are isolated and financially challenged by the crisis. Please visit the Waterways Chaplaincy website for the latest information.

Boat licences and Boat Safety Scheme

My Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certificate is due. What does the government advice mean for renewal?

The Government guidelines are clear that those needing to access homes to carry out work can do so. Let us know if you are shielding or isolating so we can arrange an examination as soon as possible once it is safe to do so.

For the latest information on the BSS examination process, please keep your eye on the Boat Safety Scheme website.

How will this affect my restricted licence?

If you have been given a restricted licence, we understand that you will have been unable to make changes to your cruising pattern during lockdown. Please note that as of 12 April 2021 boat movement suspensions have been lifted and you are expected to cruise as normal. If you’ve any concerns, please contact your licence support officer.

Has there been any reduction in licence fees?

In recognition of the severe restrictions on boating due to the pandemic, we extended all Canal & River Trust leisure boat licences held at the time of the initial lockdown by one month at no cost to boaters.

Is there any discount on Gold Licences?

No, the Environment Agency is unable to offer a discount. The Gold Licence is a joint agreement between the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust.

What if I’m facing extreme hardship or financial difficulties due to the coronavirus crisis and can’t pay my licence fees at all?

We will do what we can to support anyone in this situation during these highly unsettling times and we will try to be as flexible as we can regarding payment where there is genuine hardship. Please get in touch via our online webform or contact your local boat licence support team. If you are in this situation but currently pay by direct debit, please contact us rather than default on these payments as that could cause more problems.

Boater facilities and services


Are boater facilities still available and being maintained?

If you have any coronavirus symptoms or have had a positive test result then you should not use any customer service facilities. We have increased our cleaning regimes of our facilities but government guidance should still be followed. This includes washing your hands before and after use as well as only using the facility if it is unoccupied.

How can I get hold of pump-out cards and facilities keys?

Pump-out cards and facilities keys are available from our online shop – please order well in advance as they may take longer than usual to be delivered. Our offices remain closed for all but operational purposes until further notice. If you have difficulty using the online shop or receiving post, please get in touch and we will see how we can help. 

What happened to your winter works programme?

We completed a £45.1 million programme of repairs on waterways across England & Wales, replacing lock gates, dredging to ensure the water is deep enough for boats, and carrying out a host of tasks to keep the 200-year old network open and help ensure its resilience to climate change.  Despite the Trust forecasting a reduction of income of around 10% (£20 million) due to the pandemic, we prioritised spending to maintain a full winter works programme of 128 large-scale repairs across 50 canal and river navigations.   

Other activities

Can I hire a boat at the moment?

Subject to restrictions, hire boat companies are operating with appropriate safety measures in place. Hire boat operators will be able to advise you on their protocols. If you have a hire boat holiday booked, please contact the operator for further information.

Can people fish on the towpaths at the moment?

Read our latest guidance on coronavirus and angling. In affected areas, please follow the government guidance.

Can I still canoe or kayak?

Read our latest guidance on coronavirus and paddle sports. In affected areas, please follow the government guidance.

Contacting the Trust

How should I get in contact with the Trust?

Please use our online contact form in the first instance. Due to reduced staff numbers our customer service phone number will be operating reduced opening hours of 8am–6pm Monday to Friday (Bank Holidays 9am–5pm). until further notice. If you have a general question and want to speak to someone, you can call our Customer Service Team on 0303 040 4040. Boaters can also contact their local boat licensing support team.

If you want to buy or renew a boat licence, please use our online web licensing portal where possible, while you can buy pump out cards from our online shop. Please only think about visiting one of our offices if you have no other options.

Last date edited: 4 May 2021