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How to steer a narrowboat

If you’re new to boating, you’ll be reassured to hear that handling our narrowboats is easier than driving a car! You don’t need any boating experience when you book a holiday with Beacon Park Boats.

We get you in the mood for boating well before your holiday begins by sending you a comprehensive information pack. This includes a selection of holiday itineraries which you may wish to follow. For example, there are leisurely routes, more active routes, and even a lock-free route if you don’t fancy going through a lock on this particular holiday. We also include our 40-minute training DVD which shows the important aspects of boat handling and explains how everything works.

Our detailed procedures for ensuring customers are capable and confident on our boats have the stamp of approval of the British Marine Federation. In fact, we are the first canal boat hire company in Wales to gain the British Marine Federation’s Quality Accredited Boatyard status, which recognises all-round excellence, in every aspect of the business, from health & safety and housekeeping, to marketing and on-line booking.

All our narrowboats have large rear decks so the helmsman (the official name of the person steering the boat) need never be alone. It’s from the rear deck that our boats are steered, using a tiller. You stand holding the tiller in your right hand, leaving your left hand free to operate the engine and the horn. By moving the tiller you are moving the rudder which is located behind the propeller. Push the tiller to the right and the boat moves to the left, and vice versa.

For effortless manoeuvring, bow thrusters are really helpful. They are jets of water which can move the front of the vessel sideways with the simple push of a button located on the rear deck. Usually found only on privately-owned boats, it’s a major selling point for many of our customers, who prefer not to use the traditional barge pole.

Should you miss judge a bend, there is no need to panic on our boats. Just switch on the bow thruster, push either the right or left button and a small jet of water from the front will prevent any unplanned contact with the bank! The bow thrusters are fantastic to help with mooring. Remember the times you’ve been parallel parking your car, and you’ve accidentally hit the kerb. Bow thrusters are like having ‘parking assist’ mode on your narrowboat when you’re mooring. You can nudge the boat gently with a push of a button, avoid hitting the bank and finish in the perfect moored position.

At the start of your holiday, we provide you with a thorough handover on your narrowboat, explaining and demonstrating how everything works. We adjust the content of the handover depending on the boating experience of our customers, as we strive to offer a truly personalised service. Once you’re happy, you take the controls and we accompany you on a short practice cruise. That way we know you’re confident before you set off on your own. Of course, if you need assistance during your holiday we are just a phone call away. In the meantime take a look at our video.