Hiring a day boat – to many people, this is their first introduction to narrowboating, perhaps as a prelude to taking their first narrowboat holiday. Many narrowboat hire companies offer the chance for a group of people (typically up to a dozen) to experience day boat hire on the canal, and understand for themselves what is the attraction of being afloat. Boating is a wonderful and fun pastime that everyone can enjoy – and a little thought and planning in advance can make your first hire of a day boat a great day out.
Narrowboat day hire prices can vary depending upon time of year and the area in which you want to hire the boat. Typically you should expect to pay between £125 to £200 for a boat that can accommodate 10 – 12 people. A fully laden boat can be a relatively inexpensive day out, at around £20 a head. Remember that you will have to leave a holding deposit with the boatyard for possible damage – and this can add another £50 or so to your bill. These prices are by no means consistent around the canal network and a phone call to the day boat hire company in advance should clarify your total outlay.
It is worth mentioning that in some cases, day boat hire companies offer a reduced half day rate during the winter season due to the shorter cruising hours available.
Unfortunately, and in particular over the last few years, the image of the day boat hirer has become a bit tainted because of the behaviour of a few individuals – so I have tried to set out a few pointers to the first time day boat hirer, to help avoid making mistakes, (these are usually avoidable), to avoid dangers (these are always avoidable) and to avoid stupid and irresponsible behaviour (this should never even occur to start with)
You’ve arrived at the boatyard to take out the day boat. Perhaps it is for a birthday party (this seems to be becoming increasingly popular) maybe it’s for a celebration of a different sort. Either way, it seems probable that at some stage on the cruise, alcohol will be consumed. As long as I can remember, alcohol has always been consumed on board boats (let’s face it, the rum ration was only abolished on Royal Navy ships in 1970!) but the big difference was, the Captain didn’t drink it whilst in charge of the ship, and the entire crew didn’t drink it while the vessel was underway. Neither should you. Nominate some members of your group who will not drink during the day.
Boring, isn’t it, but you would never be allowed on a public road in charge of a vehicle if you were drinking. Apart from the fact that the Skipper needs his/her wits about them (as they often have little or no boating experience themselves) your crew will be jumping on and off the day boat at times during the cruise. Locks, Swing Bridges etc. are all integral parts of the canal system but need a bit of co-ordination and muscle. A crew is more likely to hurt themselves and someone else if they are under the influence of alcohol.
Keep your limbs within the confines of the boat. All too often, people get injured because they are dangling arms or legs over the side of a boat when a collision occurs. This isn’t just hitting another boat or the bank. Unbelievably, most injuries occur where parents allow their children to sit on the side of the day boat as it enters a lock. It’s a simple equation. 10 tons of boat and an unyielding lock wall versus a child’s skin and bone – there’s only ever going to be one loser…
Walking along the boat roof is best left until the boat is tied up, if at all. Even the most experience boaters have fallen in at some stage and inattentiveness when cruising past trees or bridges have seen many a day boat hirer swept off a roof and into the canal – with predictable consequence.
You will (should) have been given a briefing on how to operate a lock and what to do with the gates and paddles when you encounter them. LISTEN. The instructions are for your benefit. If you want to see how a lock operates before your trip you can check out the information on this website here. Do NOT cruise out of a lock leaving both gates wide open and the paddles up. All you are doing is leaving the work for someone else to do – and I have had day boat crews trying to justify this to me by saying it’s what the boat yard told them to do. NO boat yard would issue that sort of instruction…
When pottering along on your day boat, take a look at the way it sits in the water. Some day boat hirers seem to delight in trying to destabilise the boat as it moves along. The shallow drafted nature of most of these boats means the ballast is minimal and three or four people standing on the gunwales on the same side of the boat can make it list or tilt alarmingly. Apart from anything else, this makes the day boat almost unsteerable. Keep people inside the boat (many have seating inside and side curtains that can be rolled up anyway) and evenly distributed around the vessel. I once heard passengers on a trip boat described as ‘moveable ballast’, and that is probably the most appropriate description!
Finally a word about rubbish – Many hirers expend all their time and effort bringing heavy beer cans, wine bottles and food down to enjoy a picnic on the canal. This should always be taken back to the boatyard at the end of the hire period. Whilst this sounds obvious, I am afraid I have lost count of the number of day boat hirers who have seen fit to tip the contents of their rubbish bin overboard on the way back from their trip. The canal is not a rubbish tip – although it will become one if this sort of practice doesn’t cease. Every day boat hire centre will provide somewhere for hirers to dispose of rubbish at the end of the cruise.
Our canals are there for everyone to enjoy, and a little thought and consideration from all users will make it a better, cleaner and safer place to visit.
Oh – and by the way – the pirate hats are optional…!