Narrowboat Hire – Our first experience on the water

Well we’ve had our first taste of cruising the canals and we loved it!

What better time to hire a Narrowboat than a chilly winters day forecasting persistent rain and wind. No really, the conditions for us couldn’t of been better! We spent the day on our little hire Narrowboat in the gusting winds and driving rain and we still loved it, if that’s not a good sign I don’t know what is!

This was something James really wanted to do, as the first time he stepped foot on a Narrowboat just a few weeks ago. It made him feel a little bit sea sick! Admittedly he wasn’t feeling well before we set foot on the 60ft cruiser, but foolishly he thought it would be rock steady. His head wasn’t ready for the slight soothing movement of a Narrowboat, which occurs when there is a few of you aboard moving around. So we really wanted to make sure living aboard would actually be possible without feeling sick everyday!boat-2

We arrived at Cosgrove Narrowboat Hire at 9am to be greeted by Tim the owner of the company, he gave us both a quick health and safety talk got us to ‘sign our lives away’ and showed us the controls. Time to cast of, Tim helped us untie the mooring ropes pushed us off and handed over the controls straight away, hopping on the stern to give a very quick driving lesson … and I mean very quick. He instructed us around another boat to a turning point got us to perform a U turn, which wasn’t too difficult in such a small boat! We then started to steer slowly towards the bank, where Tim hopped off wishing us well for our day of cruising.

So this was it! Just the 4 of us, Kirsty, James and the dogs, Rosie and Heidi, on a narrowboat, on the canals.But racking up the miles at the whopping 4mph speed limit wasn’t our main aim, as this isn’t how we will be using our boat.

Once we were in quieter waters; mainly as we needed a large portion of clear banking space to be able to moor up without crashing, with our novice captaining abilities! We moored up for an all important cuppa pit stop. After a small fight with the mooring pins, lump hammer, and ropes, we seemed to be securely moored. So the tea making began. Even on this tiny Narrowboat, on a windy day, after only an hour aboard, we had acclimatised to the very minimal and slow motion of the boat. Both of us felt as if we were stationary, that was until we looked out of the window at the bank that appeared to be moving in every direction, up, down, back and forth.


The dogs took the whole experience in there stride … kind of. Heidi was at home and comfortable straight away, Rosie on the other hand took a little more reassurance. boat-4To get Rosie onto the boat we had to initially pick her up, as she flatly refused to walk on under her own steam (Stubborn Terrier Syndrome) but after a little investigation she soon settled. We decided to keep them on leads but with them both settling so quickly we soon let them roam on their own accord. This led to them both being curled up and asleep in the cabin (Not that we can blame them given the weather conditions), if that’s not at home on the water we don’t know what is.

Job done James’ worries put to bed and the girls (dogs) at home with the water, so time to enjoy the the boat and the cruise! We took advantage of the full days boat hire and cruised from Cosgrove, where we collected our boat for the day, up to Stoke Bruerne (Which thankfully avoided the need for us to negiotiate any locks! We don’t think we are quite ready for them yet, much to James protests!). boat-1

In all we travelled just under 12 miles (6 miles each way), on the way up to Stoke Bruerne we took our time stopping regularly on the way and honing our shoddy (at best) mooring skills, but on the way back as the cold started to set in (And Kirsty’s lips started to turn a faint shade of blue) we powered through a bit more.


So what did we learn from our day trip on the canals?

  • Whilst the weather could of been better, we still had a great day.
  • The dogs, and we, settled in without a hitch, and nobody ended up in the water! Success!
  • Even on a hideous day the canals are a beautiful and friendly place to be, whilst no other boaters were mad enough to be chugging the canals on the day everyone we passed commended our bravery or popped out to say hello, even the shetland ponies in the fields we passed.
  • We feel so much more at ease with everything now and ready to full speed ahead with our own boating plans.

Despite the typically British Winter weather we had a great day, and whilst we know an element of this has to be the novelty of being on the canals for the first time together the day served as a great way to verify in our minds this is something we can and more importantly want to do.

James & Kirsty


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