We all know how idyllic life on the water can be, and a huge reason for that is people respecting narrowboating etiquette. Ultimately, obeying this unwritten code of conduct while cruising the waterways makes boating better for everyone.

We’ve created a handy guide to help with good canal conduct – after all, you can never be too polite…right?

1. Sharing is caring 

Always be prepared to share locks with other boats of a suitable size if you come across a double lock. When the canal is busiest, and the locks are more in use, we need to save as much water as possible. So, even if there is no-one right behind you when you’re approaching the lock, consider waiting a short while to see if other boats are approaching which you could to share with.

When leaving the lock, check if another boat is coming from the opposite direction – if so, leave the gates open for them. Basically, it’s very similar to door etiquette -  don’t close it in someone’s face!  

Narrowboating etiquette

A double lock. Image credit: Venetian Marina.

2. Considerate cruising 

As a narrowboater, considerate cruising is always key. You’ll likely already be aware of the 4mph for most of the UK’s canals. However, when you’re passing mooring boats, it’s common practice to slow down to 2mph, so you don’t disturb them – for all you know, they’ve just sat down with a cup of tea!

It’s also a sensible idea to slow down when another boat is approaching opposite. If you’re at cruising speed, start slowing down when you’re two or three boat lengths away – slowing early means you’ll have more control as you pass the boat.

If you’re following another narrowboat, give them plenty of space just like you would do when driving a car and, if you want to overtake, wait for the skippers of the lead boat to give you the signal that it’s safe to do so.

Narrowboating etiquette

Image credit: Canal & River Trust

3. Mindful mooring

Be as mindful as possible when deciding where to moor your boat – even if it’s just for a quick mid-morning coffee! For your own comfort, make sure you moor properly, as unsecured boats get thrown around by those that are passing. Secure your boat using ropes that are set at 45 degrees, making sure your mooring pins are securely in the ground.

Avoid mooring next to locks, moveable bridges and tunnels for your own safety - even if it’s for a short stop. When leaving your mooring spot, make sure you don’t pull out in front of a cruising boat, as this is seen as very impolite - besides, what’s the rush?

Narrowboating etiquette

Image credit: Keith Lodge

4. Don't be a bad neighbour 

If you’re mooring in a marina, being considerate of your narrowboating neighbours goes a long way. Every marina has its own set of rules so make sure you read up on them before signing the marina agreement!

If you feel some of the rules will be tricky to stick to, it’s probably best to look for another mooring arrangement. Living together in a marina means you need to respect your neighbours by respecting the rules.

Narrowboating etiquette

5. Rules (unfortunately) aren't made to be broken...

Finally, the rules set out by the Canal and River Trust are there to protect you and all users of the canal system. So, it's important to follow the guidelines that have been set out to ensure that everyone gets the most out of their time on our waterways.

The running theme of our narrowboat etiquette guide is bearing in mind other canal users. As long as you do this, you can’t go far wrong - happy cruising!