Can I Take My Little Boat on the Canal?

photo of a woman kayaking

diverse girls standing near decorative boat
Photo by Monstera on

And What Does A Boating Day Out Actually Do for Your Body?

Summer Is Here and I want to take my boat out!

“Can we take our little boat on the canal?”, young Doris and Delila ask. Birds loud twittering, BBQ smoke rising, waking to sun streaming through the windows, It’s arrived like a dumpling in a dish of stew- just as the sun is a welcome and necessary addition to a day of fun on the water.

So you drag out the old blow-up kayak, dust it off, and amidst a throng of excited kids, you begin inflating it with fresh oxygen through a foot pump. You wonder why you have so many of the little blighters watching you do all the work as you turn beetroot red with each exhausting effort.

The boat unfurls with the smell of plastic and last year’s left-behind crispy pond weed reveals itself from the creases and folds that now stretch and ping out their contents. It’s ready!

Are You Stressed?- Unclutter Your Brain on Water

photo of a woman kayaking
Photo by Carissa Rogers on

Police sirens bring back thoughts of Covid, restrictions, and loss of freedoms. Work is a daily ritual grind. Your brain is full of news reports, and travel limitations have ruined your holiday plans. You see all around the fears that won’t subside, and your mental health has taken a beating. So how can you free yourself from your worries?

Time out having fun is key to recovery, and so crucial for your mental wellbeing. Water activities in peaceful surroundings can bring welcome relief from the everyday. A day out away from it all clears your mind and heals your body. Fresh air and laughter are as nutritious to your brain as a vegetable smoothie is to your body.

What Does Water Actually Do for Your Body?

man riding on boat holding brown paddle
Photo by Vincent Gerbouin on

Water provides low-impact sports which result in less wear and tear on those joints. Swimming and rowing exercise the whole body and can be inclusive to varying levels of health.

Water aids muscle recovery, increasing fitness slowly- a great alternative to those energetic spin classes or running. Many water sports are team orientated- as social creatures, we need each other and can achieve more together.

But water helps also to calm the mind and boosts oxygen to the body’s brain and cells, clearing that foggy head and optimizing your energy levels.

Check out ROW History & Values — Recovery on Water to see how water helps those diagnosed or recovering from breast cancer.

Creative Lock Lovers Go All-Electric- Quietly

faceless people building bamboo boat on seacoast in vietnam
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Canal boat owners are often creative sorts. I’ve seen several homemade boats up and down the canals, from wooden row boats to all-electric. The joys of an electric boat are peace and quiet and zero effort- a day-tripper or a party boat by night.

It’s always nice to turn off the noisy boat engine of a cruising narrow boat, but to meander down the canal in silence is deep Carma!

An old speed boat with four poles holding up a solar-panelled roof, powers a solid battery. The result?- a Wacky Races mean machine with silver beer bottle holders set on the dash and leather seats with racing stripes, that would turn Dastardly and Mutley green with envy!

Why not have a go at building your own floating pontoon. Here are some awesome creative projects to get you started. Just make sure you wear a lifejacket in case it doesn’t go as planned!

20 Boats You Can Build Yourself – Instructables

A Grand Day Out- local boat rides

photo of a plate with fish and chips
Photo by Camille on

There are plenty of great day trips and holiday hires to enjoy around most canal localities. Why not jump aboard the Lancaster Water Bus for a canal cruise opposite the Water Witch pub. Fish and chips can be served on board- for about £20 per person all in.

Or you can sail from Barton Grange too- Santa Specials, Comedy Cruises, three-course dinners, and Eurovision?? Yes, you saw it correctly! Lancaster Canal Boats – Kingfisher Cruises – Canal / Waterway / Marina in Preston, Lancaster – Visit Lancashire

There are canal boat trips that support disabled and wheelchair access, as well as holidays for families with special circumstances. Check your website’s details.

Kayaks & Paddleboards- Where can I take my little boat out?

person on watercraft near waterfall
Photo by Jacob Colvin on

Kayaks and canoes, whether it be your lonesome serious type, the local outdoors pursuits centre with a school class of chattering children or a family drifting by, all are popular on the busy canal network. Youngsters are even lured into litter-picking events done aboard.

The canal is seen as a safe place for novice water sports when compared to the sea. Paddleboarders too enjoy the calmer waters, that is until a narrowboat appears around the corner heading your way. The propellers of these big hulking vessels pull you towards them, most kayakers clutch to the siding or grass edge until you’ve gone by.

The hazards of the canal are often hidden- underwater currents, rope and clothing pulled into engine propellers, and sharp objects penetrate kayak hulls where a barge flattens them. I’m always a little wary of a blow-up canoe, in case it pops like a balloon.

But the serene quiet and wildlife are magically chill. Rowing exercises those upper body muscles too.

A better place to practise water sports such as kayaking is a lake. There are many close to the Lancaster Canal on the edge of the Lake District, they’re less busy and hazardous and have cleaner water as well as lots of islands and beaches to explore.

Join your local sailing club and get expert tuition on sailing or join a paddleboarding group out on the sands at low tide. Rivers and canals are not the best places for tiny boats.

Laws & Orders of the Cut- the high cost of pleasure!

happy young actor in pirate costume standing on poolside with inflatable flamingo mattress
Photo by Marina Abrosimova on

If you want to take your little boat on the canal did you know you need a boat licence for any small boat or paddle board navigating the canal and river network?

You can purchase a small craft licence from The Canal and Riversway Trust at a cost of £20 a week or £122 for a 30-day explorer. Canoe licence | Canal & River Trust | Canal & River Trust (

Narrowboat licences are charged by the length of the boat, and our fifty-foot narrow boat licence costs us over £900 a year. Offside moorings additionally charge from £1500 upwards annually, unless you keep continually cruising by moving every two weeks.

Sailing the cut is not cheap and you are monitored! The cut is a privately owned, manmade and kept- old motorway. Fishing requires a licence too. The Environmental Agency and others… also have their own legislation.

Some lake district lakes appear free to small vessels like canoes as long as you’re not profiting from your hobby. Why not set up camp, and a BBQ too.

However, the splendid RYA have argued the right to ‘educate not legislate’ for private pleasure craft users located off the inland waterways. Check out the rules for small boats here: Boat licences –, or take to the sea pirates- and you can go Magna Carta!

British Canoeing also offers a cheaper annual licence. Homepage (

Another useful website: River Licence Explained | Canoe Licence | SUP licence | Kayak Licence (

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