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Shire Cruisers Boating Holiday FAQs


  • We have not been on a canal boating holiday before. Do we need experience
    or a driving licence?

    No. The boats are easy to handle. If you've never been on a narrow boat before, then we'll make sure you know what you need to. Before your holiday we'll send you our Information Pack which includes a DVD showing the right way to handle the boat and work locks, as well as detailed route information.

    There is more information in the manual and cruising guides on your boat. When you start your canal boat holiday we will give you a thorough briefing on the waterway and your boat. One of our experienced staff will show you how to handle the boat and work the first three locks on your journey.

    Check out our boat hire training and Handover Procedure - it's Quality Assured by British Marine.

    How fast will we travel?

    You will travel at not very brisk walking pace, sometimes a bit less. Locks take perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. So reckon on around 3 1/2 locks and/or miles per hour. Rushing won't gain you much; dawdling can make it slower.

    Will there be queues?

    There's much less traffic in the north than in the midlands. So you're unlikely to have to queue for locks, water points or moorings. if you do, you'll have the chance to meet friendly other boaters. And you should make a positive effort to share locks with another boat, to save precious water.

    Which route should we choose?

    If this is your first canal boat holiday, or you want a leisurely trip, choose an 'out & back' holiday so that you are not committed to any particular schedule. Our out & back routes from Barnoldswick are relatively light on locks.
    If you have canal boat holiday experience, enjoy locks and want an active holiday with about 8 hours boating a day - a one way trip or ring might suit you. Ensure that your whole crew is keen to do this. Each route description has more information.

    Are there lots of locks on all routes?

    To get across the Pennines, the engineers built many locks. Experienced boaters often see the activity and skill of doing locks as one of the main attractions, and so prefer our more hilly routes. But some of our routes are less heavily locked, so there should be something to suit everybody.

    Are the canals easy to use?

    It's fascinating to travel on waterways which are over 200 years old, but their age means that few structures are of modern design. This is essential to their charm and you must make allowances if sometimes things are harder to use than you'd like.

    Is it easy to turn round?

    You make a three (or many more than three...) point turn at designated places called winding holes. These are at frequent intervals along the canal, marked in the guides on your boat. A little thinking ahead will mean you'll have no difficulty.

    Can we bring our pets?

    Yes - see our pet-friendly boating holidays page for hints and tips. We make no charge for one dog (or cat, hamster, goldfish... ) Please keep them off the upholstery. Extra dogs will be charged for.

    Are there plenty of pubs?

    Yes - see our Yorkshire canal pubs page for listings. Not so many pubs are literally on the canalside, but all the ones we list are easy to reach, and we give their postcode so that you can find them with your phone. We also send out a list with your Information Pack, which is continually improved by our customers' recommendations and suggestions.

    Can we get provisions and water as we go?

    Yes - there are plenty of shops and free water points en route.

    What linen will be provided?

    Double or single duvet set with pillows, pillowcases and blankets as required. We will send you a bedding order form. Tea towels are provided. Towels are available as an extra at £5 per set (free to those who book from overseas).

    Can we charge up our phone, or bring hair straighteners?

    There are normal UK 3 pin sockets which can handle anything up to 1kw, including chargers, hair straighteners and sleep apnoea machines. A microwave and mains hairdryer are provided. There is 2-pin razor socket. There is also a cigar-lighter socket, as in a car, for 12v chargers.

    What if we cancel?

    You may receive a partial or full refund, depending on how much notice you give, and whether we are able to re-let the boat. See Condition 5 .

    What about insurance?

    You are covered for damage to the boat and third party claims for accidents involving the boat up to £3m. You are responsible for the first £500 of any claim, repairs, or loss of equipment. You will buy a non-returnable waiver of that liability for £50. Our insurance does not cover you for personal accidents and personal possessions, or for cancellation charges. Unless you already have it, we strongly recommend that you obtain suitable cover (see Booking page).

    Do we need a minimum crew?

    In order to control the boat through locks and swing bridges you need a minimum of two participating adults: one to handle the boat, and one to work the lock or bridge (this is the physically more demanding of the two jobs). Neither can be primarily looking after other people or dogs. Older teenagers can be very helpful, but remember that the hirer is responsible for their supervision. If you have two adults plus small children, don't plan too ambitious a route, and be open to child-centred distractions such as ducks or swings. If you have adults with restricted mobility, or who need care, you may need extra crew. Please see our Accessibility page. We regret we cannot hire to single-handed boaters, however experienced.

    Is TV reception good?

    Many of our canals are in the bottom of valleys, and reception can be poor. We suggest you watch important matches in the pub!

    Will the children be bored?

    Not for a moment. Children love the excitement of canal boat holidays, especially when they can help at locks. There are also lots of boating things to do along the way - for example, Eureka!, the famous museum for children. As long as children are sensible there is no danger, but we do recommend that they (and any adult non-swimmers) wear life jackets, which we provide free.
    Many children find the whole boating experience so captivating that they forget their normal electronic pursuits. But lots of other children appreciate our TVs with DVD players and radio CDs. The TVs have HDMI sockets for use with gaming machines. There are power points to charge up phones, tablets, laptops, cameras etc. We don't provide wifi, but you can use your own phone as a hub.

    Do you provide 'free' wifi?

    No. The systems presently available require the boatyard to purchase large quantities of data, to be used by some customers effectively at the expense of others. And the signal is too often poor in our valley bottoms, the available SIM cards are only 3G, and the technology is not yet reliable. Meanwhile, if you can find a good signal, you can use your phone as a hub.

    What do your other customers think?

    Check out their useful Reviews, read their entertaining blogs and see their pictures.

    Do we have to pay for locks or moorings?

    No. We have paid the boat licence fees. Towpath mooring is free, and widely available - all down one side of the canal, except that places on the rivers have no towing path, and you should not moor close to locks. You do not have to reserve or pay for mooring. The offside (opposite the towpath) is private property.

    Will we have enough fuel and gas?

    You will have enough free fuel for about 2 weeks' normal cruising. If you need a toilet pumpout or additional gas we will repay you. On adventurous fortnights or longer trips, you may need to buy more diesel.

    Will our car be OK?

    All parking is free.
    At Sowerby Bridge, you will park in our yard, behind gates locked at night (you will have a key).
    Parking at Barnoldswick is in the marina car park, by arrangement with Lower Park Marina.
    Parking in Ashton is in the locked yard at Ashton Packet Boat Company.
    Vehicles are left at owners' risk.

    Can we bring bikes or canoes?

    Yes - but they have to live on the roof, so please bring something to protect our paintwork. There are plenty of fantastic rides into the hills - see Cycle Calderdale. For canoe licences, see Canal & River Trust .

    Can we hire bikes?

    Yes - you can hire e-bikes in Sowerby Bridge from juicedupbikes.co.uk.

    Can we fish?

    The fishing is let to many different clubs, only some of which issue day tickets. You must have a National Rod Licence.

    Are all routes always available?

    The Canal & River Trust is committed to keeping the waterways open during the cruising season. However, a waterway can sometimes need to be temporarily closed for repair following adverse weather or breakdown. Shire Cruisers is responsible for your boat, but not for the waterways on which you plan to travel. Therefore Shire Cruisers does not guarantee that any suggested route or waterway will be open for navigation during your holiday. In the event of temporary closure, Canal & River Trust would work very hard to reopen as quickly as possible. You might be subject to a short delay; or have to change your itinerary. We would give you good advice and back-up. You must make every effort to return the boat on time to the agreed base.
    It’s a good idea to have a Plan B in mind before you travel. We will try to let you know about any planned waterway closures at the time you make your booking; you can also check on www.canalrivertrust.org.uk . After booking, we will do our best to keep you informed about any closures or restrictions likely to affect your holiday. We recommend you to sign up to CRT’s email closure alerts, and when travelling on rivers, to use CRT’s handy Strong Stream warnings, which take effect at times of heavy rainfall. This is easy and useful. Full details are in your Information Pack.

    Why are none of your boats longer than 56'?

    To fit the short locks on the Calder & Hebble Navigation, between Sowerby Bridge and Dewsbury.

    What if we break down or have an accident?

    You will have our helpline number. We will give you advice, or come quickly to sort out your problem.

    Can we get a copy of your Brochure?

    You can either see it onscreen now, download it as a 3.5 Mb PDF file or give us your address and we'll post one out. But it isn't as comprehensive as this online version!

    Can you recommend fleets in other parts of the country?

    We are members of Drifters - between us we have nationwide availability of good quality boats.

    How do we find you?

    What are the best trains from London?
    How do we reach you from the airport?
    Can you recommend somewhere to stay the night before?
    Please see how to find us at Sowerby Bridge and Barnoldswick, and our Where to Stay pages for these answers!

    When will our boat be ready?

    Our takeover time is 1pm. You will appreciate that we're very busy until then making sure everything is right for you, so please don't be early! There are good lunch places in Sowerby Bridge and Barnoldswick, so you can meet up with the rest of your party.

    ...and when do we give it back?

    Please be back by 9am and let us have the boat clean and tidy by 9.30am.

    Any more questions?

    Please ask and we'll be happy to tell you anything we can. Call 01422 832712. It sometimes helps to discuss the features of different boats before you choose. If you can visit Sowerby Bridge to look at them, so much the better - but, before you set out, check which boats will be in the yard on the day. In winter time, be prepared to see boats stripped out for maintenance. Our Barnoldswick base only has staff on turnround days.

Check availability

Use this form to check availability. When you find the boat you want, click 'Book this holiday now' and you can pay your deposit or hold for 48 hours - or ring 01422 832712.

The counties are the names of the boats, not where they start from! Click the map for routes, and the boat for details

The search for one way trips on Hereford is not working correctly - please go here for availability of Hereford. Delivery trips on Cambridge, Norfolk and Somerset are working fine.