↑ Return to Training

June 2017

This course will run over two weekends, for those people who have difficulty in making the usual four-day course, and, as a result, is unfortunately not suitable for DofE candidates.

  • Part one begins at 09.00  on Saturday 10th June 2017 and finishes at around 18.00 on Sunday 11th June 2017.
  • Part two begins at 09.00 on Saturday 24th June 2017 and finishes at around 18.00 on Sunday 25th June 2017.

You are, of course, welcome to join us on the Friday evening (either or both weekends), at whatever time suits you, and stay on one of our boats overnight to avoid an early morning journey. If you choose this option, there’s no additional charge, and there is a pub nearby (around ten minutes walk away) which serves food.

The cost of this course is £300 and includes:

  • Four days of instruction, both one-to-one and as a group.
  • Course manual.
  • Breakfast and lunch on the Saturday and Sunday; evening meal on the Saturday. No meal is provided on Sunday evening.
  • Accommodation on board.
  • Certification fees to NCBA BHC level (those candidates wishing to obtain CCBM accreditation should note that there is an additional £30 cost to the NCBA which we’ll collect when we order your certifications).

During the course, you can expect to learn:

  • Steering, turning, and reversing a 70 foot narrowboat
  • Mooring up and setting off (including rope throwing, hitches and use)
  • Safe use of locks (and what to do in an emergency)
  • Working as part of a team and with others
  • Etiquette on the canal system
  • History and trivia on canals

Click here to pay £50 deposit and to reserve your place.

You will need to attend both parts of the course to achieve certification.

One weekend will see us heading north on the Grand Union from Harefield, through Rickmansworth, into Watford, and then as far Apsley Lock, perhaps further if canal and weather conditions permit, before overnighting, and making the return journey the following day (see the map below).

The other weekend will see us going south on the canal to Brentford, via the Hanwell flight, and we’ll moor overnight either in Brentford basin or just outside.

Our overnight stop on both weekends will hopefully be near to a local hostelry for those who wish to enjoy a drink in the evening. For this reason, this course isn’t suitable for people under the age of 18.

20160703_route_mapIf you’d like to join us, sign up here and pay a deposit of £50 to reserve your place. Note that places are limited to 12 people, split across two boats. If you have any questions, please get in touch here by email and we’ll get back to you very shortly, however, these are the questions we usually get asked:

What is the minimum age to take part?

For this course, you need to be 18 years of age or older. There is no upper age limit.

Are there any health requirements?

You need to be able to climb a short ladder (as part of the lock fire evacuation training). To date, none of our trainees have had a problem with this. You should be averagely fit (ie: able to stand for 30-45 minutes at a time whilst steering), have normal vision (either with or without wearing glasses) and able to stand unassisted. If you have any medical conditions, which might affect your suitability (eg: diabetes, heart issues, dyslexia, fitting, etc) please discuss them with us first.

What’s the accommodation?

On board in a bunk. You’ll need to provide sleeping bag and pillow. Sleeping is segregated, so a cabin will be either all male or all female, with doors between.

What’s the catering arrangements?

Your course fee covers breakfast each morning (bacon rolls, egg rolls, toast, cereal, etc); lunch each day (sandwiches, salad and/or soup); an evening meal on the Saturday evening; unlimited tea, coffee and squash. Meals are prepared by the group, under the guidance of a trainer.

Who cooks?

As part of the course, all trainees are expected to help cook, wash-up and clear away after meals. This is a part of the CCBM syllabus for leading groups on board. Your trainers will help and assist where necessary in planning, quantities, timings, etc.

Tell me about the boats?

Each boat has two toilets, at least one shower, and sleeps 10-12 people. Kitchens are fully fitted, with domestic-sized cookers, fridges and sinks, and come with all cooking utensils needed for a weekend on the water.

What is the structure of the day?

Each day is different, but will start with breakfast, and briefing on the day’s activities, a day of boat handling, ropes, safety, locks, etc, as appropriate, and will finish with a end of day review, Q&A, and a formal end of training. Evenings are your own – groups normally adjourn to a pub for a few drinks. Drinking alcohol during the training day, or on the boats at any time, is prohibited.

How much time will I get ‘on the tiller’?

We put a lot of effort into making this fair, yet still giving extra attention to those who need a little help. With six trainees per boat, you can expect between one hour and one-and-a-half hours (often broken into 20-30 minute chunks) of steering time each day.  You’ll also spend time watching another trainee, learning from his mistakes. On average, a trainee will themselves steer through 5-6 locks throughout the course. Other than this, there is lock work, safety lessons, rope handling, cooking, etc, going on, so it’s unlikely that you’ll be bored. You can also use the ‘downtime’ to rest, and the days can be hard! We don’t tend to get complaints that people get bored!

I’ve never steered a boat before – is that a problem?

No. Your trainers have taught six-year-old Beavers to do this. You’ll have a trainer with you at all times, to support you, whilst allowing you to make mistakes and learn from them.

Will I get sea-sick?

Unlikely. The canal is non-tidal, and moves at a very slow place.

What should I bring?

Overnight stuff as normal (but not hair-dryers!). Suitable clothing, depending on the weather. A spare pair of shoes, just in case you get a foot wet. Suncream and a hat if it’s hot. Waterproof jackets (and, if you have them, trousers) if it’s wet. A camera is always good to bring along, as there’s lot of photo opportunities. A torch is sometimes handy, and don’t forget your mobile phone charger – we have USB and 240v supply on board for plugging chargers into.

Is bad weather a problem?

Not usually. Just come prepared for whatever weather we might have! The course continues regardless of weather.

Do I need life jackets? Can I have one?

We don’t generally use life jackets on the canal, but if you have a fear of water, you’re welcome to use one.

What’s the route?

As above. During the Sunday afternoon, we’ll provide feedback on a 1:1 basis to each of you, and get your feedback as well. On the Sunday of the second weekend, we’ll also talk with you about whether you’ve achieved your desired level.

Getting here

We can arrange to pick you up from a nearby station (Uxbridge or Rickmansworth on the tube network, or Denham on the Chiltern Railway line out of London Marylebone). You can also park outside the boathouse. If you’re travelling back by train, again, we can get you back to a train station fairly easily. Just ask.

How do I pay?

Pay £50 to reserve your place. Then, two weeks before, you’ll be asked to pay the balance of £250. All payments are online via Paypal to minimise administration if possible, although you can pay cash or cheque when you arrive, or by bank transfer ahead of the start date. Deposits and payments are non-refundable, unless agreed by us on an individual basis in exceptional circumstances.


HNA reserve the right to terminate the course early, eject any trainee, modify the structure or duration of the course, or reroute where necessary in order to maintain the safety of the trainees, trainers, boats and/or other users of the waterways. This may happen when there is severe adverse weather or other conditions, unsafe behaviour by any participant, or where we believe it’s in the best interests of all concerned to make these changes.