Narrowboating experience on the canals and waterways of England, UK


United Kingdom


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 Min stay requested: at least a week

  • Description


    PLEASE NOTE: I NOW HAVE ALL THE HELPERS I NEED UNTIL THE END OF THE 2022 BOATING SEASON. I also may have to sell my boat this winter so am not taking bookings for 2023 at this time. However I am leaving the profile visible for the benefit of the helpers already booked. Many thanks to all you wonderful Workawayers for your help and enthusiasm! :)

    FREE NARROWBOATING EXPERIENCE on the canals and waterways of England, in exchange for your help with navigating and steering my narrowboat, working the locks and lift bridges, and a little boat maintenance and decoration!

    My boat is "Hetty" - a 2007 traditional steel-hulled canal narrowboat - 70 feet long (21.3 m) and just 6ft 10ins (2.1 m) wide. She is fully fitted with modern equipment, yet furnished in a traditional narrowboat style with:
    - Traditionally decorated boatman's cabin that sleeps 2 guests on a fold-out double bed.
    - Double master bedroom (where I usually sleep).
    - Dinette in the saloon that converts into a third double bedroom.
    - Bathroom with large shower, chemical toilet and hot water.
    - Central heating for cold weather.
    - Full kitchen with fridge and gas cooker.
    - Dinette dining / seating for 6 in comfort.
    - Office with mobile broadband internet (WIFI).
    - 12 volt and 240 volt electrics (no problem charging your phones, laptops and cameras, but no hair dryers please!).
    - Vintage diesel engine with traditional controls and brass bits to polish(!).

    I am Colin - a native Brit in my mid-60's. Late in 2018 I returned to England after 25 years living and working in Romania, where I ran a small tour/travel operation for 21 years. Before that I worked with disabled children - in the UK and Romania. I am also a photographer, environmentalist, wildlife specialist, volunteer lock-keeper, and am still dreaming of writing a book about my life in Romania!

    Hetty is my second home and I take her out as often as I can for 10-day to 3-week cruises from her base at Napton near Rugby, when time and Covid restrictions permit! Single-handed cruising is difficult for me as I am not as agile as I once was, so I am looking for helpers to help me navigate, steer (drive) the boat, and work the locks and lift bridges. I also need occasional help with maintenance and painting of furniture, fittings and boat equipment. After that we will be out cruising and exploring, with just the usual cooking, cleaning and basic boat maintenance to be done - as well as working the locks of course.

    You will get a free boating holiday and tour of the English canals and waterways, in exchange for helping navigate and work the locks. It's quite physical, but not all hard work - some of the time I hope you will be steering the boat while I work the locks and lift bridges! We will also be visiting local places on route and there will be time to watch nature, relax, chat, read, work on your English if you are not a native speaker (I also teach Romanian!), and maybe play some board games.

    The ONLY costs to you will be your transport to and from the start/finish points of your visit (usually the marina near Napton) and sharing the cost of food. I ask helpers to share the food costs because I am offering something more akin to a free canal boating holiday than just a work placement. Usually we will buy food from local shops and cook on board, at other times we may eat out at canal-side pubs. Most cruises start at the marina so I can collect you from any one of several train/bus stations within a 30 minute radius by car, and take you back there at the end of our time together.

    Hetty is a non-smoking boat, but if you smoke you can do so outside. I am anti-racist, non-sexist and not religious but respect other peoples' religious views. I eat 70% vegetarian but am happy for you to cook meat if you wish! I have worked with children for many years and happily accept people with children over the age of 6. Sorry, no dogs or pets though!

    Discover the peace and tranquillity of rural England, travelling at a snail's pace along the delightful navigable canals with my narrowboat "Hetty" and me! Please get in touch! :)

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    Charity Work
    Help with Eco Projects
    Elderly Companionship
    Creating/ Cooking family meals
    Help around the house
    General Maintenance

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Although originally British, I lived and worked 25 years in Romania and have hosted volunteers there for 9 years before returning to Britain. Canal boating with me will show you rural England at its best - mostly the nature, wildlife, peace and tranquillity of Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire, but also the fascinating industrial archaeology of Birmingham and the Black Country!

    I am committed to volunteering, travel, and inter-cultural exchange. I do my own volunteering on the canals as a volunteer lock keeper and with the Heritage Working Boats Group. I also teach English for 2 weeks every year in Romania as a volunteer. By helping me with Hetty, you will learn about the canals and waterways of England, which have traditions and a culture all of their own, and about the nature and wildlife around us. I can also tell you a lot about Romania (and teach you Romanian!) if you are interested?

  • Help


    Single-handing a 21 metre (70 ft) narrowboat around the canals and waterways of England is difficult without help! The help I need from travellers and visitors is just that - helping steer and drive the boat, work the locks and operate the lift/swing bridges. This is active, interesting and fun. You don't need any specific skills, but you do need to be reasonably fit, cheerful, and be able to take responsibility for a 24-ton boat that can do damage if not handled with care.

    Canal boating is totally different to ocean sailing, so no boating experience is required. There is also no licence required to drive a boat on the English canals and inland waterways - almost anyone can do it and I will provide all the training you need! I hope that all my helpers will manage to steer (drive) the boat after the training I provide and a couple of days practice. However I have had helpers who seem unable (or have refused) to follow my instructions on boat handling. In future they will be asked to work the locks and help in other ways but for safety reasons may not be allowed to steer again!

    I also need help with cooking and food preparation for us all, routine boat preparation and maintenance, and boat cleaning at the end of the cruise.

    Work hours are not specific as I am asking for volunteer crew to help with all aspects of boat navigation, lock operation, cooking, etc., in return for a free canal boating, working holiday. Lock working can be physically demanding, but you will also have loads of time to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the canals and English countryside.

    This is more of a working holiday than an unpaid work placement. When we are out cruising the canals we all join in with boat navigation, steering, working locks and lift bridges, cooking and simple on-going boat maintenance. There are no fixed hours but

  • Languages

    Languages spoken
    English: Fluent
    Romanian: Fluent

    This host offers a language exchange
    - I love languages and am always happy to learn a few words of your language! - English is my native language and I teach English as a volunteer to colleagues in Romania every summer. - After 25 years living in Romania I also speak fluent Romanian and can teach basic Romanian to anyone interested to learn. - Many years ago I was an authorised teacher of sign language for children with learning difficulties.

  • Accommodation


    In addition to myself (65) in my own cabin in the centre of the boat, Hetty can accommodate up to 4 helpers (2 singles, 2 couples, or a family) in 2 additional cabins. Narrowboats are narrow (hence the name!) and would never be considered spacious, buit Hetty is 70 feet (21.3 metres) long and is about as big as narrowboats get!

    The boatman's cabin at the stern of the boat is a fun space with traditional cupboards, a folding table, a fold-down double bed, and traditional canal Roses & Castles decoration everywhere you look! The main saloon at the front has a double dinette that sleeps 2 in comfort and during the day converts into a relaxation / dining area for the whole crew. I can supply bedding and sleeping bags, but if you prefer to use your own that's okay too!

    The bathroom, with chemical toilet, shower, hot and cold water, is shared by the whole crew and is between the master bedroom (mine) and the boatman's cabin. The kitchen and living areas are shared by all.

    Hetty's kitchen is fully equipped with fridge, sink and gas cooker. Usually we will cook and eat together on the boat. However one of the attractions of the English canals is that there are still many delightful canal-side pubs. We may occasionally choose to eat at some of these in which case I will ask you to pay for your own drinks and food. We will only do this if your budget allows - I do understand about travel on a budget!

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    One of the main points about living on a canal boat is that we take our home with us! Canal boats travel at walking pace - only 3 to 4 mph (4 to 5 km/h), so you get to see and discover much more of the nature, wildlife and rural culture of the canals and places we pass through than you would if driving, cycling or using public transport.

    Every day we will stop at the villages and small towns we pass through to explore, and we may have to walk a short distance to them from the canal. Working Hetty through the locks requires some walking, and when there are 3 of us it is especially helpful if one person walks ahead to prepare the next lock (called "lock wheeling"). We will also help other boaters we meet to get their boats through the locks.

    Running the boat and working her through the locks and bridges doesn't seem like "work" - it's much more a way of life - somewhat like driving a bus but gentler and much more fun! We probably won't be travelling for more than 5 to 7 hours per day, sometimes less, and I don't expect you to be working all of that, so you will have loads of time to explore and relax. As a host for 12+ years I am aware that helpers often also need time alone (as I do) and this will be built in to what we do and where we go. There is no fixed itinerary or route plan to keep to - we just travel and visit as we please. But if there are particular places YOU want to visit - like Stratford-upon-Avon for example - we can usually build that in!

    I am a non-smoker. You can smoke if you wish, but only outside away from the boat. Strictly no drugs, and sorry but no dogs or pets either!

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • Can host digital nomads

    Can host digital nomads

    My boat is connected to the internet using a mobile broadband device. The signal is usually good but depends on the location we find to moor overnight while out cruising. The device has unlimited data usage, however the transfer speed is not always good enough for Skype or Zoom meetings with video. For e-mail, web surfing, Messenger, social media, and voice-only online meetings / conferencing the data speed is usually more than adequate.

  • Space for parking camper vans

    Space for parking camper vans

    I can provide free parking for small to medium campervans at my rental cottage. The marina where my boat is moored also provides parking but they make a charge for larger vans.

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    15 hours/week- no food, 25 hours/week-food

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Host ref number: 143668833222