Narrowboating experience on the canals and waterways of England


United Kingdom

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    within 9 days


 Min stay requested: at least a week

  • Description


    Important personal note re: Coronavirus / Covid-19:

    Due to the rapid and worrying development of the Covid-19 Coronavirus, and the "different" (but I believe sensible) approach being taken by the UK Government, I am not currently taking helpers on my narrowboat. Indeed all unnecessary travel is currently forbidden and for many of you just getting here and away would be difficult, if not impossible. Added to that is the need to avoid as much contact as possible with other people and the fact that the UK National Health Service will shortly become overwhelmed with people needing intensive care as a result of the virus.

    We all hope this situation will improve over the next few months. However it is looking increasingly likely that the World will, sadly, not be the same as before. I will eagerly invite helpers once again when things improve. Please follow the precautions and guidelines wherever you are and stay safe! I feel for you all....

    PS: If there are any non-British Workawayers here who are trapped in Britain at this time and unable to return home safely, I MAY be able to help - please contact me!

    Best Wishes, Colin


    Free narrowboating experience on the canals and waterways of England, in exchange for your help with navigating and steering my 70 foot narrowboat, working the locks and lift bridges, and a little boat maintenance and decoration!

    My home is "Hetty" - a 12 year old, traditional steel-hulled canal narrowboat - 70 feet long (21.3m) and just 6ft 10ins (2.1m) wide. She is fully fitted with modern equipment, yet furnished in a traditional style with:
    - Traditional boatman's cabin that sleeps 2.
    - Double master bedroom.
    - Dinette in the saloon that will converts into a 3rd double bedroom.
    - Bathroom with large shower, toilet and hot water.
    - 2 multi-fuel stoves + central heating for cold weather.
    - Full kitchen with fridge and gas cooker.
    - Dinette dining / seating for 6 in comfort (to be built).
    - Office with WiFi, printer and TV.
    - 12 volt electrics with 240 volt inverter.
    - Diesel engine with traditional controls.

    Hetty is my home and I will be cruising her around England from her base at Napton, near Rugby. Single-handed cruising is difficult (although possible), so I am looking for people to help me navigate and drive the boat and work the locks and lift bridges. I also need some help with re-fitting Hetty's galley/kitchen and bathroom (mostly simple plumbing). After that we will be out cruising and exploring, with just the usual boat maintenance, cleaning, and some painting to do.

    You will get a free holiday and tour of the English canals and waterways, in exchange for helping navigate and work the locks and bridges. It's quite active, but not all hard work - half the time you will be steering (driving) the boat while I work the locks and 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!).

    The ONLY costs to you will be transport to and from the start/finish points of your visit (if we start at the marina I can collect you by car), and contributing to the cost of your food. Usually we will buy food from local farms and shops and cook together on board, and occasionally we may eat at canal-side pubs although this depends on your budget.

    Discover the peace and tranquillity of rural England - join me on my narrowboat in my new life and adventure, exploring the English canals and waterways!

  • Type of help

    Type of help

    General Maintenance
    Help in the house

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Although originally British, I lived and worked 24 years in Romania and have hosted volunteers there for 9 years. Canal boating with me will show you rural England at its best - mostly nature, wildlife, peace and tranquillity, but also the fascinating industrial archaeology of Birmingham and the Black Country if you wish!

    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. 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


    When I bought "Hetty" I knew that single-handing her around the canals and waterways of England would be difficult without some 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 for this - just be reasonably fit and cheerful. Canal boating is as different to ocean sailing as chalk and cheese, so no boating experience is required. There is also no licence required to drive a boat on the English canals and inland waterways - anyone can do it and I will provide all the training you need!

    I will also need assistance with cooking for us all, plus occasional boat maintenance, cleaning, and arranging boat furniture.

  • Languages spoken

    Languages spoken

    English and Romanian

  • Accommodation


    In addition to myself (62) and my girlfriend (59) in our 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!

    The traditional 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 a small multi-fuel stove for cooler evenings. The main saloon at the front has a double dinette that sleeps 2 in comfort and during the day converts into a relaxation or 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 (chemical toilet, shower, hot and cold water) is shared with the whole crew and is between the master bedroom (mine) and 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 or using public transport.

    Every day we will stop at the villages and small towns to explore, and we may have to walk a short distance to them from the canal. Working Hetty through the locks requires some walking, especially when there are 3 of us it is greatly helpful if one person walks ahead to prepare the next lock. We will also help other boaters 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. 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 9 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 build that in!

    I am a non-smoker. You can smoke if you wish, but only outside away from the boat. Strictly no drugs! Sorry, 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

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    25 hours maximum per week, 5 days a week

Hetty at Watford Top Lock
Hetty - a 70 foot (21.3m) traditional narrowboat, built 2007
Colin with Hetty, just after taking delivery in July 2018
Colin steering
A turnover bridge on the Grand Union Canal

Host ref number: 143668833222