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Some tips for Continuous Cruisers and even not so continuous.
Monday,25 March, 2013
4:00 pm
Continuous Cruiser
Forum Posts: 968
Member Since:
Thursday,12 January, 2012
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Over the 6 years of living aboard, we have tried several different water hoses. We started with one of those in a cassette but found you needed to unroll the whole thing, even if the tap was only a few feet away. When it started to leak we threw it away and bought an up-market garden hose on a reel. Anti-kink and twist resistant this was the bee’s knees. Unsurprisingly, water hoses get wet and pick up lots of grit from the tow path and I soon got fed up of trying to reel the hose up at the same time as trying to wipe the reel clean so the reel had to go.

We kept the hose but after a while decided to cut the 30m length into 3. So we have a 5 metre bit, a 10 metre and a 15 metre which we can connect up with those nice Hozelock connectors to have the shortest length necessary to reach the tap. We are on our second hose now but still have it in 3 pieces. It may have been anti kink and twist resistant but it couldn’t withstand a dustcart driving over it!

To supplement our hose we have two Hozelock helical hoses which stretch to about 15 metres which means, at a stretch, we can fill up from around 60 metres away. Very useful as it allows you to moor away from water point moorings but not need to move to fill your tank.

If you’ve ever looked inside your water tank you will probably have seen a certain amount of silt in the bottom. To reduce this we have changed the O ring for one of those mesh filters you find in washing machine inlets.

Whatever sort of hose you have, don’t leave it out overnight, especially at this time of year. A frozen hose takes a long time to unfreeze and is very difficult to handle.

Canal side water taps are not usually sheltered and during the colder months freeze quite easily. When the weather is like this, fill up every day. You don’t know that the tap will be free the next day. Cruising in the North can be a bit easier as sanitary stations often have another drinking water tap inside the building. Don’t think that if you are in a marina you won’t have a problem. Water points on pontoons may have trace heating along the pipes but these seem fairly useless as the temperature drops. Some marinas turn all the water points off except for one or two that are better protected.

If necessary, you can keep the tap from freezing by keeping it open to a small dribble, providing some well-meaning passer-by doesn’t turn it off!

River Cruising

It is unfortunate that a lot of canals are connected by stretches of river or they are rivers with locks every so often. These are better known as ‘navigations’. Flood locks are a feature of many of these of which the consummate example is the Calder & Hebble. Don’t always trust the gauges that are at all river locks. We have left one lock with the river in the ‘green’ only to find the flood lock protecting the next section shut. You will also find that floodgates may be shut in expectation that levels are going to rise. So phone and ask.

Never go onto the river without wearing a lifejacket.

Choose a lifejacket that is comfortable to wear for a long period and is easy to put on. We found that front fastening ones like the Trust wear are the best.

And whilst we are talking about rivers, unless the flow is negligible, always turn to face the flow when mooring otherwise you might find you dropped off your crew but then can’t get back to the bank.


Sooner or later you will fall in the water. Not much of a problem on most canals as you can usually just stand up but usually any loose items will be gone. Windlass’ can be found with a magnet – not lightweight aluminium ones though –but you will struggle to find your glasses. I’ve lost two pairs in six years. Once when I fell in at Elland, the other when a thrown mooring line neatly snatched them off my nose. All of you with prescription glasses know how much they cost. So now I wear an older pair when cruising with an ‘old mans’ cord around my neck.


Mention was made another thread about safe or secure mooring and not mooring on towpaths with a lot of footfall. However, if you want to moor in Birmingham, Manchester, or many other city centres, you don’t have a lot of choice. To be honest, we’ve never felt insecure at any of these places and after a while you get a ‘feeling’ about a mooring. If you don’t feel happy then move.

That’s not to say we don’t take precautions. There is a very small minority of people who seem to think it is fun to slip your mooring line off the bollard. So moor on rings rather than bollards. Always tie the line off on the boat, not the bank. If you have to use bollards then tie the rope to it with a clove hitch or similar before taking the line back to the boat. For extra security put a cable tie around the lines to prevent them being undone. Use a mooring chain pulled tight around the bollard then tie your lines to that.

Piling hooks are easy but we only use them for a quick stop. They only really work with all steel piling. If it is edged with wood, or angle iron, or railway line, they will pull out in a short time. So use mooring chains.

If you are concerned about leaving your boat on the towpath invest in a long securing cable (as sold for bikes, etc.) and padlock it to the ring or chain. If only using one cable make sure you do it at the right end so that the flow on the canal or river holds the other end of the boat into the side.


I’m not going to enter the cassette vs. pump out argument give your cassettes a good clean every month or so with hot water and detergent. There are a few sanitary stations with hot water provided – often those with laundries – so make as much use of them as possible. Otherwise boil a kettle. You’ll be surprised how much muck will come out.

Facilities cards

You will find some sanitary stations with laundry facilities, some moorings with electricity pillars ans self-operated pumpouts. These all require the use of a Facility Card. Don’t be fooled into thinking these are the same across the system. There are 2 main types of card reader in use: Rolec and Digicard. Rolec seem to be for electricity pillars only whilst Digicard are for both facilities and electricity.

When you insert a card in a Rolec pillar the meter is credited with the full amount of the card which is then thrown away. If you can’t use all the electricity then tough luck on you but good fortune for the boater who follows. These cards are red and sold in units of 10, 50 and 100 kWh. These are in use through the West Midlands Region.

Digicard readers only remove the amount you use or that the facility requires. You can remove the card and use the remaining credit elsewhere. These cards are brown or black and sold in units of 10, 12 and 25 with a sort of bar marking along one edge showing the quantity. The sharp eyed will notice a tiny pin prick along that edge showing how much credit remains. When using a Digicard for electricity don’t be tempted to put it in just to see how much remains. When first inserted one unit is automatically removed – a sort of standing charge. These are in use for electricity throughout the East Midlands and Severn & South Wales Regions.

Clarence Dock in Leeds and Salthouse Dock in Liverpool use a different type made by AmPy and are available in units of £1, £5 and £10.

Given that regional waterways offices are only open from 10am to 12pm you are well advised to have cards of every type if you want to avail yourself of the facilities as Sods Law will mean that you arrive on Friday afternoon and the card you have doesn’t work.




Living retirement in the slow lane.

20 years hiring, 6 years of shared ownership and a Continuous Cruiser since 2007 but still learning!

Tuesday,26 March, 2013
5:28 am
Southam, Warwickshire
Forum Posts: 1797
Member Since:
Friday,19 February, 2010
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As ever Pete, a great post. Thank you.

Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”

Tuesday,26 March, 2013
9:36 am
Forum Posts: 637
Member Since:
Tuesday,18 September, 2012
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Thanks Pete, very useful.

Retired; Somerset/Dorset border when not out and about on Lucy Lowther

Days without name and hours without number

Tuesday,26 March, 2013
10:25 am
Poole, Dorset, UK
Forum Posts: 101
Member Since:
Saturday,2 March, 2013
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Excellent post Pete.

Worryingly though, the more I read, the more I realise that I have so much to learn.

Maybe you only start learning for real once you start applying that knowledge to daily life.


Blakie Smile

Poole, Dorset … not a canal in sight, but I’m not going to be here for long … Anupadin

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