Puddling Cruisers - Canal Boat Hire and Holidays

Canal Boat Frequently Asked Questions

Listed below are some of the most frequently asked questions about taking a holiday with Puddling Cruisers. Simply click on a question to reveal our answer. If you have a question which is not answered, or you would like further information then please contact us and we will do our very best to help.

Booking a holiday


Do I need previous experience before booking a canal boat holiday?

Absolutely not! We welcome crews from complete novices with no previous experience to the seasoned boater. You do not require a license to drive a canal boat, and full tuition is provided on how to operate the boat and it’s equipment at the start of every holiday.

Our comprehensive handover briefing covers all the essentials around canal safety, operating locks, passing through tunnels and general navigation etiquette. This is concluded with an accompanied cruise that will pass through several bridges and a lock to ensure you are familiar with the necessary procedures for safe navigation. Should you require a little more tuition, we will stay on board for as long as it takes you to feel relaxed, and confident to proceed alone.

Handling of a canal boat is quite straight forward most of the time, however turning the thing in a force 9 gale can be challenging, but that’s all part of the fun! Once you have mastered the basics, you will be amazed at how much satisfaction you will get when you start to pass through bridges without bumping the sides - just don’t celebrate too soon as you may need to navigate around that boat heading towards you!

Before you arrive for your holiday, we do ask that you take the time to familiarise yourself with the boater's handbook – it’s a bit like the highway code for the waterways, and is filled with everything you should know about driving a canal boat. The following online resources may also be of interest to you with valuable information about taking a holiday on a canal boat.

Canal & River Trust – Guide to Navigating the Waterways
Boater's Handbook Download
Boater's Handbook DVD (Part 1)
Boater's Handbook DVD (Part 2)


Are there restrictions on who can book a holiday with Puddling Cruisers?

Yes, the following restrictions apply when hiring a boat with Puddling Cruisers;

You must be 21 or over to book.

We regret that we are unable to hire to single handed boaters, however experienced.

We will not accept bookings from hen and stag parties. Same sex groups of 3 or more people should therefore contact us first before making a booking.

Operating a boat and canal-side equipment such as locks and swing bridges can be physically demanding. For your safety and for the safety of your crew, there must be a minimum of two participating, and physically able adults on board the boat at all times. If you, or any member of your crew has mobility issues then you must contact us first before making a booking.


Can I bring my pet?

Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate pets on board Serenity at this time.

We hope to be able to relax this restriction in the future as we will be looking to introduce pet-friendly boats into our fleet, so please check back soon!


When do I need to pay for my holiday?

A 25% non-refundable deposit is required at the time of booking with the outstanding balance to be paid at least 8 weeks' before the date on which your holiday is due to start. For holidays booked less than 8 weeks' from the start date, the full amount becomes payable upon booking.


Are there any extras to pay?

No, the hire fees shown on our website are fully inclusive of gas (for cooking), diesel (heating and propulsion), bedding, towels, car parking, buoyancy aids, damage waiver fee and VAT.


Do I need insurance?

Our boats are insured for accidental damage and 3rd party liability. A damage waiver fee is included in the price of the holiday which protects the hirer in the event of a claim being made against them, however exclusions do apply and these are clearly set out within our Terms & Conditions of Hire.

As with any holiday, hirers are recommended to take out personal insurance to cover injury, loss of belongings or the cancellation of your holiday.


Do you offer weekend or short breaks?

Yes, we offer weekend and mid-week breaks from November to February inclusive.

Weekend hire starts Friday afternoon with the boat returned on Monday morning, whilst mid-week breaks are from Monday afternoon to Friday morning.

These cannot be booked directly through the website, however, if the calendar is showing availability, please contact us via email or telephone and we will advise you of the cost.

As a guide, a weekend or mid-week break will cost 62.5% of the price of a full week booking.


What are the handover and return times for the boat?

Our weekly hire period runs from 3pm Saturday to 10am the following Saturday. All holidays start and end from our base at Milton Keynes Marina.

We kindly ask that you do not arrive at the marina before 14:30 on the first day of your holiday as it is likely that we will still be preparing the boat.


What happens if we cancel?

You may receive a full or partial refund, depending on how much notice you give, and whether we are able to re-let the boat. These circumstances are clearly set out in our Terms & Conditions of Hire.


Is there parking available at the marina?

There is plenty of parking available around the marina, however secure parking is limited to one car per booking. Parking at the marina is at your own risk and we cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to your vehicles.




Is it difficult to drive a widebeam boat?

It’s slightly more challenging than a narrowboat, but it will soon feel easy as you become familiar with the width, and master the simple techniques that we show you for positioning the boat before passing through bridges and locks.

The key with driving any canal boat (wide or narrow) is to travel with caution, and always be alert. If you are unable to stop the boat within your line of sight then you are travelling too fast!


How far can we travel on a widebeam boat?

Widebeam passage is restricted to the Grand Union Main Line. See our Cruising Routes which provides route plans for one and two week holidays to guide you on the limits of navigation.

If you would like to plan your own journey, the CanalPlanAC website is a great resource that enables you to plan your route in detail.


Where can we moor up?

You can moor free of charge anywhere along the canal towpath with very few exceptions. There are also specifically designated visitor moorings at popular places which may be limited to 24, 48 or 72 hours. You must not moor your boat within 50 metres of a lock or bridge, so that other boaters can pass by safely.


Is it possible to navigate through Blisworth and Braunston tunnels on a widebeam boat?

It is possible, however restrictions do apply and passage is strictly prohibited through either of these tunnel without our prior approval. Further details on navigation restrictions can be found on our Cruising Routes page.


Is it easy to turn around?

There are winding holes (turning points) at frequent intervals along the canal. These are marked in the maps and guides on board the boat.


When and how should we fill up with water?

Water standpipes can be found at regular intervals along the canal which can be identified from the maps and guides on board the boat. Use of the standpipes is free, however a BWB key (supplied) is required to access them.

You should plan to refill daily, but there should be enough water on board for 2-3 days (depending on usage).

Water stored in the boat is perfectly safe for washing and for use in the kettle, however we do recommend that you take bottled water with you for drinking. A limited supply of bottled water will be provided.


Will we have enough fuel and gas?

There is sufficient fuel and gas on board the boat for a two week holiday.


What kind of toilet is on the boat?

For your convenience, the boat is fitted with a flushing pump-out toilet which has a holding tank that should only require emptying once a week with average usage by 2 adults.

Should the tank need to be emptied during your holiday, most marinas or boat yards offer pump out services for around £15 which would be at your own cost.

We do encourage you to use public amenities (pubs etc.) wherever possible to reduce the chance of having to get pumped out during your holiday!


What happens if we break down or have an accident?

You will be provided with our 24hr emergency contact numbers. We will provide advice and do everything we can to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible. In the unlikely event of a mechanical breakdown, an engineer from River & Canal Rescue (RCR) will be called out to assist.


Things to do


Why choose a canal boat holiday?

A canal boat holiday offers you a truly unique way to discover and explore some of the most beautiful towns, villages and countryside in Britain. Travelling along at an average 4mph, you will soon forget the hustle and bustle of 21st century life as you meander through the peaceful and often spectacular scenery which borders the waterways.

You will always find something to do on your holiday, whether it be operating locks, taking a nice walk down the towpath or sampling one of the many delightful canalside pubs or inns. Of course, you could always moor up in the middle of nowhere, close the curtains and sit back as you take in a movie, read your book, or chill out to your favorite music!

A holiday on the canal with Puddling Cruisers offers you a little piece of floating paradise which is perfect to relax and unwind, celebrate a special occasion, or escape for a romantic retreat.


Can we bring bicycles?

We actively encourage you to bring your bicycles as this will enable you to take full advantage of the beautiful surroundings, towpaths and rural country trails which border the Grand Union Canal.

A rack has been fitted to the rear of the boat for stowing a maximum of two bicycles. Use of the bike rack is at your own risk and we cannot be held responsible for any loss, damage or theft.

Bicycles must not be stored inside the boat or on the roof at any time.

A cycling permit may be required if you are planning on cycling along the canal towpath. Check out the Canal & River Trust website for further information.


Is fishing allowed from the boat?

Fishing is permitted from the foredeck (bow) of the boat subject to you holding a valid rod license from the Environment Agency, and you do it within season. In England you can fish at any time except close season, which is mid-March to mid-June. It may be necessary to purchase day tickets in areas of the canal operated by angling clubs.

The use or storage of live fishing bait on board the boat is strictly prohibited.


General Information


Can we get groceries and cash as we go?

We strongly advise that you arrive at the marina with plenty of supplies (groceries, drink, bottled water etc.) to keep you going for several days. Shops are few and far between on the canal, and will often require a little detective work to locate in a nearby village. You will also find that its more convenient to transfer bulky items such as beer, wine and bottled water straight from the boot of your car, oh and don't forget the biscuits!

Whilst pubs and larger shops will often accept credit/debit cards, you may find that village shops, Post Offices and marinas may not. As you are unlikely to find ATM machines situated close to the canal, its a good idea to arrive with a small amount of cash for incidental purchases along the way.


What should we bring with us?

A canal holiday is very informal so bring along casual, comfortable clothing. It can get quite chilly on the water at night so remember to bring a warm jumper or coat with you, but most importantly, bring sensible shoes with flat non-slip soles such as trainers or deck shoes.

The weather is often unpredictable in the UK so we do recommend that you come prepared, and bring waterproof clothing, hats, sunglasses and sun cream. If you enjoy walking, don’t forget your walking boots.

We have a small selection of books, CDs, DVDs and games on the boat, but you may like to bring some of your own to enjoy whilst on your holiday.


Are buoyancy aids provided?

Yes, we supply self-inflating lifejackets on the boat for up to 4 adults and 2 children. We recommend that all persons wear lifejackets whilst the boat is in motion, but insist that lifejackets are worn by children and non-swimmers whilst on deck or near locks.


What will be provided on board the boat?

The boat is fully equipped with all the necessary crockery, cutlery and cooking utensils you will need, along with freshly laundered bed linen and towels. See our Inventory for a full list of items that will be available to you on board the boat.


What’s the difference between a widebeam canal boat, barge and narrowboat?

A narrowboat is typically between 6ft 7” and 7ft wide (the beam), and ranges anywhere between 30 and 72ft long. A narrowboat can navigate all inland waterways routes in the UK, although the length of a boat could restrict navigation on some waterways due to the size of locks.

The term widebeam canal boat and barge are often used to describe the same thing – a canal boat which is wider than a standard narrowboat. A widebeam canal boat will have a beam greater than 7ft, although most commonly this would be between 10 and 13ft. The length of a widebeam would be the same as a narrowboat.

The width of a widebeam boat restricts where it can navigate on the waterways as they will not fit into locks or through bridges on narrow canals. The key benefit of a widebeam is with the internal living space which is far more practical than the limited space available on a narrowboat.