I’ve just taken a phone call from a really lovely man who desperately wants to book a mini-break for his partner’s birthday, but is nervous about narrowboating.
He’s read all about the Boutique Narrowboats; about the design, the training we offer and even about the story of how Aaran and I came to be running this company.
He’s read the Boutique Narrowboat reviews on Tripadvisor and spoken at length to some friends of his who stayed with us a couple of years ago.
He’s done everything he can to prepare for the experience but is still nervous about narrowboating and understandably wanted some reassurance. His situation is very common. I’ve spoken to many, many novices over the last few years and most have told me they had some degree of trepidation before their holiday.
So this is what I tell them.
Being a novice makes it better
Aaran and I set foot on our first narrowboat in 2016. It was an impulsive mini break, and we didn’t know the first thing about boats. But after that first weekend we’d started to get the boss of the steering, learned how to tie a knot which kept us from drifting away from the bank and survived the experience of operating some locks.
More importantly, we learned those things together. It’s a bit like a gentle team building experience with the person you love most in the world – you laugh at yourselves and each other and do your best to avoid a whole host of near disasters… all at the heady pace of 4 miles an hour.
And if you make mistakes? Well. You will. And they will be the stories you laugh about the most for years to come.
Trust me, if your mini-breaks are usually spent in a holiday cottage, narrowboating is a game changer.
We don’t set you up to fail
We want you to feel as relaxed as possible and that means making sure you are prepared. Before you arrive, we send you a link to our online course which goes through the theory of the basics.
In fact, our Beginner Guide videos are freely available to anyone who wants to learn more about canal boating before they even book.
When our guests arrive at Union Wharf Marina, we then go through some practical training. Either myself, Aaran or one of our trainers will take you out on the water and talk you through the experience. Novices often tell us they are nervous of mooring up safely and steering, so we will support you in learning to do this first of all. We also emphasise the importance of keeping your speed down, as this is by far the biggest complaint from other boaters.
In short, we don’t get off the boat until you tell you are happy to go it alone. And even then, you can always call us for help or advice during your holiday.
Foxton Locks is easier than you think
The staircase locks at Foxton are beautiful and dramatic but they can also be very intimidating to anyone new to narrowboating.
Of course we will explain how they work, and you will probably have watched our video and read our advice on how to tackle them. But we completely understand anyone who says they are nervous of going up the locks for the first time.
However, they are easier than you think because at Foxton, there are lock keepers. These amazing Canal and River Trust staff and volunteers are very used to novices coming their way and are brilliant at supporting anyone who asks. They won’t do the work for you, but they will certainly talk you through the process and make the whole experience a pleasure.
You don’t have to go anywhere
If the thought of driving the boat is not an enjoyable one, then you never have to leave the marina. You certainly don’t have to go through a single lock if you don’t want to. Some of our guests choose to use the boat as a static base from which to explore the area surrounding Market Harborough and Foxton.
The Boutique Narrowboats are simply nice spaces to be in, and it is entirely your choice whether to move or not.
You can read more about our narrowboat training for novices here.