Narrowboat FAQS are frequently asked questions that we have made available online for you. You can see some of the questions that you might ask below. We try and answer these questions below so you can feel confident on arrival.

Onboard a Narrowboat

Staying on a Narrowboat is just the same as being in a hotel. The same things you would expect to see and use in a hotel room are available on a Narrowboat but with a slightly longer layout.

There is a comfortable lounge, cosy bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen, central heating and hot water. The only difference is that on a canal boat the electricity is supplied usually by battery power not mains power. There is a TV and WiFi on board for entertainment.

You may even consider a Narrowboat better than a hotel as it has a more varied and changeable view, every time you set off you have the luxury of setting your own scenic view.

In reality a narrowboat is just a house on water.

If you wish to ask any questions before your stay, please feel free to use our comments section below and we will reply as soon as we can.

Operating a Narrowboat

Here at Midland Mallard we aim to get you off to the best start possible when hiring a boat, this will ensure you have a trouble-free canal boat holiday on the Ashby canal.

First things first, make sure the steering area is clear and do not be afraid to use the full arc of the tiller from severe right to severe left.

Keep to the centre of the canal and fix your eyes on the centre point of the water on the horizon this will keep you straight. move to the right when an oncoming boat is approaching. Boats approaching you will pass left-side to left-side.

Familiarise yourself with the pivot point of the boat shortly after departure, so you can better estimate when to commence a turn. A short blast of full power during a turn will make the boat turn more sharply without increasing forward speed because the tiller will be on either the right or the left pushing the water sideways.

Steering in reverse is ineffective because water doesn’t pass through the rudder. It’s often best, when reversing, to give short blasts of forward throttle, with the tiller in the appropriate position, to correct your direction.

If you run aground, the best advice is to try to reverse off of the obstruction, and get the back of your boat into deeper water. Use boat poles to push the boat off the area. In the case of serious grounding, contact Midland Mallard for advice.

The maximum speed on the canal network should be considered to be 4 mph. We would advise going at tick-over when there are any boats nearby and coming up to corners.

You should avoid creating a breaking wash. When going past moored boats and fishermen keep to forward tick-over speed. Any faster is considered dangerous and antisocial. Be conscious that it is possible to dislodge boats poorly moored with excessive speed.

Slow down to tick-over when passing moored boats, at least 3-4 boat lengths before you get to them. Always slow down when turning as the boat can become less controllable and give yourself plenty of time to respond to any changes that occur.

Do not attempt to overtake unless the boat in front indicates that they wish you to do so. The person steering the boat in front will usually wave you forward but may also say go past to you directly.  Do not overtake under bridges, on bends, in shallow water, or when passing moored boats.

To stop, or to slow down quickly, use a burst of reverse until the boat comes to a stop. Note that this may cause the boat to veer off course slightly. Steering ability is significantly reduced when moving forward in neutral, when, for example, slowing gradually.

If you follow these few basic rules you will be fine and free to enjoy the Ashby Canal with Midland Mallard.


To make your stay as comfortable as possible you will receive face to face training and one clear document that will guide you through your holiday. Everything from how to steer the boat to how you make the beds up. You will also receive hands on training as there are some things that will be easier to show you. We will also point you towards the most helpful of tutorials either on-line or on DVD before your stay.

There are various ways in which you can prepare for your canal boat holiday, one of which is to watch the “YouTube” video of the “Boaters Handbook DVD” which should help you understand the basics of boating life. This can be viewed by clicking here

The Ashby Canal is a Lock free canal so there may only be a few instances that require you to use the on-board winding / lock keys and this will also be explained as a matter of course.

The training you will receive

You will receive training before and during your stay on the narrowboat in the following areas…

    • Safety – How to stay safe when on-board and off the boat.

    • Gas – How to operate the cooker and gas bottles.

    • Waste Water – An explanation on where it goes and how to empty the holding tanks.

    • Fire – Where to find the fire blankets and extinguishers.

    • Heating – Heating controls and operation.

    • Toilets – How to operate.

    • Electrical – Where they are located and how to keep batteries charged.

    • Sleeping – How to make up the beds and how to configure the layouts.

    • Alcohol and Drugs – An explanation of your requirements whilst in charge of the narrowboat.

    • Points of interest – Where to eat and drink and other points of interest.


You will also learn how to open and maintain the weed hatch which is located at the back-end of the boat just in-case you pick up any obstructions in the water.

Other FAQs

When taking either a holiday abroad or in the UK we would advise taking out Insurance for the following reasons.

  • You or a member of your group may become ill and you are unable to travel
  • The company may have to cancel for reasons not under their control
  • You may have to attend an emergency
  • A material change may take place which inhibits you from steering the boat
  • You may have a dispute within your group

There may be a number of reasons why we would advise taking out travel insurance. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are covered in the unlikely event that you may wish to change your holiday.

The Ashby canal is located at Marston Junction just off the Coventry canal. It was built by Robert Whitworth and son in 1804 to link Burton on Trent with the Coventry canal. The Ashby as it is more commonly known runs from South to North and passes through some fantastic scenery. The villages of Sutton Cheney and Snarestone being the most notable.

The full length of the Ashby is 31 miles. To gain a good idea of how to navigate the Ashby please see the link to the CanalPlan website. Type in the details of how far you want to go, you will then be given an approximate estimate. It will indicate how many hours per day you will need to steer the boat.

On occasion, you may find that one or even both toilets have become full.

On the flush panel, next to each toilet there is a warning light that will be lit up “RED” above the word “Tank”. This means that you have used the toilet tank to capacity and it will require emptying.

There are five toilet pump-out stations in the local area around the Ashby Canal network, so it is important that you note their location below.


    • Bosworth Marina at Market Bosworth : Tel – 01455 291111

    • Trinity Marina at Hinckley : Tel – 01455 896820

    • Starline Boats at Nuneaton : Tel – 02476 344766

    • Brinklow Marina at Brinklow : Tel – 07711 803430

    • Lime Farm Marina near Cathiron : Tel – 01788 570131

Please see the map below for their position on the canal Network…

Pump-out Toilets


Pump-out Toilets

If the tank/s become full as indicated above then it is your responsibility to empty them to ensure that the waste water is not being pumped out into the canal. Toilet tanks are emptied prior to arrival and dependent on usage, may require emptying during your holiday.  We do not issue refunds for pump outs.

Please ring before going to any of the pump out stations.  If the pump-out station is open, moor up safely at the maintenance points usually within the marina or pump-out station and ask at the reception for the use of the pump-out machine. You will normally be given a token but on occasion an attendant may help you.

To empty the toilet tanks the machine will need to be able to reach one or both of the round pump-out caps on top of the roof. A key with a hexagonal shape has been provided for you to open the caps. Once opened Insert the pump into the cap hole and start the pump out machine. Once finished replace the caps.

Canals online are an online magazine and directory for narrowboat owners. They have a multitude of services and products that make living aboard a breeze. Why not have a look at their website by clicking on the banner below…

For any further information on narrowboat hire please contact us.