Safety Information.

New edition of the boater’s handbook
The Canal & River Trust has launched a new edition of the Boater’s Handbook. First published in 2002, the Handbook is written for boat owners and hirers and contains lots of ‘getting started’ tips as well as important information about how to boat safely. Every boater will be sent a copy to their home address by the Trust and the Environment Agency in November, and hire boat operators will also receive the new edition.

The original handbook won a Plain English Campaign award for style and clarity and the format and tone have been retained. The changes are mainly to detail and emphasis. Information about navigating rivers has been strengthened, particularly relating to navigating in strong stream conditions. Some additional diagrams have also been added to make things as clear as possible for boaters.

The Trust wants all boaters to be aware of the key safety messages:

  • Avoid slips and trips! Watch out for ropes, bollards, holes and other hazards, use grab rails and wear non-slip shoes. Don’t try to jump from the boat onto the bank and wear a lifejacket if you can’t swim.
  • Don’t get crushed! Keep your body out the way of a moving boat: don’t fend off with your arms, legs or boat pole, and don’t have limbs dangling over the side or your head out the hatch. Keep off the roof when you’re underway.
  • Watch out for fire and fumes! If you smell exhaust, gas, or petrol fumes raise the alert right away. Switch off appliances when you’re not using them and keep ventilators open and free of obstructions. Remember that carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely dangerous: early signs include headaches, tiredness, sickness and dizziness, and anyone affected should get medical help right away.
  • Don’t rock the boat! Think carefully before climbing onto the cabin roof as the boat could become top heavy and roll over, and don’t all stand together on the same side if it risks tipping the boat over.
  • Remember your lifejacket! The water is often colder and deeper than you think. You should always wear a jacket when navigating through a tunnel as you will be easier to spot and rescue if you fall in.

Dean Davies, interim head of customer services at the Trust, said: “The Boater’s Handbook is an incredibly useful resource for any boater, from novices to old hands alike. It contains a wealth of information about how to boat safely, as well as all the basics that can seem quite mystifying to new boaters. We’ve taken the opportunity to update the Handbook to make sure it contains the best possible advice, and we’re sending it out to all our licensed boaters so they can refresh their memories and keep it on board as a handy reference guide. I’d like to thank the members of the editorial panel who have shared their expertise and all the boaters who have given us feedback.”

A hard copy of the handbook will be sent to the home address of all licensed boaters in the second half of November – if you’ve recently moved house but are yet to update your Trust record please do it now to ensure you don’t miss out on your copy! This can be easily done by calling customer services on 0303 040 4040 or e-mail

A downloadable copy of the Handbook, and a video setting out key information, can be found here:

The Handbook was originally commissioned by British Waterways in partnership with the Environment Agency and the British Marine Federation. An expert group was commissioned to develop key messages and content, drawing on other published sources and relevant empirical evidence. Since then, there have been several re-prints which incorporated minor corrections and updates.

An editorial panel was set up to include as many as possible of the original authors plus a representative of the Trust’s Navigation Advisory Group (NAG). Members were Ken Dodd (chair/editor and lead consultant in the 2012-14 study of safe boating), Nigel Stevens (Association of Pleasure Craft Operators/BMF), Malcolm Blundell (NAG), Russell Robson (EA), Philip Burgess (Association of Inland Navigation Authorities), Tony Stammers (Trust) and Sally Ash (now retired but formerly Trust)

For further media requests please contact:
Fran Read, national press officer, Canal & River Trust
m 07796 610 427 e

Strong Stream Advice (SSA)

The Environment Agency issues Strong Stream Advice to inform river users when levels in the Nene and Great Ouse are increasing and conditions are becoming unsuitable for boating. Notice boards are displayed prominently on the riverbanks of these rivers to inform boaters of the status of the river and red flags are also raised at several boat clubs.

The Environment Agency recommend that to find out if SSA has been issued boaters call their 24 hour SSA hotline: 0845 988 1188. Choose option 1 and listen to the pre-recorded information follwed by one of these quick dial codes:

  • Nene – 032112
  • Great Ouse – 033211
  • Ancholme – 031212

Alternatively, they offer a service where you can be added to their free Strong Stream Advice messaging system. You will receive a call on your mobile phone and/or landline, via an automated service that can send messages at any time of day or night. Text and email facilities are now also available. For further information please contact them on 01522 785943.