Boating Basics For Beginners

The idea of starting boating holidays without any prior knowledge of how to  control a vessel on water can be intimidating for some, whilst for others won't be a problem at all. There's no need to worry though as it doesn't take long to pick up. Having a basic idea of the mechanics before you get started will make everything that bit easier.

Watch the Broads Authority Video on Basic Boat Handling


Before you set off


Have a look at our list of things you should bring to make sure you pack appropriately for boating holidays. Shoes in particular can make a big difference. You'll need to bring non-slip footwear for the deck, and you'll also find wellies come in handy for muddy walks and river banks.

Everyone in your party will need to be wearing a lifejacket on and around the Broads. Even when you get off the boat in order to cast off, you shouldn't remove your jacket just in case. It is likely to be wet around the mooring and therefore there is the potential of slipping.

If you're bringing your dog with you, it is a good idea for them to have a life jacket too. Herbert Woods have a limited number of Dog Life Jackets in a variety of sizes, available on a first come first served basis. However, if you are holidaying with us in peak season we recommend you bring your own to avoid disappointment.


Nautical Language

While you won't need to know all of the different boating terminology, a few phrases won't hurt!

There are the four nautical directions which can be helpful to learn:

Bow - The front of the ship

Stern - The back of the ship

Port - The left side of the ship whilst facing the bow

Starboard - The right of the ship whilst facing the bow

Other useful terms:

Moorings - These are places where you can secure your boat, either at night or when you've stopped in the day

Casting off - This is when you leave your mooring, unsecure the boat and set off on new adventures!

Be aware of other Broads users

Listen out for horn blasts while you're on your boating holiday. There are always to alert you to something, so you will need to pay attention:

One short blast - I am turning right

Two short blasts - I am turning left

Three short blasts - I am reversing

You might need to use them yourself, so make sure you're familiar with what means what.


Passing Boats

Passing Boats

Remember to drive on the right, and always pass other boats coming the other way on the right hand side of the waterways.

Should you meet a yacht while cruising, your first action should be to slow down considerably. Power always gives way to sail boats. You should also never pass in front of a sail boat, pass from behind and alter your course if necessary. You might be directed as to which side you should pass them, so keep an eye out for hand signals. Follow this direction but do so slowly and carefully.



Wath the Broads Authority video on Reversing and Turning

Begin by taking the boat out of gear. The most important thing with reversing is to remember that unlike cars, boats steer from the back, so when you reverse you'll need to turn counter intuitively. You want to turn starboard, so put the helm hard port, and vice versa. Then you'll just need to put the boat into reverse.

The wind is a major factor, so be especially cautious on breezy days.



Some moorings are 'alongside' whilst other are 'stern on'. Evaluate the mooring, because you will need to approach both differently. Once you've perfected your reversing, you shouldn't find either a problem, but alongside moorings tend to be the most common.

Watch the Broads Authority Video on Mooring Alongside

Watch the Broads Authority Video on Mooring Stern On


Other Things To Know

Cruisers are not fitted with the necessary navigational lights to cruise at night, and therefore you should aim to moor at least one hour before sunset. You are uninsured for cruising at night, and the poor visibility and lack of navigation lights will make this very dangerous.  Estimate how long your journey might take using our simple guide, but remember that these are only estimates so don't rely on them entirely.

There are speed limits on the Broads which are between 3 and 6 mph. You'll need to stick to them on your boating holidays. This is to prevent bank erosion, protect wildlife, and for the safety of people on moored boats.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. The pace of life is slow and luxurious, and people around are often more than happy to help if you're not quite sure how to do something!

Are you looking for a Norfolk Broads boating holiday? If so, have a look at our entire fleet of hire cruisers.

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Registered Office: , Bridge Road, Potter Heigham, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR29 5JF. Telephone Number: 0800 144 4472.