As the Autumn academic term begins for both school children and students it got me thinking about learning canal-related skills. Whether you’re considering a change of career or simply want to take up a new hobby consider these water-related learning opportunities.

Marine engineering

If you like tinkering with your own engine or have a background in car or motorcycle mechanics this could develop into a self-employed career. You might start with a mechanic course or an apprenticeship and then expand into learning about marine engines. Ed Boden is a marine engineer on the Grand Union. He says it’s very satisfying to be able to fix things.

“That’s a good feeling, when you fix something – and I get that feeling every day which is nice. I’m lucky that way. Apart from that it's the people on the boats. It's very sociable and it’s made me more sociable. I think anybody who gets a boat, or even walks down the canal realises that boaters are very sociable people.”

Canal Artist

If you’ve never tried this there are plenty of beginners’ courses around to help you to learn signwriting or painting roses and castles. Check your nearest canal museum or the events page on the Canal and River Trust website for a course near you. You may also find a suitable course advertised in the waterways press.

Become a broker

If you have a good all round knowledge of boats and consider yourself to be an effective negotiator and communicator you could be suited to running your own brokerage. For more information visit There’s new technology to learn but Boatshed offers full a support network and training on an ongoing basis. Our support network provides you with advice and help when you need it.

Become a skipper

If you’d like to improve your skills when steering the boat consider taking a course in boat familiarisation or an RYA Helmsman Course. At Canal Experience they believe that competence and confidence are the keys to enjoying your time on the water. Their courses distil years of experience, gained and passed on by many boatmen, into a practical and enjoyable event.

Train with the NCBA

The National Community Boats Association provide a clear progression of training through the stages of community boat management: From boat handling and safety to the community boat leadership programme and more.

Learn History

There are guided heritage walks advertised on the events pages of the Canal and River Trust website. These may be organised by community groups, charities, tourism companies, a local museum or your local library. The Canal and River Trust sometimes also offer guided wildlife walks. On the 14th and 15th September the only wartime vintage themed canal festival is taking place at Stoke Bruerne.

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Image credit: Thanks to Jack Amick for making this image available under a Creative Commons licence.


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