Most of the inland waterways in Britain are looked after by the Canal and River Trust and to use these navigations you will need to purchase an annual licence. Licences can be paid for in monthly instalments, or in a one-off payment. Paying annually with the one-off payment option attracts a discount.

Licence included?

When you buy a second hand boat it may well have some paid-for months remaining on the licence. The previous owner will send a transfer of ownership form to the Canal and River Trust to let them know that you are the new owner. You will need to complete a new licence application form before your current licence runs out. Which form you complete will depend on whether you have a home mooring and which navigations you intend to travel on.

How far will you cruise?

The Environment Agency provides licences for the River Thames, the River Medway, and the rivers of East Anglia. The Broads Authority looks after the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

If you think you might like to travel the waterways run by both the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency a Gold Licence may be more economical for you. This runs annually from 1st January to 31st December, regardless of when you buy it, and is non-refundable.

If your boat does not have a home mooring your licence will allow you to travel around the network moving at least every 14 days. Individual visitor moorings may have shorter time restrictions in popular areas. You need to be on what the Trust terms a “genuine progressive journey”, rather than settled in one particular area for work or school commitments.

The Canal and River Trust funds the maintenance of the system with a combination of licence fees, mooring fees and government funds.

To be granted a licence your boat must have insurance and a boat safety certificate. A Boat Safety Examiner will need to visit and check your boat every four years.

Waterways Key

Your licence does not automatically include a facilities key. These are available to buy in boatyards and marinas and from the Trust’s online shop for around £6. This key will open access gates, anti-vandal locks, swing bridges, water points, sewage disposal points and most other facilities on the network.

There is more licencing information on the Canal and River Trust website, and licences can be bought online, by post, or from marinas and boatyards.

My first boat was called Emily Rose.

"When I was moored up, you came and untied me
When I was unwanted you had money to buy me,
So now I’m back on the Cut with nothing to lose:
My name is Emily Rose and I’m licensed to cruise."

There is more useful information about buying a second hand boat in our free eBook Living on a Boat: The Boatshed Guide

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