Book Your Stay

Book Your Boat

Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Narrow Boat Ready for Spring

Spring is the perfect time to get your narrow boat in tip-top shape. Follow our step-by-step guide for a stress-free season on the water.

As the weather starts to warm up, it's time to prepare your narrowboat for smooth sailing and comfortable cruising.

Our step-by-step guide will take you through the essential tasks required to ensure your narrow boat is in top shape for the season ahead.

So, whether you're a seasoned narrow boater or new to the lifestyle, sit back, relax, and let us help you get your boat ready for a wonderful spring on the water!

LLE GH 00236

Do maintenance on the engine

Most narrowboat engines are located onboard under the deck of cruisers and semi traditional boats, or in an engine space in the rear cabin for traditional barges. Smaller boats might have an outboard motor.

Most narrowboats run on a modern diesel engine which offers maximum power, fuel efficiency and minimal noise, but some boaters prefer a traditional diesel engine for its nostalgic chugging sound.

Before you set off for your spring adventures, you'll want to check that your engine is in full working order. At least annually, you should...

  • Change your engine and gearbox oil
  • Replace your oil filter
  • Change your antifreeze
  • Check the air filter and replace if needed
  • Check anode condition
  • Check all external nuts, bolts, hoses, connections and fastenings
  • Use fuel treatment if your boat has been vacant in cold weather

If you need help and advice with this, speak to any of our friendly teams at our marinas and they will be happy to help you.

Lily 39

Inspect the batteries

Standard narrowboat have at least two batteries: leisure batteries, which keep your heating and electrics running while you are cruising, and starting batteries, which provide the power for your engine to turn on. Like car batteries, your narrowboat batteries will recharge while the engine is running, however they can run flat if left unused for a long time. So before you go exploring this spring, you should check your batteries especially if your boat has been sitting unused all winter.

We'd recommend investing in a voltmeter from your marina chandlery to check the charge of your batteries. If your battery is running at less than 75%, you should aim to charge up as soon as possible. If your narrowboat has a dashboard, check for a flashing light to alert you that a battery needs replacing. To maintain your batteries...

  • Check that the batteries are clean
  • Use a dry cloth or kitchen towel to remove any grime or moisture
  • Use petroleum jelly to coat the terminals
  • Top up the electrolyte with distilled de-ionised water
  • Invest in a spare multi-stage battery charger and carry it on board for emergencies

Remember to always stop and investigate immediately when you become aware of a battery problem, and always wear protective clothing and rubber gloves when you're working with batteries.

The Sunlit Hour 14

Evaluate the plumbing

Water holding tanks are usually found in the hull of a narrowboat, but sometimes you might find them in a separate container for easier access. There is always a risk of leaks from water holding tanks especially with age, so this is something you should check regularly. Water holding tanks can gradually give your drinking water a ‘tank taste’ which is harmless but not exactly pleasant.

To clean your water holding system effectively, leave a solution of chlorine or hydrogen peroxide in the system for 24 hours before flushing it out. Please be careful if you do this and always feel free to ask our marina teams or a fellow experienced narrowboater to help you out. Shorter term solutions include:

  • Water purification tablets: these will ensure your water is clean and safe to drink.
  • Boiling: easy to do, but can take up a lot of energy.
  • Filters: Not as effective, but ideal for keeping out larger pieces of dirt.
  • Bottled water: the easiest alternative although it could get pricey over time.
LLE TAT 00427

Remove debris from the bilge

Boat bilge pumps are manual or automatic water pumps that remove excess water from leaks, spills, and drainage systems, and require regular maintenance and cleaning. You will typically find the water and bilge pumps within the engine space of your narrowboat. The number of bilge pumps you need will depend on the size of your boat, but it’s recommended that you have 3 to 4 pumps onboard. To clean your bilge pump...

  • Find and open the access panel to your bilge pump toward the aft of your boat.
  • Clear away any debris out from the bilge, reaching as far as you can.
  • Make sure the pump activation switch is off and disconnect the pump from the boat’s wiring harness.
  • With a screwdriver, loosen the clamp holding the discharge hose onto the bilge pump and then remove the hose.
  • Twist the top of the pump anticlockwise until it is removed, then grasp the bottom of the pump and twist the top anticlockwise until it comes away from the lower casing.
  • Clear away any debris from both parts of your bilge pump.
  • Vacuum the entire bilge area of your boat.
  • Use vinegar or an eco-friendly marina cleaner and a scrub brush to remove any mold or dirt from your bilge pump.
  • Rinse the pump with clean, fresh water, making sure to keep the wires dry.
  • Spread a thin layer of marine grease onto the O-ring seal in the pump.
  • Reattach the two halves of the pump and the hose.
  • With your screwdriver, tighten the clamp enough that it holds but not so tight that it crushes the hose.
  • Reconnect the wires, but don't switch it back on until you have checked that the bilge pump is working or until your boat is in the water.
Shopshire Lily 02

Inspect the weed hatch

The weed hatch is designed to give you access to your propeller within your boat, to save you having to get in the water. This part of your narrowboat can be found above the prop shaft in the engine bay, and can commonly fill up with floating debris from the waterways. One of the most common reasons that narrowboats sink is due to problems with the weed hatch, so it's important to keep it regularly maintained.

To clear out your weed hatch and propeller easily and safely...

  • Moor up, turn off your engine and make sure that there is no possibility of the engine starting up.
  • Undo and lift off the watertight seal to reach down to the propeller.
  • Carefully reach into the hatch and feel around for debris to clear out. This could be anything from weeds or leaves to rope or plastic bags.
  • Put the cover and seal back on, and check that the watertight seal is as tight as possible.

It is important to remember that the propeller is sharp and can easily cut your hands, so take things slow and steady when clearing out debris.

LLE GH 00397

Conduct a quality check on your cruising kit

Before setting off for a spring adventure or even moving to live aboard your boat, you need to make sure you have all the essential cruising equipment in working order to make sure you can moor up, get through locks and enjoy your days on the waterways as safely as possible. Some boats might come with some of this equipment already included, but you might need to visit your marina chandlery to stock up on extra bits.

If you are purchasing a brand new canal boat or used boat for sale, consult your narrow boat builder or boat sales office to confirm what equipment is included. Some useful parts of your cruising kit include...

Mooring Equipment

  • Mooring pins
  • Mooring hooks
  • Mooring ropes
  • Lump mallet
  • Mooring chain – can be used for extra boat safety or to create a canal boat mooring against a pontoon when no mooring ring is available.
  • High vis mooring pin safety covers - to avoid towpath users tripping over your mooring pins.
  • Fenders and buttons – bow and stern fenders and side fenders protect the boat from knocks and bumps. Fender hooks can also be placed along the cabin sides when mooring up.
  • Poles and Hooks – ideal for rescuing items that have fallen into the water.

Safety Equipment

  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms.
  • Fire extinguishers and fire blankets.
  • Life Jackets for all crew members.
  • Life bouys/rings and throw bags.
  • Anchor and chain.
  • Padlocks for any external doors without a lock.

As part of your essential spring maintenance, always make sure to check that your equipment is in good shape and working correctly before heading out on the waterways.

LLE TAT 00196

Spring clean the boat and inspect appliances

Whether you've been living on your narrowboat or it's been sitting unused since the winter, this is the perfect time for a deep spring clean. Here's how to get your boat looking and feeling shiny and new just in time for the boating season.

Tidy Up

A deep clean is a great opportunity to reorganise and get rid of things you don't need, and it will make the cleaning process much easier. Start with what you can see, then make your way to the cupboards, drawers and storage spaces. Starting with a de-cluttered space will keep you on track and motivate you to keep going.

Dirt and Dust

Grab a microfiber duster to de-cobweb your ceilings, then clean up your walls with a mixture of water and detergent. We know it can feel tedious, but if you want the boat looking and feeling fresh for the summer cruising season, it's worth taking your time and doing a really good job.


Make sure to clean all your furniture, shelves and units, using the appropriate cleaner for their surfaces. Once these larger furnishings are spotless, it's time to dust or clean your photos, lamps, wall hangings and any other bits you have on display.

Let The Light In

Give your windows and frames a good clean (inside and out!), polishing your glass for a streak free finish and maintaining the frames with some wood varnish if necessary. If you find that the sealant is damaged, make a note to have this looked at and replaced ASAP.

Don't forget your curtains, blinds and nets! Take them down and follow their cleaning instructions to get your boat feeling as clean and fresh as possible.

Refresh The Floors

Especially after a cold wet winter, it's hard to keep your floors clean and prestine and it's worth giving them some extra TLC in the spring. For carpets, we think it's worth hiring a carpet cleaner instead of tackling it with your at-home products, or bringing in a professional to do it.

Your wood and hard floor surfaces should be vacuumed, making sure to move any furniture that can be pulled out so you can reach any dirt and dust lurking behind them. Then use an appropriate floor cleaner to wipe away any dirt and stains. Wood floors may benefit from a coat of varnish to reseal it for the next year.

LLE GH 00072

What is the best way to clean narrowboat paintwork?

Hose your boat down with clean fresh water first to remove as much dirt as possible, then apply a suitable cleaning product with a sponge or very soft brush. A gentle boat shampoo is best.

When it comes to polishing your paintwork, carnauba wax is your friend! This natural plant wax is found in many boat polishing products. It will help to protect the surface paintwork and keep it clean, giving a protective shine with no streaks or residue. Carnauba wax can be removed with white spirit or panel wipe should you need to repair your paintwork.

LLE GH 00044

What paint is used on canal boats?

When shopping for narrowboat paint, look out for coach enamel paint.

This is a hard wearing paint which comes in a great range of colours and shades. Your local chandlery will stock plenty of coach enamel paints, so pop in and speak to the team or chat with your marina neighbours if you need any advice on painting your narrowboat.

Ulysses 09

How do you fix rust spots on a narrowboat?

You can remove orange and black rust with a grit grinder, then if there are still some persistant black rust spots remaining, treat them with a special rust treatment.

You will then want to use a body filler to fill in the grinding marks before sanding it down and repainting. application of primer possibly some more minor filling then undercoats and top coats. Ask your local chandlery about rust treatments and body filler and they will assist you in finding the perfect materials.

Lily 07

What is the best way to clean the inside of a boat?

When it comes to spring cleaning your narrow boat, you can tackle it just as you would with your house. De-clutter your belongings and start from the top, dusting the ceiling with a microfiber duster, cleaning the walls with water and detergent, and vacuuming your floors.

Clean all of your surfaces and furnishings with the appropriate cleaning products, making sure not to forget the curtains, blinds and carpets, and your boat will be clean and fresh for spring in no time.

Leave a Comment
Follow Us
What's New?
Lakeland Leisure Estates Triumphs at Crick Boat Show 2024 with 'Highgrove'
Discover how Lakeland Leisure Estates triumphed at the Crick Boat Show 2024 with 'Highgrove,' a luxurious and eco-friendly narrowboat built by Kingsground Narrowboats. Learn about the sustainable design and the team behind this award-winning masterpiece.
Get Your Boat Ready for Winter: Essential Tips to Winterise Your Boat
Prepare your boat for winter with our expert guide. Learn how to safeguard your boat from the cold, prevent damage, and ensure a cosy winter afloat.
Lakeland Leisure's Viral Success: Exploring Marina Life with Adam Floating Home
Discover why Adam Floating Home's collaboration with Lakeland Leisure Marinas went viral, attracting half a million views. Explore the allure of marina living, leisure mooring and continuous cruising.