Miss Inexperience learns about mooring in London

Local restrictions

So far Miss Inexperience has only done a limited amount of cruising on any boat; she has travelled as far west as Newbury and as far East/South as Camden on her own boat and has done various stretches of canal on other peoples boats. On canals, and even canalised rivers, you can generally stop pretty much anywhere along the towpath for up to two weeks (depending on local restrictions). So, other than her brief sojourn on the Thames she has never really been anywhere with limited mooring. London is, therefore, a bit of a shock. Around Rickmansworth and Watford (as far north as you can get and still be on the tube network) it’s possible to moor pretty much anywhere. In London proper however, there are designated moorings and in most places it’s not physically possible to just bang in a couple of pins as there are high voltage cables and fibre optics running under the concrete towpaths…


(7 days – no breasting up, plus 2 boats worth of 2h ‘stop and shop’ moorings)

Miss Inexperience headed straight to the visitor mooring in Camden when she arrived in London for a couple of reasons: her job was in Camden (she might as well make life easy for herself) and it’s Camden. The latter is the reason most people head to Camden (it’s a very popular mooring).

When Miss Inexperience first arrived it was possible to moor there for 14 days during the winter and 7 days during the summer – it’s now 7 days all year round. She was lucky; when she arrived there was a space into which she could squeeze her boat. This is generally not the case, which means either a quick turn in ‘dead dogs’ tunnel’ [1] and heading back to Little Venice or carrying on down the Camden Flight to Islington.

The Camden visitor moorings (though not the stop-and-shop moorings) are theoretically locked overnight, although that is generally done by one of the boaters currently on the mooring. There is (or at least was) a warden for the mooring which somehow didn’t seem to make a difference, it was still done by whoever happened to be there at the appropriate moment and remembered, or occasionally by a boater from one of the other moorings as they passed through. Miss Inexperience is bad at confrontation and didn’t really want to have to ask locals to leave the mooring; however she quickly discovered that not locking the mooring meant towpath “parties” going on all night outside her boat with loud music and drunkenness that she also wasn’t very keen on. She also discovered that putting on a high-vis jacket when she went to lock the mooring lent her an air of credibility and meant she got far fewer questions.

The boats in Camden also tend to be used as a backdrop for people’s photographs, which is mainly not a problem. It’s even perfectly acceptable to step onto someone’s boat to take a photograph providing they have given you permission. The following however, are all things Miss Inexperience has seen and DOES have a problem with:

  1. Young men leaning on her boat in order to impress their girlfriends – solution: open towpath side curtain and shout “oi” through the window – it’s amazing how high they jump.
  2. People climbing onto her boat WITHOUT PERMISSION in order to get better pictures of whatever it was they were trying to photograph: boats going past, the houses on St. Mark’s Crescent, ducks, kayaks, each other posing on a boat – solution: same as above but often with the door rather than the curtains.
  3. People climbing on her boat in order to honk her bicycle horn (the horn got nicked fairly soon after she arrived in London anyway so that became a moot point).
  4. Children casting the boats off in broad daylight – she discovered quite quickly that yelling like a fishwife and chasing them a short distance generally made them go away and not try it again until after the boat they’d been caught doing it to had left.
    Camden has bollards rather than rings which makes it a lot easier to cast a boat off, however fastening your ropes on your boat not the towpath and a chain padlocked at both ends (round the bollard, and round the boat) goes some way towards mitigating the problem. Motorbike padlocks and heavy duty chain are best for this as children in London have access to bolt croppers.
  5. People sitting on the roofs of the boats to: eat their lunch, drink a coffee, smoke a joint – yes really. This is usually dealt with by a yelled “get off my boat” from whichever of the local boaters happens to notice the imposters first, in the summer this is often someone on the back of a trip boat.

Despite these minor problems Miss Inexperience enjoyed mooring at Camden; there are two supermarkets in easy reach of the mooring as well as an “organic supermarket” (outside her price range but good for treats). In fact when Miss Inexperience gets her first winter mooring this is where she chooses to be (good job the canal didn’t freeze that year otherwise she’d have been stuffed as there’s no facilities on-site).


And finally: it’s all fun and games until someone sets fire to a wall.

Regents Park Road Bridge viewed from the water

Miss Inexperience was sitting in AP’s boat when she hears crackling and can smell burning outside. As her boat is next to AP’s she sticks her head out the door to see what’s going on, only to discover that someone has set light to the ivy covered wall next to the boats. It has been a dry summer and they’ve clearly put some accelerant on it as the flames are already 6 foot up the wall. Miss Inexperience rings the fire brigade and endeavours to explain that no, she doesn’t have a postcode for her current location, the nearest road is Regents Park Road and that the fire is on the towpath. In the mean time AP and some lovely Italians from a hire-boat attempt to extinguish the conflagration with buckets of water and at least one of the hire-boat’s fire extinguishers – Miss Inexperience didn’t manage to stop them in time, she still wonders how they explained that one when they got back. They did such an efficient job that the flames were gone by the time the fire service arrived, but, as the wall was still hot and there were crackling sounds (and a primary school on the other side of the wall) they decided to douse the wall thoroughly anyway while chatting with Miss Inexperience about living on a boat. Good fun was had by all.

Little Venice

(14 days)

The Grand Union (Paddington Branch) is considerably easier to moor on with several sections where it’s possible to put in pins. One of these is just beyond the official visitor mooring rings at Little Venice, however (as Miss Inexperience discovers when she moves in the middle of a week to get out of the way of the Canalway Cavalcade moorings) the whole stretch from Little Venice to the Harrow Road Bridge is counted as the Little Venice visitor mooring. The BW enforcement officer gently explains this to her and agrees that she can move her boat as soon as she gets a chance.

Volunteering at the Canalway Cavalcade (before she owned her own boat) was Miss Inexperience’s first introduction to the canal in London and she discovers (the first time she goes there when the Cavalcade isn’t on) that Little Venice looks oddly empty without it. As a local boater however she realises that it can make moving around a bit of a nightmare. There is a huge influx of boats at the beginning of the festival, meaning that you have to go further afield to find a mooring as the whole section is closed to visitors and, when they all leave again it’s possible to get stuck waiting to go through the Maida Hill Tunnel (272 yards, thanks for asking) for up to an hour. Generally, if at all possible, it’s a good idea to be a long way away from Little Venice when the Cavalcade is going on because boats that aren’t part of the festivities really just get in the way.

It is on the Little Venice visitor moorings that Miss Inexperience discovers children like to bang on the outsides of boats and then run away – a kind of water based equivalent of the doorbell game, and that anything not locked down, for example AP’s bike, will get nicked.

Brownings Island, Little Venice

There is a wicked cross wind at times on the Little Venice visitor moorings; this is fine if you manage to find a space on the section with rings, however, if you’re trying to moor single handed and your boat is being blown out while you’re trying to knock a pin in things can get a bit dicey. Miss Inexperience struggles with this for about twenty minutes one day with a particularly vicious wind before coming to the conclusion (having checked the towpath both ways) that if she just loops the rope over a section of fence while she quickly puts the pin in, it’ll be fine. This blocks the towpath but she’s keeping an eye out and putting the pin in as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, as she hits it for the last time a cyclist appears.

“Mind the …” the cyclist slows and looks up to see what’s going on … and is promptly taken off her bike by the “…rope”.

Miss Inexperience picks her up and apologises profusely. The cyclist, a little shaken but otherwise unhurt, accepts the apology and the explanation, ducks under the rope and leaves saying that she has learnt an important lesson about mooring boats “to slow down and look for ropes”. Miss Inexperience takes the rope down, ties it to the pin and vows never to do that again.

She also arrived back at her boat one evening to find that one of the pins had come out (some people seem to think that slowing down past moored boats is a slur on their boat handling) and the boat was almost completely blocking the canal (quite impressive since it’s only a 40’ boat and the canal here is quite wide). Given the strength of the wind and the length of the centre line it takes Miss Inexperience, MsB and AP quite a while to get the boat safely back to the bank. Fortunately, Miss Inexperience has ‘D’ pins and always threads the rope through them so she just has to bang the pin, and a couple of spares, in.

Paddington Basin

(7 days)

The Paddington Basin mooring is a bit of a concrete jungle however it does have a couple of things in its favour, notably its proximity to supermarkets, Paddington Station and St. Mary’s Hospital – on at least one occasion someone who has had an accident on a boat has been hauled onto the roof and taken round to the back to St. Mary’s where the skipper has yelled “a little help here” in the general direction of the ambulance bay. It also extends the amount of time you can stay in the area of Little Venice to three weeks.

That said, Miss Inexperience isn’t a fan of Paddington Basin, most of the moorings are down slippery pontoons and those that are on concrete are generally under bridges. There is one mooring, near the glass bridge that has a security guard opposite it (which oddly didn’t make Miss Inexperience feel that much more secure) and the level of wind in there is such that lighter boats (like Miss Inexperience’s) sometimes have to crab to get anywhere. The wind means that manoeuvring has to be done at some speed and Miss Inexperience has been yelled at more than once by boaters who appear not to understand that not all boats handle the same. She has, on more than one occasion, wondered aloud whether the boat owner in question would prefer her wash hit his boat or her boat did so as she was being blown in his direction.

However, apart from its lack of trees and slippery surfaces in places, Paddington Basin is quite a safe place to moor; in fact the worst thing that happened when she was moored there was the discovery by AP of a group of builders sitting on the back of Miss Inexperience’s boat drinking cans of beer on their lunch break. They probably thought it made them less conspicuous. For all Miss Inexperience knew they could have been doing it for days, but, as they didn’t leave any mess and didn’t argue when AP pointed out that it wasn’t their boat and they shouldn’t be there she wasn’t too worried about it.

Kensal Green

(14 days plus 5 boat lengths of 24 hour)

Opposite the cemetery at Kensal Green is actually quite a nice place to moor. It’s a long mooring on a wide section of towpath which allows the possibility of safe barbeques and general sitting around on the towpath (something of a rarity in the middle of London).

There is also a huge Sainsbury’s which Miss Inexperience and MsB regularly cruised to at Christmas (subject to ice) to collect last minute shopping and alcohol (a quick lift of the trolley over the magnetic wot-not and you can offload straight onto the boat before slipping the trolley back into the supermarket the same way you got it out – no damage done).

It is however a bad plan to attempt to moor here during the Notting Hill Carnival, as Miss Inexperience and one of her friends discovered. They set off for the mooring one evening during the festival, thinking it would be fun to cruise through. However, by the time they’d had a few bottles, rocks and other missiles thrown at them by drunken festival goers who appeared to equate boats with target practice. Had been leered at, jollied at and generally irritated by being the only sober people in a crowd of louts (albeit louts that couldn’t get at them and were drunk enough that they couldn’t even manage to hit a narrowboat moving at 3 miles an hour) it started to lose its appeal. She didn’t make the same mistake twice.


(14 days, locked at night)

As Miss Inexperience quickly discovered; the Islington Visitor Mooring is a funny place. It starts about 10 meters east of the Islington Tunnel (the longest on the Regent’s Canal – it only has two tunnels, one of them has to be the longest) and is in a deep cutting surrounded by houses.

Kings Place

When Miss Inexperience moored here the first time she was very new to boating; she knew about the “8 ‘til 8 rule” regarding running engines but, as she was getting home late and her batteries weren’t holding charge, she put her engine on at about 1950 one evening (for half an hour so she could shower) and got yelled at by someone who pretty much moors there full time. Sadly, the irony was lost on her as she didn’t really understand the continuous cruising rules at this time. The reason for the bawling out was gently explained by another boater. There is at least one local who has a problem with the boats and who always reports boats running their engines after the 2000 cut off.

She explained the situation; he nodded and responded that when he needed to do it he went for a half hour cruise as they couldn’t say anything about boats moving. Wide eyed with terror (there are two locks east of the mooring and a tunnel west of it) she nodded and pointed out that single-handing at night was a bit scary. So he helped her top up her batteries and introduced her to the concept of “batt aid”.

Miss Inexperience eventually tried to avoid mooring at Islington for a variety of reasons, not just the grumpy local(s). The Northern Line is reliably unreliable which lead to Miss Inexperience attempting to cycle to work. Not knowing the way she got herself in the wrong lane going down Pentonville Road and nearly got knocked off by a van while trying to do a legal right turn (legal only for bicycles, buses and taxis; everyone else carries straight on) meaning that she arrived in work on time but very shaken. On top of that was the difficulty of negotiating the very busy centre of Islington (it’s a bit like Oxford Street but less … linear) from the supermarket to the mooring, and the embarrassment of the day she had to figure out how to get to a position where she could call down to AP to let her in because she’d arrived back after the mooring had been locked and she’d forgotten to take her BW key and phone with her.

Victoria Park

(14 days)

Somewhere between Islington and Victoria Park

The visitor moorings in Victoria Park are notoriously difficult to get on to. They’re generally two boats deep along the whole length of the park and many of the boats present appear to be continuous moorers. Whenever Miss Inexperience headed down that way she inevitably ended up turning back having not found anywhere to moor. The further East you go on the canal in London the more dodgy boats and continuous mooring there is to be found. The enforcement officer at the time Miss Inexperience was there had done a marvellous job of clearing the rule-breakers out of central London, but unfortunately, as with many problems, it was just moved; in this instance to Victoria Park and later to the bottom of the Hertford Union and the Lee Navigation. It is possible to walk around the edges of Victoria Park, and at night it is advisable to do so – though it’s better than it used to be. It’s a great place to moor if you’re going to one of the festivals, or even if you just want to listen to one of the festivals, since you can hear the music from the towpath; that’s if you can find somewhere to moor.

Mile End Park

(14 days – if you last that long)

Very few people moor in Mile End Park even though there are a couple of places you can do so, and even fewer do so more than once. Miss Inexperience didn’t try it, as a single female being that far away from the safety of other boats

Lillies, somewhere towards Limehouse

seemed like a bad plan. There were too many horror stories and she wasn’t keen on ending up as a statistic. After Miss Inexperience moved onto her mooring and stopped continuous cruising in London she briefly had a job in Mile End. Having seen the park at night (and had to purchase Kevlar tyres for her bike because of the quantity of broken glass lying around in the park) Miss Inexperience is very glad she didn’t try and moor there. Not recommended for anyone.


1 Dead Dogs’ Tunnel is actually a disused loading bay.



One thought on “Miss Inexperience learns about mooring in London

  1. Brick

    Hi there Miss Inexperience
    I should call myself Miss Lessthanyou Experience. I recently moved onto a 40′ narrow boat, it is now my home. I am 64 and retired. Yes, sounds crazy. I am at Hampton at the moment, having modifications done, but hope to leave on Monday to go to the Lea Valley and hopefully up to the River Stort. I will probably be on my own and I’m really nervous. I have some experience of casting off (can manage that) and mooring ( rubbish at that) and driving (no problem), and winding (I’ve done it once under supervision). Also been through a lock and back on my own ( a lock keeper helped me with the bow rope but I managed the Centre line mostly). Have done all of the above with other people on the boat and opened and closed locks. But… This is a trip alone !!! I have plotted the trip over 5 days from here to Lea Valley, at an estimated 5 hrs of driving a day.(with Canalplanner) I would probably drive for 2 or 3hrs then take a break. I have an awning cover on a frame on the stern steering well, so after realising there tunnels I might have to take that it down.
    I still hoping a couple of friends might volunteer to come on day trips to help with ropes, but in the end I might have to go it alone EEK!

    Any advice,, beyond what I’ve read in your funny, interesting and informative blog, would be gratefully welcome and very useful.


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