Large Barge

Barge Training

Barge Training

Steering a barge

Barges are fairly straightforward to drive but they take a little practice to master as they handle differently and are much larger than other boats. If it is your first time on a barge, it is a good idea to choose a smaller barge as it is easier to manoeuvre. There is no need to worry, you will soon get the hang of it with some basic training so you enjoy your narrowboating adventure to the full. Barge training can be provided by the hire company as part of the hire boat handover process or you can take an RYA course in advance.

First Barge Holiday 

When you are looking for a company to take your first boating holiday with, you need to be sure you will be given suitable tuition before leaving the base. Driving a barge isn’t difficult but in order for you to feel comfortable you need to be with a company who takes your enjoyment and safety seriously. Look out for the Hire Boat Handover scheme and its logo when selecting your holiday.

Hire Boat Handover Scheme 

The Hire Boat Handover Scheme applies to hire boat operators and is managed by APCO to promote safe enjoyment of the inland waterways. Those companies allowed to display the logo have undergone an audited process to insure their instruction and handover process to customers includes all the information you will need to be sure you will know how to handle the boat and facilities aboard safely so you enjoy your boating adventure to the full. Typically, training will include basic techniques such as steering the boat, operating locks, navigating bridges and mooring the boat, and safety information. The logo can be a useful tool for you to look for when selecting your chosen holiday company.

Training Courses 

Training courses which develop boat handling skills are increasingly popular amongst both novice and experienced boaters. The RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate is for anyone who wants to improve their inland waterways boating skills.

RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Course from £125

To find a centre click here


Anyone over 21 can hire a barge with no licence or training, but we strongly recommend that you get some instruction before setting off. Most people pick up steering and controlling the boat fairly quickly, barge hire companies will give basic training, and it is possible to take some lessons in advance. See the OTW recommends for a list of training providers.

European Barging

Licensing arrangements are different in Europe. Each country has its own qualifications requirement and you may need an International Certificate of Competence (ICC). This involves a written exam based on the RYA Day Skipper course plus knowledge of the CEVNI rules (European inland rules of the road), plus a practical examination. The ICC is accepted in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  For full details of the ICC see the RYA web site.