16 May 2022

Guide to getting out on the water

By Paul Knox-Johnston Sales & Marketing Manager (Marine)

As an island nation, it’s fair to say that messing about in the water has always been something us Brits have been keen on!  And it’s not just in the sea!  Britain also has an abundance of inland canals, reservoirs, lakes and rivers to go and have fun in and on.

Here at HKJ we think boating in all its shapes and sizes is awesome fun (we may be a little biased!), but… (and it’s a big but!)… we know it’s not exactly a straightforward hobby to take up!

At first glance it looks expensive, tricky and time consuming.  But the pay off is that nothing quite beats a day out on the water, and it’s a brilliant hobby for the entire family to get involved in together.

Boating comes in many forms – inland or coastal, motor or sail.  There are narrowboats and sailing yachts, go faster dinghies and even faster powerboats!  And what about a hovercraft!!  There is certainly something for everyone, and to make it easier to decide, we thought we’d put our collective heads together and come up with the… (drum roll please)….

HK-J guide to getting out on the water

Getting out on a boat might seem like a dream, so here are our top 6 tips for dipping your toe in the water!


Consider starting out with a lower cost watersport that is easy to pick up and won’t take up too much time.  You can generally find taster sessions for all sorts of watersports all around the UK, and a quick google search will find one close to you.  Watersports schools often run private family sessions too – which are a great way to spend time outside as a family, as well as hopefully picking up a new hobby that the whole family can enjoy together!  A quick google search has come up with these – we haven’t tried them ourselves so can’t vouch for them.  You’ll find many more on google!

  • Escape surf school offer a ½ day surf experience session for £40 which includes all equipment. Newquay, Cornwall
  • Tittesworth Watersports and Activity Centre offer taster sessions in kayaking and stand up paddleboarding from £25, which includes all equipment. Leek, Staffordshire
  • Lagoon Watersports offer a wakeboard taster session from £55, which includes all equipment. Hove Lagoon, Sussex.


The traditional entry point to sailing boats small and large.  Dinghy sailing will always be a fun, sometimes wet, way to spend a few hours! It’s the perfect way to learn how to sail in a safe environment.  It also doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg!  You don’t need any of your own equipment (although we suspect once you’ve caught the dinghy sailing bug, you’ll be visiting the RYA Dinghy Show (RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show) to choose one to buy!!), and you’re never too old to start!  Here are our top ways to get into dinghy sailing:

  1. Do a taster course at a local activity centre
  2. Book an activity holiday which includes access to dinghies or small catamarans
  3. Join a local club (have a look at the RYA website to find your nearest one Wheres My Nearest Sailing Club or Training Centre | Where’s my nearest | RYA)
  4. Get qualified! There are a range of RYA courses which cover dinghy sailing such as Level 1 Start Sailing. Find out more information here: RYA Dinghy Sailing Training | Adult and youth courses
Dinghy Insurance


There will always be a boat owner looking for someone to help them!  Whatever type of boating you want to do! Whether it’s building up your confidence and miles by doing some easy day sailing on a friendly boat, to weekly racing in the local yacht club circuit.  From pottering along a canal helping with the locks, to long distance delivery cruising.  Crewing is a great way to pick up skills, increase your confidence and get some sea miles under your belt – all for free!  You might even get a beer out of it!  You don’t need to be an experienced sailor – there are plenty of boat owners who would be happy to help show you the ropes in return for a much needed extra pair of hands.

The world of Facebook means that finding a boat to crew on has never been easier.  Just join one of the many sailing groups based here in the UK (or further afield!) and introduce yourself!

Here are some Facebook groups that we’ve seen, and which might be a great place to start (do let us know if they are any good as we haven’t tried them ourselves!):

For those who are looking for a narrowboat to crew on, there are some great websites which help to put boat owners in touch with crew:


Crew Swap – Canal World

Or volunteer for charity such as the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, who run a narrowboat which is skippered and crewed by volunteers.


In case you need another excuse to google your next holiday, hiring or chartering a boat is a perfect way to dip your toe into boating whilst enjoying a holiday away with your friends or family.

Narrowboats are available to hire across the length and breadth of the inland waterways and vary in price and luxury!  They give you a chance to experience being out on the cut, where life runs at a much slower pace.  You don’t need any experience to hire a narrowboat, and the hire company will give you a full run down of how the boat works when you pick her up.  It’s worth doing a bit of research on basic narrowboat etiquette before going, which will make your holiday more enjoyable and will stop you upsetting other boaters!! Check out our Helpful Hints videos for top Narrowboating tips to help you make the most of your holiday Haven Helpful Hints – Haven Knox Johnston (havenkj.com).

For those interested in sailing or motorboats, chartering a boat is for you.  The boats you can charter come in many different forms, and can cater for any experience level.  Many charter companies offer a skippered boat option, perfect for those who would like to get some experience and perhaps come out with their RYA competent crew certification!

Joining a flotilla and cruising in company is the next step up.  You have the support and guidance of the other boats, whilst at the same time the independence of skippering your own yacht.  This would be perfect at those who have their RYA day skipper qualification.

Chartering a yacht by yourself is a great family holiday which can be enjoyed here in the UK, or in any number of coastal towns around the world.  Charter companies will often need you to have RYA day skipper as a minimum, along with sea miles.

Existing Customers HKJ


This concept has been around for many years now, and is the modern equivalent to buying a boat in partnership with a friend! The boat share clubs are designed to work around your lifestyle, giving you access to different types of boats in different locations, for a monthly fee.  There is often the option of using a skippered boat too – which means no experience of sailing is required!  And you don’t even need to clean or maintain the boats – they do it for you!!  It’s a win win!  Have a look at these websites to find out more (we can’t personally vouch for these companies – but it’ll give you an idea of what is out there!):

Boat and yacht share – Pure Latitude | Boat Club

Enjoy boating your way — Beyonder (beyonderboating.co.uk)


There are plenty of RYA training centres around the country which offer courses which take place on their own boats.  Doing your RYA Day Skipper qualification, or the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman qualification is a great way to build up confidence before venturing out on your own.  And if you own your own boat, RYA schools will often provide skippers who will come out with you on your own boat.

The RYA run more than 100 courses, and there are training centres all around the UK.  Their courses encompass a huge range of different watersports and levels, such as:

  • Inland waterways
  • Powerboating
  • Dinghy sailing
  • Windsurfing
  • Navigation
  • Sailing
  • Motorboating
  • Winging!

Find out more here: RYA courses and qualifications

Of course… you could always jump in at the deep end and buy a boat!  If this is you, have a look at our all new, singing and dancing online quote and buy tool to get a quote on your insurance.  We also recommend getting some RYA qualifications before embarking on your first big cruise!  You may have made it safely round the breakwater and back, but you could have left a trail of destruction behind you (which we don’t want to pay for!!).