Getting into boating – a guide for the recently retired

Britain has more than 3,500km of waterways to explore, so what better hobby to take up in retirement than boating. In this guide we bring you an exploration of how to get into this hobby for the recently retired.

If you are relatively fit and active there are a range of boating options you can consider. There is a brand new world to be experienced on the waterways of Great Britain, whether it’s on our rivers, network of canals, lakes or the 17, 820km of UK coastline.

If you fancy spending your golden years messing about on the waterways use our handy guide to set your sail and castaway into a new pass time. Here are a few of the options you could consider.

Paddle power

Canoeing and kayaking are great entry-level forms of boating. You can give them a go all over the country as they can all be carried out both inland on lakes and rivers, and on the 80km of coast in Lincolnshire.

getting into boatingCanoeing

The British Isles are made for canoeing – there is a wonderful variety of water to choose from. Inland, the canals, rivers and lakes offer simple touring on placid water, through to challenging white water descents. Canoeing is a great way to escape and visit places that are normally hard to reach by foot or car, as well as being healthy exercise and a fun activity to enjoy with friends and family of all ages and fitness levels.

Not all inland water is open to canoeists though, some is privately owned or is bounded by land which is private. The  British Canoe Union has an Access Officer in each region who can advise you about local canoeing waters. While the coastline of Britain provides superb canoeing water, some of which is remote with spectacular scenery, coastal canoeing in all but enclosed, sheltered sites demands knowledge and skill.


Kayaking is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. Kayaks are different from canoes as the paddler uses a double-ended paddle and sits under the deck of the kayak.

Kayaks are hugely versatile and you can find an activity to suit your interests whether it be day trips, touring, expeditions, polo, slalom, white water and surfing – there is something for everyone! If you want to escape from the bustle of modern life, why not use a kayak to go touring and explore the places that are otherwise hard to access by foot? But if you’re more after an adrenaline rush – how about white water kayaking.

To get started you don’t need any expensive equipment, you don’t need to know any special language and you don’t even need to be that fit! Locally, Glanford and Scunthorpe Canoe Club is a friendly North Lincolnshire canoeing and kayaking club, based on the River Ancholme at Brigg. In the spring, Lincoln Canoe Club also offers taster sessions for canoeing and kayaking – all equipment will be provided. For those with paddle power experience, you can try the River Witham and Brayford Pool Lincoln Trail – a fascinating five hour return trail from Lincoln out into the Fens and back.

Exploring the UK’s inland waterways

Canals are part of our cultural heritage but today, what was the commercial network of the industrial revolution, has become the leisure playground of boat-owners and holiday-makers. There are now 2,200 miles of canals and waterways to navigate throughout the UK where you can discover the beauty of the countryside.
Canal boats come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and the type of boat you choose depends on the number of berths (beds), the amount of space and the level of comfort you want. Most boats come equipped with all mod cons so there is no need for you to take any equipment.

In Lincolnshire, the River Witham is the main canal waterway. It meanders through Lincolnshire’s quiet, flat countryside and is very peaceful and remote for much of its length. Marshy fenlands stretch out for miles on both sides and the sunsets can be spectacular. More information on the River Witham can be found on the Canal and River Trust’s website.

Choosing your mode of transport

getting into boatingInland Cruisers

River cruisers are modern sleek boats and easy to steer as they have a steering wheel like a car. They also come in a variety of sizes and have the advantage of being able to navigate most of the UK’s rivers and canals. Smaller day hire boats have less facilities than the larger cruisers used for holidays. If it is your first time on a river cruiser, choose a smaller narrow boat as it is easier to steer. One of the real joys of cruising inland waterways on a river cruiser is stopping off and enjoying the sights and scenery along the way.


Despite the name, narrowboats are surprisingly spacious with plenty of headroom, and come in different lengths depending on the number of berths you need. If it is your first time on a narrowboat, it’s a good idea to choose a smaller narrowboat as it is easier to steer.  The narrowboat can travel along most rivers and canals, but its ability to navigate some waterways may be restricted by the engine’s power. The steering of a narrowboat is different to other boats and requires a bit of practice.

Day and holiday hire
Day hire is a fun way to relax with friends or family and sample what a longer cruising holiday would be like. They can be rented for self-drive trips for a day or evening, and you don’t need any experience or qualifications. Canal boat holidays are a fun and relaxing way to explore the waterways with your family or friends. There are so many fascinating and interesting places to visit.

Wind power

Dinghy sailing and yachting are some of the most popular activities in the UK. Between 2010 and 2014 the number of people who took part in boating activities went up from 2.75 to 3.5 million. Dinghy sailing and yachting are great recreational activities and it is possible to start sailing with very little experience. If you are a newcomer and unsure of where to start visit your local sailing club.

Dinghy sailing

Getting into dinghy sailing is relatively inexpensive and simple. Most sailing centres or clubs will be able to hire or lend you the equipment to get on the water. Dinghies are usually small boats which you can sail on your own, in a pair, or with a group of friends. Dinghies are categorised into different ‘classes’ or types of boat depending on their size, design and the number of crew they can hold. Choosing a type of sailing ‘class’ depends partly on what type of sailing you are interested in.

Taster days are on offer in Lincolnshire at Hykeham Sailing Club throughout 2016. The taster days offer an introduction to sailing and provide an informal, yet structured “have a go” at sailing day. They are popular, so booking early is recommended.

getting into boatingYachting

Yacht sailing is extremely popular because it is open to people of all abilities and ages – you can start sailing with little experience and you don’t need to own your own yacht. With the wind and your actions driving the boat, yachting is an exhilarating activity.

There is a real sense of achievement when you are safely moored up, and reliving the excitement of the day. There are many ways of experiencing yacht sailing whether it be cruising the coastline at your own pace, stopping to savour the stunning or whether it be the thrill of racing.

Within an hour’s drive of Burton Waters is Skegness Yacht Club. The club is located on the River Steeping at Gibraltar Point nature reserve. Being located at the entrance to the Wash the club is ideal for exploring the nearby ports and harbours of the Norfolk and Lincolnshire coast as well as venturing further in to the mystical Wash with its shifting sands and wildlife.

And You?

If you’ve got any top tips on taking up boating or want to share how you plan to spend your time once you’ve ceased work – leave us a comment or get in touch via Facebook. We always love to hear what you’ve got to say.

And if you’re looking to free up cash and spend your retirement in luxurious surroundings, be sure to check out the fantastic park homes we’ve got on offer at our idyllic Lakeshore site on Burton Waters, Lincolnshire.