I tend to over prepare. I get all the canal maps and guides, and plan where we will moor, where the best pubs are, where the water points are located. When the markets are on, where the local buses go, what is going on in the towns.
You do not have to go to that extreme, but a little preparation will help your narrow boat holiday run smoothly.
Most important to have is a good, informative Canal Guide for the canals you are cruising.
Which one do you buy?
There are three main cruising guides: Nicholson, Pearson, and Waterways World.
So let's look at them all.
Nicholson probably has the largest range of Canal Guides to the British canals available, and have a good reputation. They are bound in a solid cover, (all are red) and some have a spiral spine.
We have not used them a lot, but many fellow boaters do. Our share owned "Stella" had a full set on board and we found them easy to use and robust.
Some years back they were the 'Boat Owners Guide ", with the other guides being relegated for Hire Boaters use. This is not quite the case now. The maps run from the top of the page, to the bottom.
Waterways World has had a checkered career in the canal guide market. We used them exclusively for our first ever trip in '85, and still have three of their original guides. For years waterways World have been leading the Waterways magazine, but for some reason they disappeared from the guide scene. Their Canal Guides are back now, featuring the Llangollen, Grand Union (South), Shropshire Union, and Oxford. I do not like the new format quite as much as the old style, which I found easier to follow. And I liked the ads! However, they are bound in a sturdy wire bound cover, to lay neatly on the boats roof for easy reference. They also run from top to the page to bottom, with the color map on the right hand page. Lovely color photos, (typical of Waterways World) there are more canal guides planned from them.
Pearsons is our canal guide choice. We have been using Pearsons since our '85 trip, and have continued to do so. Their very detailed maps run from left to right, with the corresponding text underneath, the only guides to be in landscape format. It is clear informative and accurate. At the top of each page, is the number of miles traveled, the number of locks, and the time taken to travel that particular length of canal. We find this particularly useful when planning our trip.
Pearson writes in a unique, entertaining style, (eg "Foxton Village basks in the sun like a sleek cat that has just had two helping of cream"), with nicely notes on each village and the facilities in the town. Their guides cover the majority of canals in the UK, including Llangollen, Shroppie, Oxford, Grand Union and Trent and Mersey. My only problem with the Pearsons, is the covers tend to part company with the rest of the pages after a few outings. But this is easily fixed with a stapler. Otherwise, we love them!
Which one is best?
It is entirely personal. Have a look at each one, talk to other boats, and make a decision. We have a selection of all of them. So … have fun choosing, and Happy Cruising!