Top tips for first-timers on the Broads

Hiring a boat on the Broads needn't be daunting. Below you can find some helpful information for first-time boaters on the practicalities of visiting the Broads including moorings, safety information and more.

Before you arrive

First time day boating copyright James Bass
Family fun on the Broads © James Bass

In order to enjoy the relaxing experience that boating on the Broads can and should be, it's a good idea to plan as much as you can before arriving, including:

  • Where you would like to visit.
  • When you would like to be there by.
  • What vessel is best suited to your requirements.
  • What you need to bring (whether it be clothing, towels, cooking apparatus, maps, etc.).

There are plenty of resources out there to help you including websites, leaflets and good old-fashioned books, so make sure you dedicate some time to researching your trip beforehand.

When you arrive

When you arrive you will be given a handover where the boatyard will show you how to operate your vessel, so make sure you arrive in good time. These briefings include important information on how to navigate safely, moor up, use a life jacket and lots of other helpful tips. Make sure you pay attention during the briefing and ensure you are confident with boat safety and handling the vessel before setting off on your own. We would always recommend you read the boat manual as well.

As mentioned above, many visitors find it help to plan in advance where and when they want to visit during their trip to the Broads. Boatyards will be happy to advise you on the time and distance required to get from A to B, with many even providing helpful printed information in their welcome packs, so don't hesitate to ask.

Moorings

The Broads Authority has a network of 24-hour free moorings around the Broads National Park, but at other moorings it’s wise to be on the lookout for signs about any charges. There are also Broads Authority Yacht Stations at Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Reedham with facilities and knowledgeable staff who can and give you advice and even help you moor up. Mid-afternoon or earlier is a good time to moor up during peak season, especially if you’re after one of the more sought-after spots.

You can see a full list of Broads Authority free 24-hour and other moorings here.

It’s worth noting that if you hire a boat from a member of the Broads Hire Boat Federation you can stay in any other member boatyard overnight for free, subject to availability. Usually very accessible, these yards have a wide range of facilities available to you, and help is on hand for inexperienced boating visitors.

Most boating incidents happen when entering or leaving moorings. Make sure you and your crew prepare for this by:

  • Considering the effect of any wind and tide and how they might help (or hinder) you.
  • Watching out for other boat traffic.
  • Having the ropes easily to hand.
  • Asking for any help you might need from those ashore.
  • Ensuring you are all wearing life jackets when near the water.
  • Clearing any trip hazards.
  • Not jumping on or off the boat.
  • Keeping vulnerable people under close supervision.
  • Approaching and departing slowly.

Staying safe

Dog in life jacket
Wearing a life jacket is always a good idea on the Broads, whether you're a dog or a human!

There are a number of things you can do to ensure your trip to the Broads is as enjoyable as can be while keeping everyone safe.

Some top tips include:

  • Always wear a life jacket when you are on the boat, getting on or off the boat and near to the water (this applies to dogs too as they are just as susceptible to cold water as people – you can buy or borrow dog life jackets from boatyards and boating suppliers).
  • Make sure your mobile phone is kept charged.
  • Keep a close eye on children and pets at all times.
  • Don't swim in the water unless at an organised swimming event.
  • Don't jump off a moving boat and don't sit on the front deck of a day boat.
  • Don't reverse your boat towards anyone in the water – that's where the propeller is.
  • Never enter the water to rescue a pet – you are putting your own life at risk.
  • Know your limits when it comes to alcohol, it's easy to fall in if you aren't careful.

If you get into a spot of bother, you can get help from either Broads Beat or the Broads Authority. If you need to speak to someone, call 999 for urgent calls or 101 for non-urgent, or call 01603 756056 to speak to Broads Control.

Other things to consider

Finally, just so you are fully prepared to have a great time on the Broads, you might want to consider the following additional pieces of information:

  • It's always a good idea to review the impact of any forecasted weather on your ability to navigate.
  • The Broads is tidal in places and this will affect your ability to navigate bridges and specific areas such as Breydon Water. The Broads Authority provides tide information online.
  • Just like driving a car, there are certain 'rules of the road' when it comes to navigating the rivers. You should keep to the speed limits and always keep to the right of the channel. You can find more information on speed limits on the Broads Authority website.
  • Yachts and larger vessels may need to request openings for some bridges in the Broads system. You should check bridge clearances in advance to ascertain whether your vessel can fit under. Bridges can be found in Norwich, Somerleyton, Reedham and Trowse (swinging rail bridges) and in Great Yarmouth (lifting bridges). You can read more on bridge heights and requesting an opening online.

Relax and enjoy!

Despite a few risks, the Broads is a truly magical holiday destination that can be a relaxing and highly enjoyable experience for the entire family. If you follow the tips above you're guaranteed to have an amazing time, although despite being in one of the driest regions, we unfortunately can't promise you good weather!

Remember, if you require non-emergency assistance or advice while on your trip you can call the Broads Authority ranger team and Broads Control on 01603 756056 seven days a week, or Broads Beat seven days a week between Easter and the end of October on 101.

The Broads Authority offer information for both owners and hirers to make sure you get the most out of your boating experience, including instruction videos to make boating easy

The safe and easily navigable stretches of serene waters in the Broads will take you on a fascinating trail of discovery. Find out for yourself the secret spots and scenic fishing locations tucked away in the far reaches of the waterland, while encountering some of Britain’s rarest wildlife at every river bend.

Stop off for lunch and a thirst-quenching pint at one of the Broads’ riverside restaurants and pubs, or moor up and venture further afield to explore the many peaceful villages and picturesque market towns in this quiet corner of England.