Narrowboat training courses

Insurance companies are now asking for proof of competency as a Helmsman prior to issuing insurances. A Royal Yachting Association (RYA) ‘Inland Waterways Helmsman’s Course’, combined with an up-market narrowboat holiday will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience and after the course you will feel confident out on the waterways, enjoying your holiday.

The pace of life on the canals and the river is nice and easy and we try to reflect this in our instruction style. We are really happy that you have decided to consider instruction and not going in ‘head first’, unprepared for what you may experience afloat, so make the most of your time with us. Glad you are reading this!

Birmingham & Midland Marine Services’s canal-based Helmsman training courses take place at Gailey Wharf training centre, centrally located in Staffordshire, just five hundred metres from junction 12 of the M6 motorway, rail link at Penkridge, Staffordshire.

Syllabus overview:

Day 1

  • Introductions
  • Safety brief
  • Life jackets
  • Route planning
  • Vessel systems
  • Emergency procedures
  • Rescue drills
  • Deck equipment
  • Nautical terminology
  • Handling
  • Reading the channel
  • Etiquette
  • Look out duties
  • ‘Winding’ or turning
  • Emergency stops
  • Man overboard procedures
  • Rope handling, turning
  • Reversing
  • Coming alongside

Remember… We are not a residential centre / vessel so accommodation should be found locally

Day 2

  • Set up for cruising
  • Engine checks
  • Locks
  • Collision Regulations (COLREG IRPCS)
  • Grounding
  • Actions to be taken in event of a fire or first aid incident

Experience Needed to Take this Course:


Included in the course fee:

  • RYA IWHC training book
  • RYA IWHC Photographic ID card (official passport photo required)
  • Tea’s, Coffee’s
  • All boat costs
  • RYA Instructor


A non-residential course. Solo or standard two place bookings will be joined by another / other individual(s) looking to complete the course.

If you wish to book a ‘closed course’ for two or three people training together or to make a booking inquiry, get in touch via the ‘contact page’. We are happy to offer a bespoke course for you at dates of your choosing if we are available to do so. Please ask!

RYA IWHC 1-day assessment / exam dates available throughout the year for experienced hands.

We do not offer ‘own-boat tuition’ to anyone who has not previously undertaken an IWHC on our own vessel.

We can accommodate for female clients who would prefer a lady instructor.

Ratio: 1 instructor to 3 students maximum.

Accessibility: We welcome disabled clients but are unable to accommodate wheelchair users

Restrictions: We are a commercial / industrial / blue-light training company and cannot accept any persons under the age of 18 or considered at risk as we do not have the required safeguarding procedures or insurance cover in place