New Boaters FAQ


I want to buy a boat that is already on the Lowland Canals…What should I do?

ANSWER If you plan on buying a boat on the Lowland Canals you need to know that the mooring is not necessarily transferred when you buy the boat. A request must be made to Scottish Canals (SC) to see if the boat can stay on its mooring after being sold. There are often waiting lists for moorings in some areas and people may already be on the list and have a higher priority.

Mooring charges vary depending on the area and facilities available at each mooring. SC can supply this information about mooring fees.


I would like to bring a boat from England and moor it on the Scottish Canals, what should I do?

ANSWER First, you will need to be allocated a “Home Mooring “by SC. which is the official address of the boat. If you are a passing/transit vessel, you will need a temporary transit licence.

In Scotland, there are 3 categories of moorings, Leisure, Residential and Commercial. There is no continuous cruising category in Scotland.

The hull of any vessel coming from the English Canal network must be fully Hot Steam washed prior to launching to prevent the introduction of invasive species. This is a statutory requirement and penalties apply for non-compliance.


What can I expect on my mooring?

ANSWER If you have a residential mooring, you should get a dedicated 16A power point as well as a waterpoint. Some berths may have a phone connection as well as a storage facility.

If you have a Leisure Mooring, you might not get a bollard with Power.

If you have a Commercial Mooring, you should expect to have a water point as well as a larger 32A power supply.

However, all boats will also receive a British Waterways key which will enable you to access all the facilities, showers, toilets, laundry, etc along the canal network.

A site visit is strongly recommended as well as a chat to residents to see if the site offered fits your requirements and expectations.


Are there mandatory requirements for boats on a Scottish canal?

ANSWER Full details of SC’s requirements are included in the link below.


Boats must have a Navigation licence as well as a Mooring Licence. Both are issued by Scottish Canals. The fee for the navigation licence is approximately £200 a year and the mooring licence disc must be displayed on the boat.

They must have Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) Certificate which must be renewed every 4 years.

In addition, your boat must have a current insurance certificate with a minimum third-party cover of £2million. Full details of the insurance cover requirements can be obtained from SC. Insurance prices will vary depending on your boat, the cover you select and the insurance company. It might be helpful to ask other boaters where they get their insurance and what are the details of their cover.


Is the BSS inspection carried out by Scottish Canals?

ANSWER No, an independent examiner undertakes the assessment, inspecting several important systems (electrics, gas, ventilation, fuel, heating, fire extinguishers etc). He/she issues a certificate confirming that it is a safe to use and provides a safe environment to be in.

There are several examiners on the Lowland Canals and details can be found on LCA website. Most boaters will give you the name of an examiner. The cost is often around £150.


If I buy a second-hand boat, what should I look for?

ANSWER If you have found a boat that you want to purchase, unless you have a very good knowledge of boats, it is “highly recommended” that you get a survey done by a Chartered Surveyor.

This procedure can be expensive, but it can save a lot of grief in the long run. It is worth asking the seller for previous reports on the boat and suggest that they may pay for the new survey. Like most purchases, the buyer should beware that there may be hidden problems which could prove very expensive to address.


I would like to get a new boat built. What should I look out for?

ANSWER The bigger the boat, the bigger the problems. The cost of maintenance, transport, mooring charges increase with the size.

The better the paint system that is used on the boat (like an epoxy paint), the longer the life of the hull.

Better insulation in the boat results in less condensation in winter, it is easier to keep the boat warm in winter and cool in summer and cheaper fuel bills in the winter.


What are the issues with toilets on a boat?

ANSWER Whether you have a leisure or a residential boat, it is usually essential to provide a toilet onboard.

Cassette or chemical toilets are the simplest/cheapest type of installation as they often need little work to be fitted onto a boat and they do not require the fitting of a holding tank. If formaldehyde chemicals are used in the toilet the waste cannot be emptied down a conventional toilet but must be discharged into a separate sluice which may be available at some of the larger mooring sites along the network

This is not the most pleasant task and because of that, many boaters decide to get a fixed installation comprising a “proper” toilet discharging into a holding tank on board.

Depending on the size of the tank and the frequency of use, “pump-outs “need to be organised every so often. Please note that pump-out stations are not available at all mooring sites, and it is a very important thing to consider as you could end up not being able to use your toilet if you were too far from a pump out facility and your tank is full.

Scottish Canals charge £15 for each pump out and they must be organised in advance. The LCA has pushed hard (excuse the pun) to get this operation carried out by the boaters themselves to simplify the situation and several sites are now operating this way (no charge and no booking hassle).

Composting toilets are sometimes used on boats, but these are often quite tricky to use and there are no real facilities for disposing of the resultant waste.


How expensive is it to maintain a boat?

ANSWER Boat maintenance is expensive. Boats have a lot of systems (pumps, electrical & mechanical systems, etc) and a budget should be set aside for miscellaneous expenses like breakdowns, parts and wear and tear like a car.

Budgeting at least £500 for yearly repairs would be a prudent figure.

There is a need to have the hull maintained every few years and this process (often referred as “Blacking”) is an expensive process. It is essential to prevent the shell/hull from rotting, leading to leaks or even structural failure.

A budget for Blacking should be considered. This includes the (lift, labour, paint, anodes) and can be expensive.


If my boat comes from England, how do I organise bringing it to Scotland?

ANSWER Small craft can sometimes be picked up by a Hiab, transported and then lowered back into the water.

Larger craft need to be lifted out of the water, loaded onto a lorry, transported, and then lowered into the Canal, often using a mobile crane. For example, a mobile crane could cost up to £2000 per lift for a large boat. However, there are a few places on the ends of the Canals (near Bowling for the West and Grangemouth for the East) where boats can be lifted for a cheaper price, using either a crawler crane or a travel lift. It is worth shopping around. If boats are craned in or out of the canal, then full details must be submitted to SC for approval and any associated costs must be borne by the boater.


Where do I get information in relation to services available along the canal?

ANSWER The LCA has created a directory of services which is regularly updated on our website. Most boaters are happy to share their expertise and contacts. We are now working on a “water way “App which will help finding facilities and offer additional information.


Can I travel at any time?

ANSWER Journeys involving the operation of locks and bridges must be booked through the SC boat movement team and there are restricted hours of operation. It is not advisable to travel during darkness.


Can I operate the locks and bridges myself?

ANSWER Not at present, but this may change. SC are looking to provide training so boaters will be able to operate certain locks and bridges on their own. The LCA Safety and Navigation Committee are in regular discussions with SC and changes should be implemented shortly.


Can I take my pet on board?

ANSWER Pets are allowed but giraffes and wild lions have not been encouraged. Giraffes have difficulties with low bridges and lions are rarely housetrained.


Are there rules like the Highway Code?

ANSWER Yes, you keep to the right, use your horn to warn fishermen and slow down when passing moored boats, canoes, or fishermen. Common sense and courtesy are valuable attributes.


What are my rights?

ANSWER You have the right to be taken to court prior to eviction if the circumstances warrant it. In the first instance, boaters should raise any concerns following the SC complaints procedures. If, having followed the procedure there is no satisfaction, then the issue can be raised where applicable with the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO).

The LCA is a grassroots association whose remit is to support boaters with issues or concerns. If you have any additional questions, please contact any committee member of the LCA using We have a wealth of cumulative expertise and if one person hasn’t got the answer, then another will have it (or will try to find one for you).

There is no better feeling than gliding through the water, enjoying the scenery., watching the seasons change, enjoying the bird and wildlife.

Welcome to the boating fraternity and community.

Happy sailing

Kind Regards

Christine and the LCA committee.

Our thanks go to Pierre Potel for preparing this Question and Answer article using his extensive knowledge of the lowland canals and the information is correct at this point of time. There may be changes in the. Future so please check if in doubt.