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Starting Boating

Starting Boating

Starting boating on the inland waterways is a new challenge many people take on each year for adventure and for fun.  ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Owning your own boat on the inland waterways gifts a special freedom to the owner.  With no restrictions of tides, free public mooring and great services provided at multiple locations, the opportunities to get out on the water for fun with friends and family are limited only by the weather and your own availability. ​

This page sets out what you need to know before you embark on a journey on one of Ireland's Inland Waterways or alternatively you can download a copy of Voyages and Visits.

​​Beginning your Voyage
You need to get permission from Waterways Ireland before bringing your boat onto the inland navigable waterways.  Two craft management systems are in operation;
1) A Permit System operates on the Grand Canal, Royal Canal and Barrow Navigation.
2) A Registration System operates on the Shannon Navigation, Shannon-Erne Waterway and Erne System.
Waterways Ireland does not have a registration scheme on the Lower Bann.

Public Mooring Time Limit
The time limit for mooring at or in the vicinity of a Public Mooring on the Erne System is 48 hours with craft able to return after an absence of four hours.  If you wish to stay in a location longer than the limit please contact the Lough Erne Warden or seek a private mooring.
On the Shannon Navigation and the Shannon-Erne Waterway the mooring limit is five consecutive days or a total of seven days in any one month during the period 1st April to 31st October.
On the Barrow Navigation, Grand Canal and Royal Canal, the Combined Mooring and Passage permit allows you to moor for five days in any calendar month on the canals and the Non-Residential Extended Mooring Permit (NR-EMP) permits the holder to moor in an allocated location for up to one year.  A NR-EMP is non-residential and therefore cannot be used a primary residence, however the holder is permitted to stay overnight for up to 90 days in any one year.  For further information on the locations of NR Extended Moorings moorings on the canals, click here.

Rules of the Waterways
The Inspectorate of Navigation is responsible for enforcing the navigational bye-laws, maintaining a register of vessels and carrying out inspections of Waterways Ireland harbours and jetties to ensure that they are used and kept in a safe and responsible manner.
The Inspectorate is authorised to board craft, ask for and receive accurate information, impose fines, manage harbour moorings and order the removal of vessels from the navigations.
The Inspectorate frequently patrol the waterways by road and water, monitoring general boating practices.  Any irresponsible behaviour or poor boatmanship is immediately brought to the attention of the owner of the craft.  Craft speeding within speed restriction areas are similarly dealt with.

For further information on navigating and boat queries, contact the Inspectorate:
email: Inspectorate.Athlone@waterwaysireland.org

Wash and the Speed Limits
You are asked to consider the wash of your boat and its effect on others.  All enginepowered boats create a wave of water, known as a wash, which flows outwards from the boat as it moves forward.  Look behind you frequently to check the effect that your wash is having on other users.  You are advised to reduce your speed in narrow channels to prevent bank erosion, damage to reed beds and destruction of birds’ nests among bank habitats.  Slow down where boats are moored, when approaching quays, jetties or locks or where water activities are taking place.
• 5 knots on specific sections of the Erne
• 6 km/h on the canals and lateral canals
• 11 km/h on the river sections of the Barrow
• 5 km/h in channel stretches on the Shannon-Erne Waterway
Speed limits/no wash areas are also in place on other sections of the waterways and are monitored by the Inspectorate.

Marine Notices
Marine Notices are issued by the Inspectorate to draw the attention of boat users to navigational issues such as high water levels, navigation works and closures, and to highlight potential areas of danger.  They also remind boat users of their obligations and responsibilities under the Navigation Byelaws.  You can read Marine Notices here.

If you would like to receive Marine Notices by email, please send a request to inspectorate.athlone@waterwaysireland.org

Maintenance Works
Maintenance works on the waterways are, where possible, carried out during the winter months i.e. 1st November to 17th March. 
Before travelling during this time you are advised to contact the Inspectorate or check out the Marine Notices.

Bye-laws are the rules guiding how the waterways should be used. Waterways Ireland, through its Inspectorate, has responsibility for enforcing these navigational bye-laws.  Six of the navigations have bye-laws while the Lower Bann has a voluntary code.
The main areas to familiarise yourself with are informally described in the Good Boating Guide​.
You can access the full formal legal documents here:

Operating Locks and Accessing Services

Canal Locks
All the locks on the Royal Canal, Grand Canal and Barrow Navigation are operated manually.  Please ensure that you have a lock key to operate the lock, adequate crew to manage your boat, and good stop ropes and mooring ropes.  Lock keys at a cost of €25 can be purchased from the following:

Eastern Regional Office +353 (0)1 868 0148
Grand Canal
Dock Superintendent at Ringsend +353 (0)87 258 4713
Grand Canal Depot, Tullamore +353 (0)57 935 2300
Lock-keeper at Lowtown +353 (0)87 245 6531
Lock-keeper at Shannon Harbour +353 (0)87 245 6587
Lock-keeper at Monasterevin +353 (0)87 247 3093
Barrow Navigation
Lock-keeper at Fenniscourt +353 (0)87 951 6333
Royal Canal Locks
Locks 17 – 40 +353 (0)87 618 2104
Locks 41 – 46 +353 (0)87 915 1400

Smart Cards
Smart cards are used to operate the locks on the Shannon-Erne Waterway and the Shannon Navigation.  They are also used to gain access to the service blocks and to use the facilities and pump-outs.  Cards are available in either 10 units or 20 units.  There is a card reader in each service block to enable users to check the number of units remaining on the smart cards.  Cards are available to purchase from many locations along the waterways, click here for a full listing.

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