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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. This section is intended to make the introduction as easy as possible and to provide you with the basic information you need to get started.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​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. ​

Visit the Waterways Ireland Webshop to order a Starter Pack containing;

  • Voyages and Visits

  • Good Boating Guide

The webshop also holds the guides and charts to use in journey planning. There is a charge for the guides and charts.

Here are the responses to some Starter Frequently Asked Questions



Rules of the Waterway 

There are rules guiding how the waterways should be used. Called Bye-laws, they are separate pieces of legislation often drawn up when the navigation was built to enable commercial business to take place. Each waterway has its own set of rules apart from the Lower Bann which has no Bye-laws, and where a code of practice is in place.

The Waterways Ireland Inspectorate enforce the Bye-laws but are also a good source of information in planning trips and ensuring you remain compliant.​

The main areas to familiarise yourself with are informally described in the Good Boating Guide​. View the full formal legal documents; 'the Bye-laws' here:



Fees & Charges

Waterways Ireland offers a free at the point of access service and facilities for the majority of users during the boating season. Where a waterway has legislation in place – normally from a commercial era when the waterways was built, those fees are still in place and are charged.

Moorings (Erne System 48hrs)Y 
Moorings (Shannon, Shannon-Erne Waterway, 5 days High Season)Y 
Visitor Permit (Under 30 days Barrow Navigation, Grand & Royal Canals)Y 
Moorings, (Shannon, Shannon-Erne Waterway Winter Mooring) €12.70 per month paid in advance for the season
Combined Mooring & Passage Permit €126 for 12 months
Extended Mooring Permit (plus €250 deposit). Combined Mooring & Passage Permit must also be held €152 for 12 months 
Dry Docks (plus €250 deposit) €13.90 per day 
Extended Serviced Moorings 12 months  €1250​
Lock Passages Erne System Lock is normally open
Lock Passages Shannon-Erne Waterway 1 Smart Card Unit *
Lock Passages Shannon Navigation 2 Smart Card Units *
​Lock Passages Lower Bann1 Smart Card Unit *

​*Smart cards operate the locks and services on the Lower Bann, Shannon Navigation and Shannon-Erne ​Waterway​ you can find a full list of retailers by clicking here.


Building Up Knowledge

There are three main ways people build up their knowledge on Ireland's inland waterways.

Training while not essential, does improve your enjoyment of the boating experience and increases your comfort around the water. There are many training centres around from clubs and associations to professional training and education centres. All can offer certified courses enabling you to take your experience and enjoy waterways elsewhere in the world – though naturally we think your best experience will be in Ireland! The clubs and associations will offer a different type of experience and welcome new members to participate in group activity.


Joining a Group

Groups such as the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland run rally's for their members whereby they take new boaters out on group excursions. In 2012 for example a group of boaters including many first timers, went though Ardnascrusha power station locks and through Limerick City and out to sea as part of convoy of boats. Many other clubs and associations organise similar trips where the experienced lead the inexperienced in canoes, row boats, sail boats etc. These can last from ½ day to multiple day trips. Find a group near you using our 'See and Do' guide here.


Getting Out and Doing it

Just getting out an doing it is the way most people learn, however there are a few basis rules to follow as with all outdoor activity. 

    • Don't go out alone;

    • Wear the appropriate safety equipment and check that your communications ( VHF, Mobile phone) are fully charged and working;

    • Check the weather forecast and conditions in your destination;

    • Bring supplies of food and water, (more than you think you'll need);

    • Leave No Trace.​


Further Information​


1. Understanding Boat Permits and Registration

2. Understanding the Mooring Rules

3. ​Services

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