Latest News: Forums Cruising wayfaring canals

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  • #21202

    I was reminded what fun canal cruising can be by the Tim West/Prunella Scales documentary.  I have been researching how well my wayfarer could be adapted for this task in preference to sailing the whole British coastline which is stalled at 51%.  The boom tent has been saved by me having an old damaged mast that can be cut down to canal bridge height.  That will support the boom and tent which can double up as a cabin on rainy days.  With no sail so no chance of  capsize, I can be more generous with what gets taken.  A multi function battery will charge all the iphones, video batteries.  As an open boat without electric or fuel systems it is exempt from a safety certificate.  Most canals are managed by the canal and river trust who charge £23 for a week licence.  Google earth gives a clue as to where the few slipways can be found.  I have found one in Croxley that will sell me access to the grand union canal for a princely £20.  Can anyone out there share their experience and lessons learned cruising canals in a wayfarer?

    Biggest problem is the outboard motor and this is where I need help.  My seagull 3hp unit has barely been used in the 21 years I’ve owned W7027. It was smelly, noisy and I am told, very inefficient.  Does any body know what horse power motor rating is necessary to push a laden wayfarer at 6kt?  At 6kt and 4kt what fuel economy can I expect from such a motor? One estimate puts fuel costs at 50p per mile and that would take most of the budget in my planned loop from Croxley to Birmingham and back down to Oxford.  Is there a particular outboard motor that is favourite for economy amongst wayfarer owners?

    Has anyone designed and built a pedal drive for a wayfarer?  Wouldn’t that be a weight loss activity?  Paddle wheels, or thin shaft down the centre board slot, or belt drive to outboard type device?  Has anyone got data on whether an electric outboard could do the job?  I have heard of a range of only 6 miles.



    Hello Richard.

    Most people nowadays use a 2.5hp 4 stroke engine. My own Suzuki version uses approx 1 litre/hour which gives about 3.5mph at idle and is very quiet. The boat will do approx 6mph absolutely flat out but drinks fuel at that speed.  Also much much noisier.

    I suppose you could  put a larger engine (4hp?) on the transom for less revs for the same speed, but it will be heavier and weigh down the stern giving increased drag and water noise.

    What about a longer mast than canal bridge height to raise a jib when the wind is in the right direction? Long enough for a jib but still much shorter than the full mast would be easier to raise and lower and give the option of occasional piece and quiet travel.

    Only of course if the canal was quiet.


    I have a 3.5 as recommended by Ian Porter for use in tidal waters where one may start to struggle with a smaller motor – you would only need a 2.5 on canals. I think you can also get a 2.5 that is down around the 13kg mark which is remarkably light.

    Weight of 3.5 is not too bad (though if you want really light weight you’d look for an old 2-stroke rather than the 4-strokes that are obligatory these days). Weight of more powerful motors (5hp seems the next increment) is significantly higher (from memory you go from 18kg for a 3.5 to 25kg for a 5).

    If no budget restrictions, and assuming good weather, you could go electric with a torqueedo and a solar array to power it. Silent running seems ideal for inland pottering.

    Dave Barker

    I agree that it was an inspiring series of TV programmes. There are several logs in the UKWA log library which either refer to canals or canal-like cruises – numbers 13, 66, 105, 113, 198, 199 for example.

    I also agree that 2.5 hp is more than adequate for an outboard on inland waters. For me the limiting factor would be the number of hours per day that I could put up with the noise and vibration – I suspect that £5 worth of fuel would last for longer than my patience on any given day. Without regular access to mains power the beautifully quiet Torqeedo wouldn’t be practicable I fear.

    The route you’ve described is ambitious – why not have a test run of a few days to answer some of the inevitable questions (and some you haven’t thought of)?

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