Top Tips for Securing your Narrowboat/ Canal Boat!

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Welcome back to Canal Boat UK, today we are going to look at a very important subject for any boat owners! Securing your boat against break-ins and burglaries. As well as losing valuable possessions during a robbery, you would also find it hard to go back to a boat after such an event. You feel like your living quarters have been tainted, which is never good! Hopefully, if you follow our advice, this will never happen!

Do Narrowboats Really Get Burgled?

Living on a narrowboat/ canal boat is such a serene life, and the boating community is often touted as one of the most friendly. So why all this talk about robberies and burglaries?

Looking Closer at Crime Rates in the UK

Unfortunately, the UK (where most canals are found) is not the best place in the world for crime rates. By current figures, they have the 8th worse crime rate in Europe. It’s not terrible by any means, but bad enough that you should make sure you are doing everything to protect yourself (and your boat) from crime.

The upside is that recorded burglaries to dwellings in England and Wales have been falling over the last decade. Look at the chart below, taken directly from the Home Office statistics.

looking closely at the crime rate stats will help you know how to better protect your narrowboat.

What Factors may Affect a Boat Getting Burgled?

There are some boat specific factors that you should consider first. The main one being where your boat is moored up. If it is moored at a marina, the likelihood of it getting burgled is much lower. However, when moored on the side of a towpath (out on the canal network) your risk will be much higher.

Our advice would be to never leave your canal boat overnight when at the side of a towpath, always be moored at a marina if you need to leave your boat unattended.

If you really have to leave your narrowboat out on the canal network, choose the location carefully. A secluded spot which is hard to access by road would be ideal. A lot of burglaries are done on a whim when the opportunity arises, so being somewhere with so little passing foot traffic will lower your risk greatly.

What can we learn from the UK Crime Statistics?

The UK crime statistics around burglary are detailed and offer some good insights into the nature of the crime. See my simple overview below. You may be surprised!!

By becoming familiar with the trends for burglary in England and Wales, it will help you know how you can reduce your risk. Make sure your boat more secure during the week and at night. As a lot of burglaries are from forcing door locks, make sure your door locks are the most secure you can buy.

It is also good to know that most burglaries in England and Wales are carried out by single offenders, making it a far less scary prospect.

What Should you Do to Stop your Boat Getting Burgled?

As we have found out so far, if you are narrowboating on the canals of the UK, it is a real possibility you could get burgled. This is what we would do to protect ourselves against this:

Location, Location, Location

Make sure your boat is in a secure location as much as possible. Either in a marina or a secluded part of the canal network. This is especially true if you plan on leaving your boat unattended for any significant period of time.

Secure your Boat

Don’t forget that your narrowboat will usually have three main entry points, in the form of a side hatch and a door at the front and back of the boat. Make sure these doors and hatches are made out of strong materials, are secured to your boat well and are locked with high quality padlocks.

As someone who loves narrowboats, I spent quite a lot of time over on Youtube watching some of the awesome boating channels out there. Well Deck Diaries is one of my favourites, and they did an awesome video literally showing how they put solid locks on their boat.

You should subscribe to Well Deck Diaries, they have some great content!

Install Deterrents


CCTV used to be an expensive addition to a boat! Not any more. Simple CCTV systems are getting cheaper and becoming much easier to install. Often they can pass images to your smartphone via wifi and start recording when they sense movement.

Just make sure that it is positioned in such a way to be most likely to catch the burglar’s face. It also needs to be built into the boat’s structure, otherwise it will simply get ripped off or covered up if it is clearly in view.

If you do have a CCTV installed, make sure to put a witty sign on all your doors telling any potential intruders that they are being watched.

Alarm Systems

There aren’t really a lot of alarms specifically designed for narrowboats, although some are made for boats in general. If you can’t locate a good boat specific alarm, be aware that a car alarm also runs on 12 volts and could therefore be easily fitted to a narrowboat too. For most people, these types of alarms are overkill though.

Consider Having a Dog

If you have done all of these the things mentioned so far and are still worried, having a dog to guard your canal boat could be the final piece in the puzzle. Many burglars will be startled by the movement and noise a dog would make when they hear a stranger trying to come aboard (and trust me, they will know well before you do).

The bigger and scarier the dog, the better! A poodle isn’t going to cut it!

Fake TV’s

Most burglars won’t bother attempting to break and enter a dwelling if they think that someone is up and active there. Fake TV’s offer a surprisingly realistic alternative to a real TV when viewed from outside the boat.

The array of light that comes out of the fake TV perfectly mimics the real thing. This allows you to give the impression someone is home and watching TV even if they are not. If you buy a good one it will also have a timer to turn it on at certain times. Below is one example on Amazon. Click the image to view it over there.

These fake TVs use far less electricity than a real TV, making them perfect for use on a boat.

What Would We Recommend for Most Narrowboat Owners?

When looking at all the different options mentioned in this article, we would recommend a simple starting point for most people. Installing CCTV and alarms well enough to not be easily disabled would be a difficult and potentially expensive process. In most cases this would be over the top!

Just make sure all the doors on your boat are made from strong material and have strong locks and padlocks securing them. A great majority of burglaries are crimes of opportunity. Simply keep your boat well secured to take away that opportunity in the first place.

The second layer I would add is to be smart with the location of your boat. When outside the safety of marinas make sure to only moor up next to quiet and secluded places on the towpath during the week-day evenings!

With these simple steps, you shouldn’t have to worry about the more complex options mentioned above.

What do you think? If you are an avid canal boater and have your own opinion, we would love to hear all about them in the comments section below.

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