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What houseboats are, where you can rent them, their advantages and disadvantages.
What houseboats are, where you can rent them, their advantages and disadvantages.

Houseboats are slow motor boats designed for cruising on European canals, rivers and lakes. Steering them is easy and anyone can learn to do it quickly, even without any previous experience operating a motor boat. Steering a houseboat is almost like driving a car. Only the brakes are not as sharp, it swings out on corners, and it's difficult to reverse.

Different types of houseboat can be found in various locations around Europe, each best suited to its local conditions. For example, in England and Ireland, you can rent a narrow boat (that's it's name) which is 20 m long but only 2 m wide. This decorative boat looks a little like a coloured pencil.

Accommodation on a houseboat

A houseboat is in fact like a camper van on water. It provides all the creature comforts you need. Depending on size, you can find several comfortable bedrooms, bathrooms with WC, a galley with a lounge, and a wheelhouse. The wheelhouse can either be enclosed inside the boat, or have a sliding roof, or it may be a so-called fly bridge—an open wheelhouse on the deck superstructure. A houseboat with a fly bridge also has an enclosed wheelhouse in the lounge for poor weather.

Places where you can rent houseboats

  • Czech Republic: locations include the River Vltava, Prague; the Elbe, Kralupy nad Labem and Ústí nad Labem; the Baťa Canal, on the River Morava
  • Germany—the lakes and canals in Berlin
  • France—a wide range of canals all over France
  • Belgium
  • Holland
  • Italy
  • England
  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • Sweden

Houseboats for wheelchair users

In France, it is possible to rent houseboats specially prepared for wheelchair users. They have wide doors and everything is on a single level. They have a wide, folding access platform, disabled access in the toilet and bathroom, and a wheelhouse with a lot of space around the wheel. Docks have been modified to allow wheelchair users to move around easily.

Advantages of houseboats

  • You don’t need a yachtmaster’s certificate to drive them (this only relates to rented boats). When you rent the boat, you receive training covering the rules on canals and rivers at the given location and how to act when sailing through locks. There is an instruction manual on board and you can look at it whenever you need.
  • Driving a houseboat is very simple but in spite of this, or precisely because of this, you do need to follow the safety rules, particularly on river sections during longer periods of rain when the current is very strong.
  • Sailing on a houseboat is a leisurely cruise through the countryside when combined with some relaxing sightseeing.
  • If you rent bikes, you then have the option of discovering the countryside around the canal or river and doing a little sporting activity at the same time. One experienced person or two less experienced people are all that is needed to drive the houseboat and the other members of the crew can ride off on their bikes.
  • Low fuel consumption—you don’t refuel houseboats on the journey, but pay once you have finished your holiday according to the numbers of hours you cruised. This amount is deducted from the security deposit you paid.

Disadvantages of houseboats

  • You don’t experience the kind of adrenaline that you get when under sail.
  • In the hot summer, there are less opportunities to bathe and swim compared to sailing at sea.

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