RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Course


The Royal Yachting Association (RYA), established in 1875, is the nationally recognised leading body for all boating and navigation courses. The Canal and River Trust who run our national waterways network, have a long standing commitment to training and safety matters.

Aim of the Helmsman Course

The aim of the Helmsman Inland Waterways Training course is to teach and instruct both newcomers and the more experienced boater to the principles of better and safer boating on Inland waterways. On successful completion students will receive the RYA's Inland Waterways Helmsman's Certificate, thus proving you are a safe and competent boater.

RYA Helmsman's Course

RYA Helmsman's Course

RYA Helmsman's Course

The Inland Waterways Helmsman Course is a 1 or 2 day course subject to experience, throughout the year (subject to weather conditions and canal stoppages).The course is designed to provide students who have no previous experience, suitable training designed to give confidence in handling a boat safely on the inland waterways, this is a two day course. However, for those who have already gained experience, a one day course should suffice and is designed to provide plenty of opportunity to improve your skills, which enhances the enjoyment and safety of inland waterways cruising.

This RYA course is a practical hands on course, you will receive the RYA Inland Waterways Handbook prior to your course day, to enable you to learn the theory. The course is certificated and successful students must have reached a required level of competence before they are issued with the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman's Certificate. This level is achievable even for a novice.

Courses are a minimum of two students and maximum of three students

Helmsman Course Syllabus

The RYA Helmsman's course covers the following topics:

Deck Work

  • Common nautical terms
  • Handling fenders and warps
  • Throwing a line or coiled rope
  • Knots, tee stud hitch, bowline, clove hitch
  • Securely mooring
  • Anchor

Helmsmanship and Boat Handling

  • Loading and weight distribution
  • Steering
  • Control of speed
  • Interaction and canal effect
  • Berthing and untying alongside and between piles and bouys
  • Recovery of Man overboard
  • Anchoring

Personal Safety

  • Identifying risks
  • Lifejackets
  • Avoidance of injury especially when fending off
  • Special risks to children

Boat Safety

  • Fire Hazards, Fuels
  • Fire extinguishers use of
  • Watertight intergrity
  • Refloating after running aground


  • Pre start up checks
  • Running Checks
  • Periodic checks


  • Understanding water levels and water conservation
  • Operation of locks
  • Use of ropes

Tunnels and Bridges

  • Use of tunnels
  • Understanding approach and operation of bridges

Collision Avoidance

  • Steering and sailing rules of the International regulations for preventing collisions on waterways
  • Byelaws and local regulations to include traffic signals signs and priorities to be carried

Care of the Environment

  • Avoiding damage to:
    - Boats
    - Banks
    - Flora
    - Fauna
  • Avoiding pollution
  • Considering others