Canal frozen at Cowley, Grand Union (David Gee)If you don't have a home mooring you'll either need to keep cruising through the winter or pay for a spot on a winter mooring. If you're moving around then you'll also dodging the stoppages, too. It's not as hard as it sounds.

Winter moorings

If you're willing to pay, then the Canal and River Trust will let you stay in one spot on the towpath for the five months between November and March, or on a designated Winter Mooring. Outside London, this might be on a stretch used for a Visitor Mooring in the summer.

These moorings are sold by length and are pretty good value - to moor a 40' boat for five winter months you'd pay about £400-£900, depending on location. There's more about winter moorings on the CRT website.

The moorings sell out quickly but even so, most continuous cruisers just put a woolly hat on and keep moving around.

Stoppages

Rather than carry out maintenance during the year and hold everyone up, all the major jobs are saved up for the winter stoppage programme (or click here for stoppages in Scotland).  This tells you which bits of navigation are stopped while they're being fixed up.  It's annoying to carry water from a tap because your boat's the other side of a lock that only closed yesterday, but with a bit of planning it's usually possible to dodge most of the stoppages.

(Funny, there are stoppages but no startages - why?  And a stoppage can start but what happens when it stops?  Is that like something starting, or does everything just go quiet?)

Ice, storms, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and coots

You don't have to move your boat if it's dangerous to do so or you'd risk serious damage.  So if hell itself is freezing over or a plague of locusts is passing over then you can stay put, though you need to let CRT know.  Blasting through ice has a kind of yee-haa feel to it but after one minute all the bitumen on your boat's water line will have been scraped off, which means you'll need to be dry-docking in spring, at which point your winter antics will seem very expensive.

In spring, if coots, ducks, or anything else made of feathers makes a home of your roof or a fender, then you mustn't move at all until their chicks are hatched and swimming.