A few words about booking systems

Shared Narrow Boat Booking Systems

It should be noted that these comments really only apply to narrow boats on the UK canals. They may interest you in general if you are thinking of buying a share in a different type of boat but there is no real way to compare like for like on say barges in France or boats on the Norfolk Broads or smaller one and two week shares.

If you are thinking of buying a share then apart from the boat and the price you should also consider the booking system in operation.

On the boats advertised on this web site there are usually three different schemes in operation.


This is the easiest to understand of course. 

If you buy a share in a boat under the fixed week option then broadly speaking you get the same week(s) each year. Most (but not all, be careful) use the standard "Time Share Calendar" so, by example, if your week equates to "Week 16" then you will get a week starting around the 16th April each year.

Just make sure when you buy your share you know the exact date for this year and the rest should be broadly the same date year by year.

Carefree Cruising use a similar system on their boats today but it is a variation on a theme. Read about it here.


This was the method used by Challenger and is now often used by BCBM. However, some BCBM craft use the "Table System" (below).

The year is split in to four quarters with usually align with the seasons so in general are:-

Spring:- March to May,
Summer:- June to August,
Autumn:- September to Mid November,
Winter:- Mid November to February.

Usually at the boat AGM a draw is made and each owner gets one week from each of the four periods. Once everyone has drawn their four weeks they are then free to exchange weeks between each other should they wish to.

Of course if you do not attend the meeting then weeks will be drawn on your behalf, BUT if you are not there it does make your being involved in any "horse-trading" somewhat difficult.

Under this system it can be very difficult to get two weeks together and of course if you are restricted in what weeks you can take (school holidays etc.) then you are most certainly not guaranteed to get them. 


This system was used by OwnerShips and is used by some BCBM boats and a number of privately run schemes. It is very difficult to explain in a paragraph or two...but here goes.

All owners are on a ladder, where the owner at the top of the ladder gets to choose their (usually THREE) weeks first, where a maximum of two weeks may be between April and Spetember (inclusive). Most owners will pick a fortnight in the "summer" and one week "off season". Once owner number one has picked then number two selects etc. The person at the foot of the ladder should have at least four summer weeks left to pick two from. 

For the next year the two owners at the top of the ladder fall to the bottom and everyone moves up.

USUALLY on a boat their will be some owners who require school holiday weeks and they pick ahead of everyone else no matter where they are on the ladder, but usually they can only pick from school holiday weeks. Again usually they pay extra towards the boat running costs for this privilege, so if you have a non-school share you pay less as a result. 

For a fourth week this can vary from boat to boat (so ask the vendor) but in most cases the ladder is turned upside down and those who had lowest priority the first time around get a higher priority for fourth weeks. 

The chart is often sent around the owners in a "round robin" letter but sometimes a "bookings secretary" on the boat may do it by phone/e-mail. 

Under this system people normally start making their selections for the following year in around August/September, so if you buy a share before the vendor has picked you can, of course, make your own selection.


The above is a very general outline of how the various systems work.

If the exact system is very important to you then you should check specifics with the vendor, but be warned, the Table System can have many variations within a theme and even the vendor might not know them all !