Subject Advice


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Welcome to U3A Boating.  This section covers all forms of Boating, that includes sailing, motor craft as well as rowing/ paddling and model boats. If you are unable to find that for which you are looking please feel free to contact the U3A National Boating Adviser at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

It is seldom that any particular local U3A has enough interest to form a 'Boating Group' however within a region there are many boaters; so you are not alone.

Boat Owners - If you are prepared to take U3A members out for a trip or two please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let the Boating Adviser know.

Non Owners - If you wish to try boating then have a look below and see if there is anything that may be of interest. If not, then please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the Boating Adviser will see if he/she can help.

In the event that you get a ride check first if any contribution to the running costs is expected. Boats are expensive to run and there is little reason that boat owner should pay out of his/ her pocket to give you a good time. Making a contribution is standard practice.

Note. All boating could be deemed a 'dangerous sport'. With this in mind please remember that any activity with which you get involved should be deemed as NOT a U3A activity; unless otherwise specifically stated. Your skipper will be concerned for your well-being but YOUR safety remains your responsibility and your risk. Do you need insurance cover? – Please read the Insurance Section for your own well being.


Sorry to start with this but it is important. If you have a serious accident, unlikely we all hope, what happens? If you are organising a U3A Group then, provided you have taken reasonable care the U3A insurance scheme will cover you and the member for any boat on inshore or inland waters providing the boat is under 8 metres in length. The insurance is for accidents and does not cover the boat or third parties. Nor does it cover any kind of compensation or liability claim. Check that the boat is covered before you start sailing.

Insurance is always a tricky issue but having spoken to several people it would seem the situation is as follows:

A) Is the activity is 'a U3A activity' or 'an activity involving U3A members'? If the first, then U3A insurance will cover negligence of the skipper on craft up to 8m as well as accidents involving the crew for inland or on Inshore Waters activity. The insurance industry, at large, believes that over 8m requires a specialist insurance cover. If the second, then U3A is not directly involved. This fact should be made clear in all communications; for the avoidance of doubt.

B) In either case, the question splits into two. Is the skipper negligent and could the accident or injury reasonably have been avoided? Did the injured party follow the skipper’s guidelines? (e.g. may not have worn a life jacket when recommended) or was it just unfortunate that the crew tripped over the rope or got his head knocked by the boom because someone else inadvertently unsecured it.

If it is a U3A activity, then the skipper has responsibility to ensure the boat is manoeuvred safely. If the skipper is deemed negligent then he should take the rap (usually via insurance).

If it is not a U3A activity, then the skipper still has a responsibility but so does the crew. In this case, if the skipper is not negligent then the crew should claim off his/her own travel insurance. But do note that Travel Insurance covers medical and associated expenses and not any kind of compensation or liability claim. The Travel Insurance policy should be with an insurer that covers boating; which will eliminate most of the 'big' insurers. There are a number of 'sailing insurance companies/ brokers'. I have spoken to Navigator Travel Insurance 0161 973 6435 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (but not specifically recommending them) who advise that they have policies for sailing that start from around £100 for a single trip (price seems good compared with some) depending upon age, health, location etc.) and, interestingly the policy also provides some cover for illness caused by Corona Virus (with reasonable conditions).

C) When considering insurance one must take a number of things into account. Are you going for a sail in a dinghy on a river or small lake with an experienced chum. Is the boat fit for the proposed journey? (Should you use a rowing boat to cross the Channel?). Is the weather forecast for the day suitable for the time you will be out? Are the water conditions reasonable or are their strong tides and rocks abounding? If it is a day sail in sheltered waters would you normally rush out and take insurance or would you take the risk?

If it is something more exciting, perhaps at sea, but just for the day, again, you may take the risk. If you don't wish to or it’s a longer trip, then take out an insurance policy. Each crew member should be mature enough to be responsible for themselves under whatever circumstances. If in doubt take out your own insurance policy.

You go Boating at YOUR RISK and nobody else’s!          

Dinghy Sailing

Dinghy Sailing can be great fun in both single and two handed boats. Most such boating is carried out within a sailing club.  Sailing by oneself can be pleasant but sharing experiences can be far more enjoyable. As a novice, a little training helps to start with and many clubs offer RYA training courses. These are internationally recognised qualifications and, generally, not difficult. For clubs offering training near you look at However, many clubs offer an 'Open Day' where anyone can go for a trial sail and see what it feels like, so you may wish to try that for free first.  Clubs also often have boats that can be hired.

For dinghies, there are broadly two types of sailing; racing and cruising.  Once you get the idea of sailing it is best to join a race. This helps to develop your skills far more quickly. However, as a novice, you are unlikely to come first but please do remember - Every Race is a Race against the Boat in Front and the Boat Behind. Stay ahead of the boat behind and overtake the boat in front and you are a champion.       

To see if there is a Sailing Group near you please go to Key in Sailing into the 'search' field (top right) and some local U3A's will come up. Don't be surprised if they are full.         

To start your own Sailing Group will take much hard work. It is not practical to buy your own boat as a Group but clubs often have boats that can be hired.  There is one aspect of using clubs on lakes and reservoirs that must be taken into account. Most such clubs are required to ensure that there is a Safety Boat available at all times that sailing craft is on the water. (A good opportunity for members to get qualified as a Power Boat user and also a qualified Rescue Boat operator.) That means that usually, one can only sail when the club is open. Not insurmountable.    

The first step is to make general enquiries of a sailing club that you think may be ok for your Group. Having got a feel for that end then put together a short ‘write up’ that can go into local U3A Newsletters. To find your local U3As go to then select the Regions Tab and choose your region and then select Members and a list of U3As within the region will be displayed. If you click on each, near you, then you should find an email ‘contact’ address. Your article can be circulated to each address with a request to put it in the U3As Newsletter. I would guess that within the 10 nearest U3As you may well get 6 or so members to join you. However, also expect only half to be available at any one time. If it were me, I would also set up a unique email address such as This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. By this means one can pass on the 'leader' baton without having to change an email address etc.                           

Yacht Sailing

It is said that owning a yacht is rather like standing under a cold shower flushing £5 or £10 notes down the drain; depending upon how big your boat is.

There are a number of U3A members who are willing to take members out; as a non U3A activity. There are also a number of clubs that may be worth considering. In addition, there are a number of RYA courses staring with the simple Competent Crew and ending up with an Offshore Commercial Certificate enabling one to take fare-paying passengers across the ocean.


(36ft Yacht) contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more info.

  •  Non U3A connect organisations:

Brighton Belle - a member (not U3A) owned 55 ft yacht. For full details see . She is a nice looking boat and travels over a wide European range. (At the time of writing July 2020) she is lying in the Canaries.

Channel Sailing Club - The club is based near Epsom and meets every Tue evening. It is a place where owners of boats can meet up with the crew. Living near Epsom is not essential however you will need to visit the club to become a member and you will need to visit the club for a briefing before going on a specific trip. So you should live within, say an hour's drive, in off-peak hours. Annual membership fee is currently (2020) £30. If staying on board there is a standard contribution to running costs of circa £15-20 per night plus a share in berthing, fuel used etc. For more info

The Penguin Club - This is a 'virtual club' with no base. Its aim is to offer low-cost sailing. Three trips a year are organised. If you want a cabin to yourself, you may well be allowed to pay for two berths. Boats are usually filled to capacity and geared towards the younger set. For more info see

Sutton Mariners - Similar in form to Channel sailing club but with small differences. See for details.   

Motor Cruisers

Motor cruising tends not to lend itself to 'group' outings however we do have one member who kindly takes 2-3 people at a time on his boat based on the Thames. For more info please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. stating 'Thames Motor Boat'.

We would love to have more members with boats to take non-boat owners out for the day.

Trips for Non-Sailors

The following are great if you wish to organise a small group from your own U3A to enjoy a safe trip out on the water. (Note: I have been on none of these so can offer no critique on any)

  • Chichester Ship Canal see
  • Hillingdon_Narrowboats - Based at Harefield near Uxbridge and offering 4 hour, self-steer, trips and longer trips. More info at Near Harefield tel: 01895 823582
  • Waterways Experiences - based at Kings Langley. See Waterways Experiences: tel: 01923 723819 for further details.
  • Hebden Bridge Cruises - (nice to have an option in Yorkshire) See
  • Also, we have two members with canal boats who might take 2-4 people out for a day trip. This is correct at 2020 and the owners may no longer be offering ride sat any time. For more info please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. stating what you would like and where.

The first is based at Byfleet on the river Wey

The second Nr Milton Keynes on the Grand Union

{slider Rowing Boats}

One member organises the use of rowing boats on the Broads. If this is of interest, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Model Boating

This should be of interest to some members and can be for remote-controlled motorboats or remote-controlled sailing boats. There are a number of enthusiastic clubs around the country. Do a search on 'model boat clubs near me' and go on from there. Most clubs will be pleased to have a new member. If you wish to start your own Group, then follow the process in Insurance above.

The RYA (Royal Yachting Association)

The RYA is internationally recognised and is the governing body, as near as, for all boating activity. Their website, is worth perusing and can provide much useful information.

Anything else?

For anything else please contact your Boating Adviser via the contact form above or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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