Inland Waterways Helmsman's Course (IWHC)

Pre-course experience: None

Assumed knowledge: None

Course content: includes safety, helmsmanship, general seamanship, rules of the road, locks, collision avoidance, an introduction to engine maintenance and crewing.

Ability after the course: Able to helm a vessel safely on inland waterways.  The RYA inland waterways Helmsman certificate entitles you to an ICC in conjunction with a CEVNI test pass.

Minimum duration:  2 day course

Minimum age: 12. Certificates for children aged between 12 and 16 will be endorsed to show that they must use boats only under the supervision of a responsible adult

Language:  study books and entire practical training delivered in English.  CEVNI examination in English

This RYA training course is aimed at students who do not have any or a limited amount of boating experience by giving you the tuition that suits your needs and a full opportunity to practice your new skills over the two days. Our usual route covers some 8 locks; 4 down and then 4 back up. Not too many to challenge you for your first cruise.

It should be noted that those wishing to ultimately obtain the International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft (ICC), successful completion of this course automatically qualifies them to apply for the certificate once they also have their CEVNI examination pass.

This course involves two full days of training, with a 9.00am start and concluding at around 5pm on both days.

Our aim is to give you the confidence to navigate a vessel safely on the inland waterways. Bargecraft concentrates on the specific requirements in Europe as opposed to those specific to the UK.

Here, on the inland waterways of France, there are different needs, such as the different types of locks and the likelihood of sharing your waterway, and in some cases, a lock with a 120 metres long commercial vessel. That needs a little something extra to help equip you for the European Waterways.

Successfully completing this fully inclusive course will provide you with your Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate and if required, an endorsed ICC application form for submission to the RYA who are authorised to issue your ICC for European cruising. This is assuming you also pass the CEVNI examination, which is taken at the conclusion of day two. Please note that it is your responsibility to prepare for the CEVNI examination as boat schools only facilitate the examination itself.  All this is completed within the two day course.

The IWHC is a two day training course in which you will cover the wide ranging RYA syllabus, which includes these objectives:

  • Personal and Boat Safety
  • Importance of regular engine and equipment checks
  • Recognising and practising the skills required for safe navigation of your vessel, including coming alongside, springing on and off, entering and leaving a lock,  turning a vessel, steering through tight spaces, dealing with strong currents and wind to name but a few
  • Participation in deck work and basic seamanship skills
  • Understanding and using navigation instruments, electronic navigation, automatic identification system (AIS), etc

Please note: the entire syllabus of the RYA competent crew training is incorporated into the Helmsman training too. 

Study Material and Publications

We provide the essential reading material for you to study in preparation for your course and ensure you are equipped with the relevant theory for European cruising.  To ensure you get the best out of your training course we would encourage you to set aside ample time to study beforehand so you can then focus on the practicalities when you arrive onboard with us.

Remember you must pass a CEVNI theory examination to validate your Inland Waterways ICC for cruising in Europe.

There are additional publications which may help reinforce and present an alternative learning aid.

Please check out our reading list via the link at the bottom of this page.

Consolidation Day

In line with the RYA syllabus, the Helmsman course is achievable for novice boaters or those with limited boating experience.  However, several of our previous clients have commented that they would have found an additional day beneficial to reinforce and consolidate their learning.  In response to this feedback we have now included this as part of our offering, so an additional day is available if you wish to extend your time with us.

This extra third day at the helm will help put your new skills into practice in a safe and closely monitored environment.  This fully inclusive day incorporates all your meals and refreshments as well as a further night onboard to relax after another day navigating 'Somewhere' on the canals.  If the river conditions are navigable we aim to include a trip on the River Baïse for the 3rd day.  If not, an extended canal route provides a further day of locking, navigating, steering, mooring, etc.  Plenty of time to practice and practice and practice yet again!

Have you any questions?  

Please do get in touch either at [email protected].


Reading List

Please check out our reading list here:

Ready to find out more?

Please do visit our prices page for our current fees


Check our calendar for dates still open for courses