About Waterways Chaplains

‘…be a catalyst in the waterways communities to bring about short and long term personal transformation – emotionally, mentally and spiritually’.


Waterways Chaplains coming together for training
Waterways Chaplains come together for training

The Waterways Chaplaincy is slightly different from our other Chaplaincies. The Chaplain’s distinctive primary focus is to proactively reach out to people in need on our rivers and canals. We support the increasing number of boaters who are ‘signposted to us’ by the Canals and Rivers Trust Welfare Officer. We also support other boaters who are concerned for someone they have come across in need and other Waterways Chaplains.

Rather like Street Pastors, Waterways Chaplains are there to serve those they come across. We build and maintain relationships and often help to sort out more involved issues with the boater such as poverty, or health & benefits problems. This leads to transformation in peoples lives.


Vision 200:2020 “Coming alongside you”

Our vision is to ‘be a catalyst in the waterways communities to bring about short and long term personal transformation – emotionally, mentally and spiritually’.

The project is to have 200 Chaplains on our waterways by 2020.


Waterways Chaplains walk the tow paths in pairs within a certain geographical patch e.g. Grand Union Canal from Hunton Bridge, Watford to Nash Mills Hemel Hempstead. They are trained volunteers, who are assigned a mentor for the first few months and are from different backgrounds. Chaplains may be retired Church members, perhaps GP’s, anglers who want to help their community or they just walk their dog along canals or rivers and see a need along their “stretch”.  

As chaplains, we are all very connected into our local communities. We aim to both respond to referrals and proactively ‘come alongside’ boaters in need, especially those with personal challenges.


The Chaplains offer:

  • Listening: listening & confidential ear.
  • Signposting: sign post those in difficulty to local support services e.g. foodbanks.
  • Advocates: act as advocates when a boater needs someone to unravel issues e.g. difficulties with paying licences, support with bereavement.
  • Hardship Fund: offer coal/ fuel, food, emergency boat repairs.
  • Emergencies: take boaters to access emergency medical support e.g. Doctor or hospital, housing.
  • Practical: help e.g. washing and drying laundry for boaters, helping out after a (rare) boat sinking.


Some Chaplains’ experiences:

“A while ago, I met a single-handed lady boater at a lock and we had a conversation about her partner recovering from Cancer surgery but, thankfully, had not needed chemo this time. During our time together, I told her I would pray for them and to get in touch if there was anything we could do to help, even just a cup of coffee.”

“I was travelling back home on my boat when I saw a familiar boat of someone I had previously helped so I called out ‘hello’ as I went by. He came out and shouted if I had time to stop, could I? I managed to find somewhere to moor  and went in for a drink. He needed to chat and did so for nearly an hour, and really just needed to get things off his chest. This boater has become an asset now in the local area and often helps out other boaters.”