Boaters: How to Use Volunteering to Get a Job That You’ll Love

Catriona Joynt

Catriona Joynt

Cat Joynt first came to the Nottingham Narrowboat Project on a college day trip and has now trained as a skipper. At 21 she is younger than the average community boater. I was also interested to hear that this project was the first one in the country to be started by a woman, back in 1974. There are two narrowboats available for public, school and community group trips around the waterways of Nottingham.

Cat began by volunteering for a year with the project from 2010-2011 but is now a paid member of staff, working as a Multi Activity Leader. She works on the boats and at their other centres doing kayaking, canoeing, camping, climbing and high rope activities. Cat works with all ages, backgrounds and abilities.

How did you become interested in boats, Cat?

I have always enjoyed water and boats. But it wasn’t until I went on a day trip with my college that I realised I wanted to take up boating.

What areas of the canals have you cruised?

I have cruised the canals and rivers in and around Nottingham, Birmingham, Loughborough and Leicester.

My most memorable cruise was with Ikon Gallery on their project boat Slow Boat. I worked with an artist from Thailand named Navin. I took him from Birmingham – Foxton locks – Coventry and back to Birmingham. We met some fantastic people along the way. I enjoyed being at Watford gap. It was a bit of a challenge getting through as I’m use to Nottingham locks but the lock keepers were brilliant. I learned a lot on that trip and my confidence with both people and boating grew immensely!

The lady that gave me the opportunity to do the canal cruise on Slow Boat was Kate Self; a wonderful woman, very helpful. Their community boat is great. If you want to check it out their website is Their current project Black Country Voyages (2014-17) also involves young people, artists and a canal boat on tour around the Black Country.

How did you become involved with community boating?

Since I was a child I had wanted to be a vet so I got myself on to an animal care course and retook my English and maths to be able to get into university. I did this at an ‘entry to employment’ college scheme which has since shut down due to funding. They took us out on trips. One of these trips was at the Narrowboat Project and one was at Colwick Park Adventure Centre. I needed to get a work placement working in a team so I did it between the boats and the Adventure Centre. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to volunteer, which then lead to me being a paid worker. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else; the people are fantastic and the job is so rewarding!

Can you tell us a little about the Project?

D of ENottingham City Council Adventure Team work with all ages and abilities. We give inner city young people the opportunity to do something different. My favourite sessions are with the additional needs schools that use our facilities. They are so thankful and appreciative.

We provide a D of E on the boats, teaching young people boat handling: We use the NCBA boat handling course for this. When we take day trips out we teach everyone on board how to steer and work the locks. We have had children as young as 5 steering our 72ft narrowboats.

What does being Multi Activity Instructor involve?

Working with all ages and abilities. Getting them doing new things reaching goals and facing fears.

Have you done any NCBA training courses?

I have done the boat handling course, the community crew course, I have my skippers ticket and I am currently waiting for a date to do my ‘training the trainers’ course!

There are not so many women involved in community boating. Have you worked with any other female skippers?

I work with a lady called Debs; an absolutely fantastic woman and one of the best boaters I’ve seen. She has taught me nearly everything I know. She has taken a lot of time to get me through the courses and get me to where I am now and I can’t thank her enough. I also worked with a woman called Annie another great boater who sadly passed away in 2013. We have had a few women volunteers with our project, all of which have taken NCBA courses.

What advice would you give to a leisure boater who was interested in working in community boating or taking a training course?

Just go for it. Find a local project and get stuck in. Volunteering is the way forward. Funding for community projects isn’t great but they always welcome volunteers. The skippers and trainers on community boats are always helpful. They will get you to the standard you want to be at. And the NCBA courses are great, easy to follow but very informative. 100% worth the time and effort you put in. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Featured image credit: Nottingham Narrowboat Project from School Sport Nottingham

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