How to become a Crew Member

If you want to crew on President, then this will tell you how we welcome new crew members.

Because boating on President and Kildare is somewhat different to normal canal boating we ask all new crew to become initially “trainee” crew members, regardless of their individual boating experience.

Familiarisation/Training Days

We hold these days to do just that – familiarise crew with the way we prefer to do things.  The routine is based on how the boatmen of old used to handle the craft BUT updated and modified to conform to modern boating and health and safety practices.  On these days we will take you through both boats, demonstrating with you the working practices, giving the names of all the parts and showing you, literally, the ropes.  We will also go out of the museum on trips to give you the opportunity of steering both President and Kildare and, if you wish, giving you a short spell in the engine ‘ole.

How many in the crew on a trip?

The crew will ideally comprise a captain, a driver and an assistant driver and three crew, up to two of whom may be trainees.  The captain has complete responsibility for the boats and all the crew including guiding the trainees in their new experiences.  At first you will be shadowed in any duties you are given.  You will never be left alone until the captain is satisfied with your competence in a task. The driver is king in the secret world of the engine ‘ole.  You may be invited to join him if you wish to watch his arts.

Your captain will contact you soon after the crews are announced.  He will discuss with you any problems you may have with regard to what to bring and what to wear. He will advise you where and at what time to rendezvous on your first day and will help you to deal with problems relating to transport.  He will need to know if you have any dietary requirements and how they can be resolved.  He may well ask if you snore loudly or he may suggest the inclusion of earplugs in your luggage!


Why wear costume?  The decision to wear “traditional” costume was made after a number of years of crewing in modern dress.  It was felt that whilst we were proudly demonstrating historical craft, we were ruining the image by wearing totally inappropriate “jeans and beach shirts”, to quote an early criticism.  We like to be able to present a complete historical image when we are out on the cut.  We do, after all, represent our owners, The Black Country Living Museum, all of whose volunteers are required to wear early 20th century costume – and do so with pride.

What is the cost of traditional dress? We are able to get fairly close to a 1909 boater’s costume from a modern wardrobe or at least the local charity shop.  Waistcoats, flat caps and even collarless shirts are usually to be found at Oxfam.  The alternative production of a collarless shirt is easily achieved with an old modern shirt and a pair of scissors…  Most people have a pair of corduroys (ideally, as light coloured as possible) and a coloured neckerchief lying around.  Bingo – you’re in 1909!  We encourage you to wear a pair of stout or preferably safety boots.

What can Friends of President supply?  If you enjoy your first trips and want to up-rate your costume, we can offer Oxford work shirts and coloured neckerchiefs, both at very reasonable cost.

When you join us for a trip – accommodation

During 2006, Kildare was completely refurbished to a high standard.  However, it is still essentially a camping boat with dormitory bunk sleeping accommodation.  There is a fully fitted galley at the back end of the hold and in the fore end, a bath/shower, wash basin and Porta Potti toilet.  To go from one end of the boat to the other, it is necessary to bend under the three beams that traverse the boat at gunwale height.  It is not a hotel boat!

You will need to bring a pillow and sleeping bag, towel and toilet gear. You should bring a change of clothing for the evenings.  It is also wise to bring earplugs.  There is a certain amount of wet weather clothing provided but you may wish to have a donkey jacket or similar with you.  Please don’t bring modern anoraks in rainbow colours to wear during the day!

When you join us for a trip – food

Usually one crew member will take responsibility for obtaining food for the trip. In the main, breakfast is cooked and eaten before departure and lunch is sandwiches taken on the move.  Arrangements for evening meals vary.  Sometimes you will eat on board in the evening; sometimes a visit is made to a local hostelry for food.  If you have special dietary requirements, it is your responsibility to agree with the captain how to cater for them.  All crew members are expected to take part in domestic activities such as catering, washing up and cleaning.

What costs are involved?

A tally of food costs will be kept and then split up and settled at the end of the week.  In addition, a charge of £1 a day is paid by all crew members to cover the domestic running costs of the trip – gas, washing up liquid, cleaning costs, etc.

Arrival and departure

There are parking facilities at the Black Country Living Museum if you want to leave your vehicle there.  Your arrival and departure from other crew change points will need to be sorted out with your captain.  Often it is possible to share transport with other crew members.

If you have any other queries about crewing, please contact the Crewing Secretary, Chris Walker by email

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