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Despite the name, narrowboats are surprisingly spacious with plenty of headroom, and come in different lengths depending on the number of berths you need. If it is your first time on a narrowboat, it is a good idea to choose a smaller narrowboat as it is easier to steer.   The narrowboat can travel along most rivers and canals, but its ability to navigate some waterways may be restricted by the engine's power. The steering of a narrowboat is different to other boats and requires a bit of practice, but don’t worry, you will soon get the hang of it.


Day Hire

Day Hire is a great way to relax with friends or family and see what a longer canal holiday would be like. Day hire boats can be rented for self drive trips for a day or evening, and you don't need any experience or qualifications. They usuallly have toilet and simple cooking facilities, but no sleeping accommodation. Day hire canal boats usually take between 6 and a maximum of 12 passengers. This is the way many people get hooked!


Types of Narrowboat

Narrow boats are generally made from steel, aluminium, GRP (glass re-enforced plastic) or wooden boats, and whilst they come in a variety of lengths, they usually have maximum width (beam) of 6 feet 10 inches wide. There are three main styles of narrowboat:


Traditional Narrowboat ('Trad')

This style is based on the traditional working boats, and the main section of the boat (accomodation) is at the front of the boat leaving as much deck as possible at the rear (stern) of the boat for the navigator (helmsman) to steer the boat. Trads have a rounded tail and the engine is positioned in front of the steering deck.


Semi -Traditional Narrowboat ('Semi-Trad')

This style of narrowboat looks similiar to a Trad narrowboat, but the deck is much biggger and can accomodate 2-6 seated people and offer some form of protection from the weather due to a housing around the deck area. The engine on semi-trads is usually mounted under the aft deck and they also have a rounded tail.


Cruiser Style Narrowboat

Cruiser Style Narrowboat are designed to give the helmsman at the stern as much open space as posssible. The aft deck is usually completly open and offers little protection from the weather as it is just surrounded by safety rails. The tail of the boat can be rounded or squared - squared boats offer more rooom but can be more difficult to manouevre in reverse.


Narrowboat terminology

  • Beam = width
  • Aft deck = steering area at the rear of the boat
  • Stern = rear end of narrrowboat
  • Draught = space bewteen bottonm of boat and river/canal bed
  • Helmsman = the person who is controlling and steering the narrowboat

Boat Shows

Southampton Boat Show 2016LBS16

Two of the biggest in the UK are the London Boat Show and Southampton Boat Show but there are loads of other regional and specialised shows which are great too.

Leisure Boating Ideas

British Marine Leisure Boating

Looking for a Boating Holiday? Chartering a boat? Training? Experience days? Find out more from British Marine Leisure Boating - The Training, Charter and Holiday Professionals >