Welcome to Narrowboats.Org.Uk – The site will cover all you need to know about narrowboats and narrowboating in the UK. This site is intended to be a point of reference for people who are possibly new to the world of narrowboats, as well as some of the old hands.
We'll be bringing you news and information about narrowboating in the UK and we’ll also have a classified section for you to advertise your narrowboats for sale, along with associated narrowboat products such as wood burners, stoves, chandlery etc.
There will be a selection showing the narrowboat canal and waterway routes to take in the UK, as well as useful links and information with regards to owning a narrowboat, and the running costs associated with living aboard narrowboats.
The site is for people from around the world who have a general interest in narrowboats, the main aim of the site will be to show people what great life it is on a narrowboat, whether that be a narrowboat for living aboard, weekending on, or just for family holidays, I hope you enjoy and find the site content of use.
A narrowboat refers to a long, thin boat that has been specifically shaped and designed for usage on the narrow canals of Britain and Wales. Originally in the 18th to 20th century they were used mainly for the transporting of goods for export and sale, however, modern usage sees them used mainly as live aboard boats and for pleasure cruises and short holiday stays.
To be accurately called a narrowboat, the widest part of the vessel must be no wider than 7 feet, though most will be slightly below this so they can navigate the narrow locks that might have been made thinner by a build up of subsidence. In regards to length, they can be up to around 70 feet long, but a lot of the boats used for pleasure cruising will be shorter than this to enable much easier navigation on the shorter locks and bends in the canals.
A narrowboat of 57 feet in length is able to navigate the whole of the UK canal system, and far as I'm aware, there is only one lock that will prevent a narrowboat of more than 60 feet long passing through it, but, if you do have a 60 foot boat, you can access this lock at an angle to get through, so 60 is the absolute maximum narrowboat length if you want to go everywhere on the canal system.
In the past when narrowboats were used for transporting goods, the boatman's family would typically live on board with them to keep the family all together and often to provide extra assistance when working. There had to the people manning the boat at all times when it was moving, and someone had to walk on shore and guide the horse that was drawing the boat along the canal. Conditions were very cramped on the boat, often with the other crew members having to squeeze into the one small "captain's cabin" at the top end. Later, however, when diesel became widely used, the horse was abolished and it was possible to hitch a second boat to the back of the main one in enable them to carry more goods.
Boats were often, and still remain to this day, decorated with very ornate designs. These were usually roses and castles, and the exact reasoning behind this is not properly known. There are theories about it linking to gypsy folklore, foreign folk art and even the pottery industry! Lots of modern boats copy this design and there are people dedicated to restoring the old boats.
Modern narrowboats are steered by a tiller at the stern, and sometimes there is even an overhang to protect the steerer from the bad weather. On traditionally steered boats this is all done by hand, by a steerer either standing up from the hatch, or climbing completely out of the interior and sitting on the edge of the cabin. On cruisers, the steerer is less protected as the back of the boat is left very open to provide room for guests to dine or relax on an evening. Steerers can compromise with this on a semi-traditional boat which still gives the steerer some degree of protection whilst leaving the bottom deck opened up for guests.
Overall, the most common usage for narrowboats in the modern day is for pleasure cruises down Britain's more scenic canals, or for people to rent and take short holiday breaks with a different kind of pace to traditional holidaying. However, there are still a few groups that make the occasional delivery via traditional waterway, but as the popularity of the railway has grown and grown this has sadly become almost non-existent.