A typical English Narrowboat:


The maximum dimensions of the boats used on England’s canals is fixed, based upon the size of the locks.  These boats, as the name would imply, are long and narrow.  A bit under 7 feet wide, they vary in length from 40 to 70 feet.

They’re called either narrowboats or canal boats.

What surprises many people is that they’re operated by you and your crew: there’s no one else aboard to do it for you!

UK Canal Boat Trip 0810 114

Minimum crew size is two people.  Narrowboats can berth four to six people comfortably, which adds to the fun and lightens the work load.

Your maximum speed on a narrowboat is 4 mph, but is often much slower.  Boaters slow down for moored craft, going under bridges, and maneuvering through tunnels and locks.  The point of a narrowboat adventure is to go slowly and enjoy the experience.

Most narrowboat holidays will be for one to two weeks.  You can moor on the canals pretty much anywhere that isn’t restricted, and your boat will be your home.

While driving a 60 foot canal boat may look hard, it’s actually quite easy, as long as you keep it slow.

Let’s Take a Tour

All narrowboats are configured a bit differently, but all contain the same basics.  The pictures below are of the Silver Dove, a boat on which we spent two comfortable weeks:IMG_1066
A narrowboat is powered by a diesel engine, which is located beneath Susan’s feet.  They’re driven by using a rudder (in Susan’s right hand) to steer and a throttle near her left hand for acceleration.


The double bed is comfy, with lots of storage beneath.

We didn’t take any pictures of the bathrooms.  They’re small and functional.

The galleys are very nice.  All are fully equipped with stove, fridge, and microwave.  The rental companies stock them with pots and pans and other cooking necessities.  Glasses, plates and cutlery are also provided. All you need to do is bring your food, beverages and other supplies.



This boat had a little table-and-chair area, plus captain’s chairs and TV for relaxing after a hard day of boating.  Again, this is just one example, but most boats have similar layouts.  This one also has a little wood stove in the corner for chilly nights.

The last thing to know about narrowboats is they all have steel hulls, which means that they’re very tough, and can take a beating.

On the canals, with a narrowboat, there’s no way to avoid bumping into things, so the boats must be built to take it.  If you drive carefully, you’ll not hit too many things, but a little bumping is part of the canal holiday experience.