Semi-traditional narrowboat

Different types of Canal Boats Explained

If you’re new to the waterways, you will likely come across a wide variety of different boats and not know what they are called, or what makes them different to one another. We are going to discuss the different types of canal boats and explain the differences.

Traditional narrowboat

Traditional narrowboat

A traditional narrowboat is usually 6ft 10 inches wide and varies in length from 20 to 70 feet. Their narrow construction allows them to cruise the entire length and breadth of the inland waterways. This is likely why they are such a popular choice.

A traditional narrowboat will have a small exterior deck located at the stern that is around 3 feet. This will accommodate one person perfectly but at a push, you could have two people at most at the tiller. Having the tiller in the exterior space allows for more space to be utilised inside. Another reason why a traditional narrowboat is a very common houseboat.

Cruiser boat

Cruiser narrowboat

A cruiser boat has a large and exposed deck that is usually between 5 and 8 feet long surrounded by a rail. Because of its large size, several passengers can be with the steerer. A wind dodger can also be installed around the rail to provide both shelter and to help prevent children or animals from falling overboard.

Semi-Traditional narrowboat

Semi-traditional narrowboat

A semi-traditional narrowboat is like a cross between a cruiser and a traditional narrowboat. They have a large deck size but instead of a rail, they have side plates to create more of an enclosed area. This allows the line of the boat to continue down the vessel and when viewed from the side, makes it look more like a traditional narrowboat.

This style of boat proves a safe area for children and animals.

Dutch barge

Dutch barges

A Dutch barge is much larger than a traditional canal boat. This is because they were originally designed to carry cargo along the rivers of the Netherlands.

A Dutch barge is usually between 12 and 20 feet wide, between 70 and 120 feet in length and have a headroom of at least 6.5 foot. They, therefore, provide a huge amount of living space making them a popular choice for a live-aboard vessel.

Wide-beam boat

Wide beam narrowboat

A wide-beam boat is, as the name suggests, a wide boat! They are available in a cruiser, semi-traditional and traditional sterns but instead of being 6ft 10 inches wide, they are 10 or 12 feet wide. Having this area width is ideal for those who want a houseboat as it makes the boat feel more like a flat as opposed to a boat.

However, this larger size does restrict the areas you can cruise on the inland waterways.

Tug boats

Tug narrowboat

A tug narrowboat is very similar to the traditional narrowboat in construction, except it also has an extended front deck area. Traditionally this area was designed for assistance with towing, but now is more commonly used by people that want to make the most of their time spent outside.

However, the external room does encroach on the cabin space.


We hope you found this post on different types of canal boats helpful. If you have a boat that needs a little T.L.C, be sure to take a look at our range of boat maintenance products.

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