Whatever floats your narrowboat …

I guess if you are going to live an alternative lifestyle then you have to get the basics right, and unlike a car that may last me 5 years, that will then be replaced, the boat has to last forever. I’m not talking about build quality, that will come under the who will build the boat blog, but size and layout. Something that I will be happy living on for the rest of my life. I’m sure that in the future there will be plenty of “If only I’d” moments. What I need to do is eliminate as many of those mistakes as I can… Before I make them.

But, before I get into that, I could take this opportunity to share the name I have for my new home. Narrowboat Myra. Myra was my mother, who died when I was 12. Not a day has gone by where she hasn’t been in my thoughts. But naming the narrowboat after her is not a sad  or melencholic gesture.. just a celebration of her. Enough about that, lets move on.

After many years of denial it has now become apparent that size really does matter. Initially I had thought that a wide beam boat was for me. A floating apartment for a single man, travelling the canal network… What could be better. Well, as it turns out more is actually less. Yes I can still see the appeal for buyers, especially if they have a family to bring up on the cut. The fact that most of the northern part of the country, in particular Manchester and Liverpool, would be cut off for me wasn’t that appealing. Remember, choices are important to my planned way of life. Restrictions aren’t part of the equation. The other possible restriction could be the length of narrowboat chosen… I believe that 58ft will be perfect. If I go narrowboat instead of wide-beam and stick to the 58ft guideline then I should have the perfect go anywhere on the UK canal system combination, but big enough to live on comfortably as a boat/home.

Then comes type. My choices are traditional, semi traditional and cruiser type sterns.

  • The traditional style stern is undeniably pretty, but comes with restrictions that I just couldn’t live with. The traditional boats were made primarily to carry as much cargo as possible. That meant that the stern was designed solely to allow one person to steer. There isn’t room for others. This would then mean that a bigger foredeck would be needed to accommodate an area for socialising. Remember that being social is part of a boaters life. Family and friends will want to visit and it won’t be much fun if everyone is enjoying themselves at the front whilst I’m standing at the back like Billy no mates.
  • The advantage of a semi-traditional is that it looks like a traditional from the side (i.e. pretty) and yet gives space for guests to gather whilst travelling. It also affords you some protection from the elements in winter. I’m not saying that it’ll stop all of the rain when travelling along but at least you can steer with the doors closed, giving you some protection from the wind. Also, whilst not exactly another room, it can be utilised as a sort of staging post in winter, if I employ a pram cover.
  • The cruiser stern is perfect for summer, plenty of room and very sociable. I have to be realistic and say that most friends and family will want to visit in summer not winter, so this could be handy. But is it sacrificing too much for what will be solely used when its sunny, and lets face it, in the UK we do get the odd days of not so nice weather.. it has in fact been known to rain. But what about eating on deck, wouldn’t it be perfect, unlike a semi traditional, where everyone will be eating off their laps.

So, whilst I have ruled out the traditional style, you have probably worked out that I am torn between the other two. In truth, I’m leaning towards the semi-traditional narrowboat. Elements of a traditional narrowboat, with some of the features of the cruiser stern. Any suggestions or input welcome.

The bow is less of a problem for me, I know what I want there. My bedroom will be at the front of the boat and all I want bow wise is a gas locker and enough room for two people, sitting opposite each other, to have a comfortable place to sit for an early morning coffee or a night cap. Obviously, if guests are on board and want to escape the crowd, it would also be the perfect place to have a quiet read or just some time to themselves.

There will be more about the internal design and features in other posts but one other thing that has been decide is the colour – Its going to be navy. Not much to say about that really. Coach lines etc can be decided later.


  1. We have a cruiser stern, but we do have 2 dogs and this gives us plenty of room when cruising and they do love watching the wildlife, but it is horses for courses. One other point, with a cruiser stern you have got storage in the engine bay.


  2. Hi Nick and another thing!😳 Have you considered departing from the standard offerings in narrow boat design? Having been a live aboard you know what you need in terms of living space, utilities, systems and access for working ropes and the like. Have you sketched out alternatives – maybe even including a fwd and inboard steering position.
    I think there are a lot of possibilities here especially if you dual use sleeping and lounge ( you can do this with thoughtful design). If you are thinking of having a custom build designing this stuff in from the get go makes it affordable and doable. Sorry – rambling.


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