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A narrowboat or narrow boat is a boat of a distinctive design, made to fit the narrow canals of England and Wales.
1 Traditional and modern boats
4 Development - traditional working boats
4.1 Painted decoration on narrowboats
5 Modern narrowboats
5.1 Modern Narrowboat types
5.1.1 Narrowboats with traditional stern
5.1.2 Narrowboats with cruiser stern
5.1.3 Narrowboats with semi-traditional stern
5.1.4 Centre cockpit narrowboats
6 National organisations
8 See also
9 External links
Traditional and modern boats
Moored narrowboats near Tardebigge, Worcestershire, England
In the context of British Inland Waterways, "narrow boat" refers to the original working boats built in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries for carrying goods on the narrow canals (where locks and bridge holes would have a minimum width of 7 feet) . The term is extended to modern "narrowboats" used for recreation and occasionally as homes, whose design is an interpretation of the old boats for modern purposes and modern materials.
Purists tend to use the term with a space (narrow boat) when referring to an original boat or a replica, and to omit the space when referring to a modern boat used for leisure or as a residence - but this is not a hard and fast rule. The single word 'narrowboat' has been adopted by authorities such as British Waterways and the magazine Waterways World to refer to all boats built in the style and tradition of the narrow canal locks.
Although some narrow boats were built to a design based on river barges, it is incorrect to refer to a narrowboat (or narrow boat) as a barge. In the context of the British inland waterways, a barge is usually a much wider, cargo-carrying boat or a modern boat modeled on one, certainly more than 7feet (2.1m) wide.
It is also incorrect (or at least incongruous) to refer to a narrowboat as a longboat, although this name was sometimes used in the midlands in working-boat days.
Usage has not quite settled down as regards (a) boats based on narrowboat design, but too wide for narrow canals; or (b) boats the same width as narrowboats but based on other types of boat.
The key distinguishing feature of a narrowboat is its width: it must be no more than 7 feet (2.13 m) wide to navigate the British narrow canals. Some old boats are very close to this limit, and can have trouble using locks that are not quite as wide as they should be because of subsidence. Modern boats are usually 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) wide to guarantee easy passage everywhere.
Because of their slenderness, some narrowboats seem very long. The maximum length is about 72 feet (about 22m), the length of the locks on the narrow canals. However, modern narrowboats tend to be shorter than this, so that they can cruise anywhere on the connected network of British canals - including on the "wide" canals (built for wider, but shorter, boats). The shortest lock on the main network is Salterhebble Middle Lock on the Calder and Hebble Navigation, at about 56ft (about 17m) long. However, the C&H is a wide canal, so the lock is about 14 ft (4.20m) wide. This makes the largest "go-anywhere-on-the-network" narrowboat slightly longer (about 60ft) than the straight length of the lock, because it can (with a certain amount of "shoehorning") lie diagonally. Some locks on isolated waterways are as short as 40ft (12m).
Hire fleets on British canals can contain narrowboats of many lengths from about 30feet (9.1m) upwards, to allow parties of different sizes or different budgets to hire a boat.
Development - traditional working boats
Boat drawn by horses on a towpath
The first working narrow boats played a key part in the economic changes accompanying the British Industrial Revolution. They were wooden boats drawn by a horse walking on the canal towpath led by a crew member, often a child. Narrowboats were chiefly designed for carrying cargo, though there were some packet boats, carrying passengers, letters, and parcels.
Boatmen's families originally lived ashore, but in the 1830s as canals started to feel competition from the new railways, the families took up home afloat - partly because they could no longer afford rents, partly to provide extra hands to work the boats harder, faster and further, and partly to keep families together.
Historic working narrowboats on the Macclesfield Canal in Cheshire, England. The motor boat at the front "Forget Me Not" is pulling along an unpowered butty "Lilith". This was the traditional working style used on working boats after motor boats became common.
The rear portion of the boat became the cosy "boatman's cabin", familiar from picture postcards and museums, famous for its...(and so on)
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