The In’s and Out Of Wide Beams
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Wed Mar 23, 2016 at 9:36am

Everything We Think You Should Know About Wide Beams

We want to share with you everything we know about wide beams, so if you are considering buying this style of canal boat then this article is most definitely for you.

Buying a widebeam is a big investment and is not something you should rush into. We always advise anyone new to boating to try before they buy and a good way of doing this is to hire a boat for a long weekend or week to get a taste of life afloat. Another useful piece of advice is to try boating in the winter months as well as the summer. As if you plan to live aboard it's best to know what to expect during the colder months as well.

Molly Anna - widebeam for sale

You should understand all the pros and cons before taking the plunge of purchasing a boat especially if you are thinking of swapping your brick built home to live on the water full time. The initial out lay of purchasing a boat may be cheaper then buying a land property, but there are still monthly and annual costs involved and depending on where you moor and all the other expenses you will incur, it may not be as cheap as you think. So if you are thinking of living on the water to save money - be warned it can be a costly affair.

Find out all you need to know here....

image found on Pinterest

First The Bad Stuff

Not everyone likes wide beams it’s a known fact. Some folks only have good things to say about narrow boats and would have you believe that you should only consider buying a narrow boat.

The main objection that the anti wide beam brigade have against wide beams is the fact that widebeams can't travel the whole of the canal network. But if you are happy to accept this fact and there will be some of you that don't even intend on going cruising, then you don't have to worry about this minor detail!

But don’t be put off buying one because someone who isn’t a fan insists it’s going to be a BIG mistake and you should only be looking at buying a narrow boat.

Everyone is different and what floats one man’s boat doesn’t always cut it for someone else. Stay true to yourself and your decision, if you have set your heart on a wide beam and you’ve done your homework then follow your heart!

On To The Good Stuff

The term "boat apartment" probably wasn't used very much until about ten years ago. Today, they’re one of the fastest growing species on our waterways. Spacious, comfortable and contemporary, they combine the dream of city living with the appeal of the waterways and at a more affordable price than a bricks-and-mortar apartment. In fact living aboard a wide beam in a main city can be the only way for some to be able to afford to live in these expensive sort after areas.

Spacious; Space and lots of it! So much so you can even use free standing furniture within the boats interior, which gives the feel of an apartment rather than a boat. Wide beams for that reason are perfect for living aboard. The vast majority of wide beams are used as residential boats rather than cruisers due to their size.

Comfortable; With all the mod cons on-board you will have all the creature comforts of being at home. With separate bedrooms and open plan living areas you can enjoy your privacy as well as sharing your living space with others on board.

Contemporary; Wide beams have a contemporary look and feel about them making them a very desirable choice for a design conscious buyer. Buying a wide beam enables many people to enjoy life in many different locations, so whether it's in a city, along the canal side in town or moored up on the towpath in the country, the wide beam makes for a great looking base in any location.


Easy questionCan you cruise the whole network? (roughly 2000 miles)

Harder question Where can I cruise?
Answer –
Not so easy and straight forward to answer as different aspects need to be considered before giving a defined answer:

  • The size of the craft
  • Are you prepared to go into tidal water? (if your insurance covers you)
  • Are you prepared to go through shallow water?
  • The shape of the craft, super structure and hulls can have a limiting factor
  • The size of the locks and canal in each area.

So our advice would be to decide on the location where you want to be moored, i.e. in The North or The South and to explore this area to see if it is suitable for your style boat and how far in each direction you will be able to travel should you want to go cruising.

The four main areas to consider are: The River Severn, Norfolk Board, River Trent going North and London & The South.


If you are not planning on doing much cruising, then the only other consideration you need to address is the moorings. Finding residential moorings is an issue for all types of boats not just wide beams, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t find somewhere straight away and be prepared to have to start off in a location that may not be your first choice.

Moorings are advertised in the classified pages of Waterways World every month. All marinas should either have availability on their websites or you can call them to discuss your requirements. The CRT has launched a new website (October 2015) and lists 3500 long term, permanent moorings which it manages across England and Wales, find out more through their website.

The costs of moorings are based on the length and width of your vessel, so bear this in mind when budgeting your yearly running costs.

Costs Involved For A Wide Beam

A wide beam is obviously bigger than a narrow boat, therefore it’s fair to assume it is going to cost a bit more to run and maintain. Just as living in a 5 bedroom detached house is going to cost more than living in a small 2 bedroom terrace.  

Due to the varied amount of time spent aboard or how the boat is used, it is very difficult to state just how much it will cost to run and maintain your vessel, but we have collated a list of the costs you will need to plan for.

Costs will include;

  • Insurance.
  • License fees.
  • Mooring fees.
  • Maintenance such as bottom blacking, winterisation, engine service and Boat Safety Certificate.
  • Fuel & Gas.
  • Possibly solid fuel for a stove.
  • Toilet pump out or emptying.
  • Water in some areas. 

More information on Wide Beams can be found here.

If you would like more advice on purchasing a widebeam please give us a call today!