The Dummies Guide To Buying A Narrow Boat
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Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 3:34pm

Which Style Is Going To Best Suit You?

When you come to buy a narrow boat you will soon discover that there are a variety of styles on the market and lots of things to take into consideration before you hand over your cash!

There is also plenty of choice out there so don’t panic buy and get the first one you see, do some serious in depth research before you make a purchase. It’s all very exciting and fun looking for a boat, but remember this is a big investment and you need to be prepared and know what to look for before you buy. It could be a very costly mistake if you bought a boat that wasn’t right for you!

Each style of narrow boat has its own benefits and once you know what your intentions are regarding how often you are going to use the boat, what length you need and where you are going to moor etc. this will help you to choose what type of style is going to best you.

We often say that the boat chooses you rather than you choosing it!

In this article we are going to look at the different styles of narrow boats and cover some points you need to think about before you start looking for your dream boat.

Some Things To Think About Before You Buy

By addressing and answering these questions you will get a good picture of what type of boat is going to meet your needs. This will help you out when you actually go to a marina to view some boats.

Most marinas will have a large selection of boats to view so knowing what style, length, etc. you want before you go, will narrow down the ones to actually look at and save you time, as you won’t be viewing boats that aren’t suitable for you. No point in falling in love with a wide beam if that style is either unpractical or will be out of your budget.

Are you going to use the boat for occasional use or to live on it for long periods of time?

  • How often are you going to go cruising?
  • Where are you going to moor your boat?
  • Do you prefer the idea of a new or used narrow boat?
  • How many people generally will be living on the boat?
  • Do you have a style in mind already; traditional, semi trad, cruiser, wide beam?
  • What length of the boat is going to best suit you?
  • Budget is a major consideration how much do you have to spend?

Narrow Boat Styles

Let’s look at the 4 main types of narrow boat on the market; having an understanding of the layout of each style will give you a better understanding of which boat will best suit your needs.

The finer points of how the boat is fitted out or which boat builder you like will be your next consideration, but first you need to know what style of boat is going to best suit your life style.

Traditional Narrow Boats also known as Trad Narrow Boats

This style originates from the working boat which at one time used to transfer cargo along the canal system. The interior of this style boat has the largest inside area which was ideal when the boat was used to carry goods, it now offers todays families the maximum living space. The exterior area on the stern deck however is the smallest space.

A Traditionalstyle Narrow Boat

It is classed as a classic and attractive design making it a very popular choice for today’s buyers.

Today the trad narrow boat makes the ideal choice for long term use and for families, due to the large interior. Due to the large interior of the boats living space it makes staying on the boat for long periods of time more comfortable and offers more storage space for personal items.

Trads come in a variety of lengths starting from around 40 feet to 70 feet; it’s worth mentioning that the length of any style boat will be used to base your mooring fees on so please bear this in mind when choosing the length of your boat.

The exterior stern deck as mentioned is the smallest area on the boat and therefore isn’t the most social able when cruising, as generally there is only room for one person to be on the back deck at any time. This can make cruising a lonely experience if you like company, so if this isn’t what you are looking for then there’s always the semi trad!

Semi Traditional Narrow Boats also known as Semi Trad Narrow Boats

The semi trad is the modern day version of the traditional narrow boat, and has the benefit of a slightly larger stern deck which makes it possible for more than one person to be in this area at any one time, this makes the semi trad a more social able boat when cruising along. The deck also has sides which can have benches fitted to provide seating and storage.

Semi Traditional style Narrow Boat

It also has the advantage that a pram hood can be fitted in the bad weather giving some protection when cruising; it can then be removed in the warmer months. By having the pram hood covering the stern deck it not only gives the helms man some protection but also provides additional covered storage space, ideal for wellies and outdoor equipment.

Its worth mentioning that the option to add the pram hood on the traditional style boat is not possible, so unfortunately the helms man is exposed to all weather conditions!

This style is a popular choice for families and people with dogs.


As the name suggests this boat has been designed for the best cruising experience the open plan deck area is generally around 2 metres or longer in size and has safety rails around the edge. The rails will differ on each boat depending on how the boat builder designed it, and if you need to enclose the stern deck there are covers you can attach to the side rails, this is sometimes helpful when you have children and pets on the boat.

Cruiers style Narrow Boat

This is typically the style of boat that hire companies use when renting out boats to holiday makers. The uncluttered open plan deck is perfect for people to gather around the tiller, allowing the crew to enjoy social able cruising together. It is a very desirable design for families who are going on holiday, as they can be out on the deck together whilst cruising and mooring.

The only down side to having such a large deck area is the interior space is limited but, if exterior space is more important to you then the cruiser is the ideal boat.



Not technically a ‘narrow’ boat but an extended family member. The large interior lends itself for freestanding furniture and long term living. The wide beam is a very spacious boat which is ideal for recreational cruising, all year round living or seasonal use.

Wide Beam canal Boat

It has become a popular and alternative choice for buyers who want to live in urban areas, providing affordable waterside dwellings in major cities. Some people say that when inside the boat it feels more like a small apartment rather than a boat.

The wide beam is a good choice for people who intend to cruise the larger waterways as in some areas of the canal system the wide beam is unable to use the locks due to its size.


So the main difference between all the styles is the stern deck, the front exterior area of all the boats is generally the same depending on the manufacture and how the boat was built. Some have a longer nose than others but all have an outside area you can use. Hopefully this article has helped you decide which boat style will best suit you and your needs.