Different Stern Styles Explained.
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Mon Jan 25, 2021 at 4:40pm

Stern Types

There are three stern options on a narrowboat, Traditional, Semi-Traditional and Cruiser Style.  Here we explain the difference between them in order to help you decide which is best for you.


The traditional or the trad stern narrow boat is ideal for live aboard purposes, typified by short back deck of 2 -3 feet in length, giving more room inside for living accommodation. These boats were designed from the working style narrow boats which required the most room in the boat itself, so it could maximise the space inside for the cargo it was carrying. The engine is also physically inside the boat.

Because the traditional stern is not really large enough for anyone other than the steerer to stand on safely, on trad boats the deck forms the main outside viewing area for the passengers. It could be said that it is not the most sociable of designs; however it is a very popular design. The traditional stern has a layout of a small open, unguarded deck behind the rear doors from which you steer the boat with the tiller. In the good weather, many trad-stern steerers sit up on the hatchway giving good all-round visibility.  Advantages are that it is a very classic and inherently attractive design and also maximises the amount of usable space inside the boat.

Check out our video on Traditional Style narrowboats



The Semi-Traditional Narrow boat is commonly referred to as 'Semi-trad' and is a modern version of the traditional style narrow boat. It is built in a similar way to a cruiser stern, but from the side or at a distance the semi-trad actually still looks like a traditional narrow boat.

The semi-traditional stern gains some social benefits of a cruiser stern, while still retaining a traditional design. The semi trad has a deck that extends back from the hatch and rear doors and is protected by side walls that create a seating area with additional doors to the outer deck. The seating area will accommodate between 2 and 6 people seated on fitted bench style seating on either side of the walls.

A big advantage of a semi-traditional design is that the steerer can stand inside the seating area and this will offer some protection from the weather. The seating area can also be covered with a pram hood. These hoods create a covered seating area and are removable if you wish to take them off in the warmer months. On a traditional narrow boat the steerer is open to all weather conditions.

The engine is found under the deck in this boat and will have access from the front and the top, making it easy to access for maintenance purposes. Access to the engine is gained by lifting a section of the decking.

Check out our video on Semi-Traditional Style narrowboats


Cruiser Style

The cruiser has been designed to give the largest open space on the deck for outdoor cruising.  The deck is usually 2 metres or more long and is open planned, but it is surrounded with safety rails. The engine is usually found below the deck and is accessed by lifting a section of the decking. The stern can be rounded or square. A square stern boat gives more deck space but can be more difficult to manoeuvre, especially in reverse.

This style of boat originated with hire-boats for holiday makers but is also popular with private boat owners. It is a very social style of narrow boat due to the large decking area. Like the semi traditional style narrowboat the cruisers can also have a removal pram hood to enclose the sitting area. This pram hood also includes side panels so you have the flexibility to have the sides on or off and no roof, or the sides and roof on together. With the sides and roof in place this makes a totally enclosed seating area or storage area.

Check out our video on Cruiser Style narrowboats

Which type of stern you choose is down to personal preference. Some people like having the larger deck for a number of people to congregate on, whereas others like the seating in the semi trad, which can also be good for keeping dogs and children enclosed.