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The Pros And Cons Of Buying A Widebeam Boat

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Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 12:48pm

We have written a lot of articles advising you of the pros and cons of buying a narrowboat, however we haven’t discussed the Widebeam in any detail before.


Whatever type of boat you are considering buying, whether it be a narrowboat or wide beam, it is always advisable to try out boating before you hand over your hard earned cash.

Boating isn’t for everyone, some people see it as a way to get cheap accommodation, but living on the water is very different to living on the land. The initial out lay of buying a boat can be cheaper than buying a house or flat, but you do have the day to day running expenses, mooring fees and maintenance costs to consider too.

Do your homework before selling your home or getting your finances in place to buy a boat.  A really good way of getting the feel of boating is to hire a boat for a long weekend or for a holiday.


The most obvious advantage of a wide beam is the additional living and storage space that this style of canal boat provides. Narrowboats are usually 6ft 10" wide, but  widebeamed boats are generally between 10ft to 12ft in width. All that extra space is a major plus, especially for anyone considering living aboard full time who is not worried about cruising every inch of the canal network, then a wide beam is a great choice.


Cruising isn’t really a problem either, well not as much of a problem that the anti widebeam brigade will have you believe.  First thing they will say is “you can’t go here, you can’t go there”, well fair enough, but there are plenty of other areas on the network that are suitable for cruising. Each waterway was built to its own size: some have slightly narrower locks than usual, others have lower bridges.  In particular,the more historic canals often have low bridges and shallow channels. There are four main ‘cruising grounds’ for the widebeam owner: London and the South; East Anglia; the Severn waterways; and the Trent and North. See the map below for more info about where you can cruise.


The extra width of the boat lends itself to use freestanding furniture. The inside of widebeam can look like and have the feel of a small apartment, as opposed to a boat, offering the owner a trendy waterside residence at a sensible price!

Wide beams are available in a cruiser, semi trad and traditional sterns, replicating the design of narrowboat stern.

Some wide beams have hydraulic steering with a wheel at the stern as an alternative to a tiller.  With wheel steering you can unleash the wheel and the wheel will stay in position, making the boat a lot more manageable if you are cruising on your own.

More good news; your boat licence will not cost you any more money than a narrowboat of the same length. However if you are going to be moored full time on some rivers, such as the Thames, or in a marina, the amount you pay is often worked out by the area of the boat rather than by the length. So bear in mind there may be additional mooring costs to factor in.


There are some limitations when cruising some parts of the canal system due to the boats width, but as we have mentioned before there are many other sections of the network you can travel.

As with buying a bigger house the maintenance costs will be slightly higher for a larger boat, which I think is fairly obvious and would be expected by most people. For example blacking a narrowboat which is 70 foot long will cost around £1000 and a wide beam of the same length would be approximately £1500.  The increase in cost is purely down to the fact there is more surface area to cover, using more paint and of course man hours.

As with the example of running a bigger house, a larger boat will also cost a bit more money to run, so be aware heating a wide beam will make your running costs more expensive.

As we have already mentioned, the mooring costs of a widebeamed boat are usually higher than for a narrowboat.

Negatives for a narrowboat & a widebeam.

Finding suitable moorings is something the narrowboat owner can have trouble doing, this is no different really for the widebeam owner. Finding a mooring for larger vessel can be even more difficult, especially as most marinas on the inland waterways system are build to accomodate narrowboats.

However it’s not impossible and our advice whether you are buying a widebeam boat or a narrowboat is to find moorings before you buy.

We have two widebeamed boats for sale at the moment, these are Pendragon and Bobbys Girl.


Marie smith | Fri Oct 16, 2015 at 3:03am
The information helped me a lot I'm thinking of selling my house and me and my dog trying to find if a life on the water is right for us. I'm single and 50. My family has gone and looking for vocation. I will take a week's trip in a barge thinking maybe if I do it in the winter months I. Will have a better idea of what I will have to deal with. Many thanks
Paul | Mon Feb 22, 2016 at 12:27pm
Looking to buy a wide beam could do with some genuine advice ,
Whilton Marina | Mon Feb 22, 2016 at 3:48pm
We don't currently have any wide beamed boats for sale, however they do occasionally come in for sale at our marina. The best thing would be to register for email updates of boats that come in for sale, (there is an option of selecting widebeamed boats there so you can choose to just receive details of widebeams when they come in) Click this link to register:
Haggie | Tue Apr 5, 2016 at 12:14pm
As a fat chic i prefer the wide beam boat naturally to accommodate my height and weight. The only issue i have is that the showers are always to small. Nevertheless, i would definitely consider life off grid onboard a wide beam boat.
Mary | Wed Apr 20, 2016 at 1:02pm
Thank you for the information on Wide Beams. Please keep me up dated on any further information.Thank you
Tim Field | Mon Jun 13, 2016 at 6:40pm
I am thinking of buying and living on a Widebeam
MrWill Dennick | Fri Aug 5, 2016 at 12:27pm
Consider a Wide Beam of 12' x 70' - Will all locks on those designated as Broad Canals take these dimensions. How do I find out which are the narrowest and shortest locks on Broad Canals.
Whilton Marina | Tue Aug 9, 2016 at 2:47pm
Hello Mr Dennick,We have found this useful table on the different UK canals and their size restrications, you will need to copy and past this into a browser: as mentioned in the article it is correct as far as the author is aware. We also suggest that you contact the Canal and River Trust for a complete list of the broad canals and their size restrictions before navigating the canal network with a widebeam to check.
mick bavester | Wed Aug 10, 2016 at 11:33am
im thinking of buying my first boat, i would like a 4 berth cabin cruiser to sail around the waterways, could you give me any recomendations as what to buy, budget of about 10k many thanks
Whilton Marina | Wed Aug 10, 2016 at 1:43pm
Hi MickWe only sell steel narrowboats at Whilton Marina so are unable to help you with buying a cabin cruiser, but good luck with your search!
Nicholas Churchill | Sun Aug 14, 2016 at 7:13pm
Hi would like some genuine advice on finding mooring on the Thames how to go about as we are thinking of selling our house in France and have our eyes on a 75ft by 12ft wide beam
Whilton Marina | Tue Aug 16, 2016 at 2:47pm
Hello Nicholas,Contact the Environment Agency for information on moorings on the River Thames as this river comes under their jurisdiction. Or copy this into a web browser for more info:
Bill Percy | Wed Aug 31, 2016 at 8:05pm
Hi thanks for this advice. Can you give some advice on VAT for wide beam narrow boats, in particular new v second hand. I've done some homework but have seen conflicting views.
Whilton Marina | Tue Sep 20, 2016 at 12:50pm
We believe that If the narrowboat builder is registered for VAT then the boat has to have VAT added to it. The price they quote however will be inclusive of VAT. If the boat is built as a liveaboard, under certain circumstances the VAT can be reclaimed by the buyer but we understand that the rules are very complicated.If the narrowboat is being sold through a broker, you don’t pay VAT. There is some VAT involved but only for the seller and only on the brokerage fee.If the boat is purchased from an individual who isn’t VAT registered, you don’t pay VAT.Hope this helps you.
Lindy lou | Sat Nov 19, 2016 at 10:07am
Hi we are looking to buy a 10ft widebeam ...would we to get from whilton marina to trinity marina on the canal where we would be mooring? Thankeywords you in advance for your time
Whilton Marina | Wed Nov 30, 2016 at 12:59pm
Hello Lindy Lou,You would not be able to navigate the Oxford Canal with a widebeamed boat to get onto the Ashby Canal where Trinity Marina is located. You can travel as far as Birmingham in a widbeam but beyond that will struggle. For more information contact the Canal and River Trust A useful page to look at also is this is you copy and paste into a web browser: is always the option of taking the widebeam by road. Hope this helps.
william hammerton | Wed Dec 14, 2016 at 7:41pm
am selling our flat would like to buy a widebeam that needs a little work as I am a carpenterWould pay for professional advice
Robert Horne | Tue Dec 20, 2016 at 1:35pm
Hi there with regards to canals & rivers suitable for widebeams to travel are there special maps that we can buy purely for widebeam boats ?
Whilton Marina | Wed Jan 4, 2017 at 12:20pm
Hello WilliamWe would be unable to advise you, but would suggest that you look at as many new or used narrowboats as possible to get ideas and speak to boat builders. Research fit out types and decide what you like and what you dislike.
Whilton Marina | Wed Jan 4, 2017 at 12:35pm
Hello RobertAs far as we are aware there are no special maps of the canal system purely for widebeams. The normal maps of the canal system will have information about width/length of locks and height/length restrictions, so are applicable to all boats.
Chris | Thu Jan 5, 2017 at 9:43pm
Thanks for this very useful advice and information. Can widebeams be transported at all, on land or by sea by haulage/shipping companies? If an owner would need to relocate from England to Scotland for example.
Whilton Marina | Mon Jan 9, 2017 at 11:17am
Hello Chris, Yes widebeams can be transported by road. You'd need to speak to a specialised haulage company to arrange this.
Kate | Sun Jan 15, 2017 at 3:34pm
Hello - Im thinking of buying a canal boat to set up as a cooking school/ bnb when ?i move to Birmingham. Will it be hard to get a permanent mooring in the city area? and can I get anyone to do work on the boat or does in ned to be a specialist ship yard?
Whilton Marina | Tue Jan 17, 2017 at 12:51pm
Hello Kate, we suggest you look for a mooring first before buying the widebeam, as the length of the mooring will dictate the length of boat you can buy. Moorings in Birmingham city centre may be difficult to find due to high demand. We suggest that you do your research and contact as many marinas in the area you want to obtain a mooring first.
Nick Broadh | Wed Jan 25, 2017 at 4:43pm
Excellent read. Thanks Nick
Jane Benwell | Fri Mar 10, 2017 at 11:36am
HiHave had many years aboard cruisers but are now seriously contemplating a live aboard. Have seen some barges at 8'6" wide. Would this width still hold the same restrictions on cruising as a full wide beam? Also what sort of ball park price for this width by 65' long new. Also would like a rayburn or similar on board powered by red diesel for heating and cooking. Would this be a problem regarding the weight.Any help would be gratefully appreciated.RegardsJayne.
Whilton Marina | Mon Mar 20, 2017 at 2:02pm
Hello Jane, Yes an 8ft 6" boat will be classed as a widebeam and be restricted on certain canals. We do not sell new narrowboats so it would be best to talk to a narrowboat builder regarding costs, but we would suggest depending on build specification you budget between £1,500 and £2,000 per foot to build a new 8ft 6" 65ft boat. Yes you can use a Rayburn for cooking and heating on a narrowboat, but it must be a marine specification and fitted to Boat Safety Certification standards, the boat can be re-ballasted if necessary.
Karen | Thu Aug 17, 2017 at 3:05pm - this link may be of interest.
Whilton Marina | Mon Aug 21, 2017 at 3:06pm
Thanks Karen,The above is a link to a Waterways World map of the waterways showing where you can travel on a widebeamed boat, you will need to copy it into a web browser.

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