What Length Narrowboat Should I Buy/ Do I Need?

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Are you looking to buy a narrowboat but don’t know where to start? Choosing the right canal boat size and layout for your needs can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. In this blog post, we’ll provide some useful tips on how to choose the best size narrowboat for you. Whether you are a solo boater or a family of continuous cruisers, this article should be a great starting point when thinking about the size (and specifically length) of your new narrowboat. What size narrowboat to buy? Let’s find out…

5 Key Factors that Influence Narrowboat Size:

1. Number of People:

This one seems like an obvious one, I know, but I want to remind you of it all the same! If it’s just for one or two people, then a smaller boat will suffice. But if you have a family or plan on entertaining guests often, then you’ll need a larger boat to accommodate everyone comfortably. If I was purely going on the number of people on the boat, these are the sizes I would go for…

For a single person, it just depends on how much space you think you will need and is more a matter of personal preference. Some don’t mind and actually like living in a more compact space, so for them a narrowboat around the 20-30 foot range should be fine. But most single boaters end up around the 40-50 foot mark in my experience.

For two people (I assume they are a couple or comfortable sleeping together!), You should look more for 40-50 foot long narrowboats ideally.

For three to five people you would want to look at the larger narrowboats that are 50 foot and more. And personally,if I wanted more than five people, I would then look at a widebeam boat and steer clear of a narrowboat all together!

2. Continuous Cruiser VS Residential Mooring

After factoring in the number of people that will be on your narrowboat, you should then tweak this number dependent on whether you are going to be a continuous cruiser or live in a marina or other residential mooring. In a marina you have quick access to amenities such as shops and laundries etc. Whereas when continuous cruising you have less access to this. Also off-boat storage can be a thing when in a marina or residential mooring.

So if you are a continuous cruiser, I would add 5–10 feet to the size of your narrowboat to factor in the extra storage space you will probably need to keep you going when enjoying the more secluded nature of cruising.

3. Storage Needs

How much storage will you need? Will you be working from the boat or doing a hobby that requires extra space? Would you like to store a cargo trolley or e-bike on your boat? All of these things will require more storage space and thus a longer narrowboat.

4. Lock Size

Lock size plays a big part in the size of boat you can buy if you want to be a continuous cruiser of any type. So here’s a quick crash course to help you refine your narrowboat or canal boat dimensions 🙂

If you’re wondering what’s the longest narrowboat that can navigate all of the UK canals, the answer is up to 58ft in length. Narrowboats are the perfect vessel for cruises through the country’s waterways, and most of the canals are designed around them. However, once you start heading beyond the 58ft mark, you might encounter some issues navigating the waterways of Yorkshire, where some of the gaps between locks are too narrow for a longer vessel. For those who wish to explore the canals with a longer vessel, it’s advised to research the areas they plan to visit and make sure their boat fits the dimensions. Nevertheless, with over 2000 miles of navigable waterways in the UK, a 58ft narrowboat can take you on an unforgettable journey through some of the most picturesque and historic places in the country.

5. Budget.

Something a lot of people overlook when thinking about the length of narrowboat to buy, is the budget they have. This is because they don’t think about how different lengths can effect their costs. Did you know that the Canal and River Trust bases the cost of their licencing fee on the length of your narrowboat? So the longer you have the more you pay. The longer the boat, the more expensive it would be to moor at a marina too, as well as using more coal (or whatever fuel you use) to heat up the extra length. A longer boat needs more power to move and would therefore use up more diesel. I know this seems obvious, but you would be amazed at how many people don’t consider these simple facts when buying a boat 🙂

Well, that’s all folks. I hope reading this article has helped you work out the best narrow boat length or canal boat length that would work for your needs. You don’t want to take the plunge on an investment like a narrowboat and then find out it is too big or small 🙂


1 thought on “What Length Narrowboat Should I Buy/ Do I Need?”

  1. great informative site, covering all narrow boat solar options . Solar panel calculations for 4 season 1-2 person live -aboard on 40 foot narrow boat really suggest they handle 2kw or more to run most inside equipment daily. Is this right,? Good thing newer battery arrays now smallerl/more space efficient. CIGS flex panels under consideration.


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