Jump to content

Boat Size & Waterways Advice Before Buying


Featured Posts

Hi all who have time to read and respond,

 

I have spent several weeks reading the invaluable information your members post here, the site is extremely useful and i think will soon become my bible and go to place when spending time on the world wide web.

 

So as per the forum i will be new to boating having only spent time on boats that were hired for week breaks with friends and family over the years. Im also a fisherman (self claimed) so canals have always been an interesting place for me.

 

Unfortunately due to wife's ill health i am reviewing the future and for me i see nothing better than a Narrow Boat on the waterways motoring along at my own pace taking in the great country side, meeting some new people along the way (hopefully friends in the making) and just taking life as stress free as possible and enjoying it more.

 

That said in my research i struggle to confirm the following so am looking for a little guidance/advice if possible.

 

1, Is it possible to navigate from the waterways of the South all the way to Scotland? even if it would take a long time im not concerned with that i would just like to know if it is possible?

I have found some waterway plans which seem to suggest it is possible but i was not sure.

 

2. If 1 above is YES, what is the best size boat?

I see a number of wide beam boats and they look fantastic for internal living space however i am not so sure how practical it would be trying to attempt question 1, im sure there are restrictions on boat sizes on some stretches of the waterways and locks. It would be ideal if someone could give me a better idea of ideal size to navigate all (if there is such a thing) or maybe a percentage breakdown per boat size.

 

3. On one thread I was interested to read that someone went to Scotland on there boat (from the North already from what i could see) and ended up in Ireland on the waterways? Would this have been transported or is there a suitable crossing location to get from England to Ireland?

 

O.k enough for now but im sure i will have plenty more where that came from. Please accept my thanks in advance for any time/response/advice you can offer and remember you were also a newbie at one point lol so be kind to this novice un educated potential boater.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Basically the answer is NO

 

With a Narrowboat you can go from South to North of Manchester(ish) / Leed(ish) With a wideboat you can get from (roughly) South to Leicester then you need to be lifted out and go from Leicester Northwards to North Manchester(ish) / Leed(ish) You can see a NARROW link from about Northampton to Leicester 

 

Hopefully these maps will show you what is connected to where.

 

Red = Widebeam canals

Green = Narrow canals

 

Narrowboats can obviously use wide canals but not vice-versa

 

 

Wide Canal map.gif

widebeam map 12 feet.png

Edited by Alan de Enfield
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 No

2 You cannot go from north to south England in a wide boat, only a narrow boat.

3 If you try to sail a flat bottomed boat to Ireland, you will drowned-get swept out of control- end up like the Spanish Armada. Or all 3.

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. No, there is a big gap between Rippon/South of Kendal and Scotland.

 

2. To navigate all the English canals, about 57ft 6in x 6ft 10"  although longer ones may get by with a struggle. Muxh over 2ft 6in draft may cause you problems in some places.

 

3. The northern canals and I think the Scottish canals and Irish are wide beam so with a suitable boat and the experience the passage could be made by sea but it would be very unwise to try it in an unmodified narrowboat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

That's just the kind of information I was hoping for, many thanks and super fast response.

 

So looking at the Map so kindly provided it maybe possible to navigate all the Green and Red waterways with a Maximum 7ft wide boat and get from say Bristol to Leeds and possibly via a Tidal River (guess would have a little more experience time i got all the way up there) possible as far North as Ripon?

 

Well i think that is plenty to be going on with lol.

 

Thank you guys again so much for the response that gives me something to work with at least. My wife is currently having treatment but unfortunately it cant be cured but at least this will give me something else to think about in the short term and long term at least a goal to aim for.

 

Much appreciated.

image.png.bf207e79ac09f743e74955291174d82f.png

  • Happy 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The maps Alan has posted show narrow and wide waterways, but don't indicate the maximum boat length.

A 70 ft long narrow boat can operate over the waterways of the south, midlands and northwest, but you are limited to a maximum length of around 57 ft 6 ins for some of the Yorkshire canals (and Leeds & Liverpool east of Wigan).

There are also couple of shorter length restrictions on the periphery of the Middle Level and River Lark, but these are remote enough not to affect most boaters.

 

And on the yellow map, take no notice of the "planned broad canals". They ain't going to happen in your lifetime or mine.

Edited by David Mack
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If I can help all I can add is that after living full time aboard for over 30 years due to health reasons I have just sold boat and downgraded to a house to live in :(

My health reasons mean I will be needing a lot of equipment looking forward so just take into consideration any future space you may need?

Suffice to say though that if you can manage then your lifestyle will be greatly better on a boat than land based so go for it if possible. Also buy the biggest boat that can cruise you decided on area ( within reason ) as space onboard is nice. For instance a 70 foot NB is way nicer to live on than 57 foot ( Years of experience of both ) and a so called Widebeam is even better ( experience again of living on one ) :cheers:

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, David Mack said:

The maps Alan has posted show narrow and wide waterways, but don't indicate the maximum boat length.

A 70 ft long narrow boat can operate over the waterways of the south, midlands and northwest, but you are limited to a maximum length of around 57 ft 6 ins for some of the Yorkshire canals (and Leeds & Liverpool east of Wigan).

There are also couple of shorter length restrictions on the periphery of the Middle Level and River Lark, but these are remote enough not to affect most boaters.

 

And on the yellow map, take no notice of the "planned broad canals". They ain't going to happen in your lifetime or mine.

 

 

The "Stanfords Inland Cruising Map Of England For Larger Craft" shows a map of the waterways and (in a table) details maximum lock sizes and maximum lock widths on the single chart.

 

It may well not be up to date.

 

For example It shows the River Gt Ouse lock width as being 10' 6" between Tempsford to Earith, or Shropshire Union at 13' 2".

It shows Max length on the Derwent as 55' and on the  L&L as 62'

and so on.

Edited by Alan de Enfield
Link to comment
Share on other sites

54 minutes ago, David Mack said:

The maps Alan has posted show narrow and wide waterways, but don't indicate the maximum boat length.

A 70 ft long narrow boat can operate over the waterways of the south, midlands and northwest, but you are limited to a maximum length of around 57 ft 6 ins for some of the Yorkshire canals (and Leeds & Liverpool east of Wigan).

There are also couple of shorter length restrictions on the periphery of the Middle Level and River Lark, but these are remote enough not to affect most boaters.

 

And on the yellow map, take no notice of the "planned broad canals". They ain't going to happen in your lifetime or mine.

As said above, 57'6" is the "official" limit, in reality a little longer will go almost everywhere with some extra care and hassle. The shortest locks on the mainstream network are at Salterhebble on the Calder & Hebble, multiple boaters have taken narrowboats up to 60' through but you need to know what you're doing, may need to lift bow/stern fenders and/or go down backwards, and prepare to get wet. If you're not confident with this, 57' or 58' is safer, which is why it's such a common length.

Edited by IanD
  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, mrsmelly said:

If I can help all I can add is that after living full time aboard for over 30 years due to health reasons I have just sold boat and downgraded to a house to live in :(

My health reasons mean I will be needing a lot of equipment looking forward so just take into consideration any future space you may need?

Suffice to say though that if you can manage then your lifestyle will be greatly better on a boat than land based so go for it if possible. Also buy the biggest boat that can cruise you decided on area ( within reason ) as space onboard is nice. For instance a 70 foot NB is way nicer to live on than 57 foot ( Years of experience of both ) and a so called Widebeam is even better ( experience again of living on one ) :cheers:

Thanks for the advice, unfortunately it’s not me who has the terminal illness it’s my wife, so when the time eventually comes I will be on the boat alone and the thought is to navigate the canals wherever and for as long as my health and funds of course allow I’m 48 and my with 41 so unfortunately I should have a number of years without her so will make the most of life and use the solitude for memories 👍

  • Sad 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 minutes ago, XxRICKYxX said:

Thanks for the advice, unfortunately it’s not me who has the terminal illness it’s my wife, so when the time eventually comes I will be on the boat alone and the thought is to navigate the canals wherever and for as long as my health and funds of course allow I’m 48 and my with 41 so unfortunately I should have a number of years without her so will make the most of life and use the solitude for memories 👍

I hope you make some great memories and quickly find the boat with your name on it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you and everyone else who have given such great advice, like I said this is a long term plan and I’m sure between now and then I will be reading many of your posts and advice forums while I’m sure adding many questions along the way but to start with it is good to know the limitations and not to get too carried away with a massive boat that will only allow me on a few of the waterways when a more modest and sensible size boat would allow me to navigate so much more.

 

thanks again to everyone, it’s also great to know that the canal boating community is such a nice one.

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

25 minutes ago, XxRICKYxX said:

Thank you and everyone else who have given such great advice, like I said this is a long term plan and I’m sure between now and then I will be reading many of your posts and advice forums while I’m sure adding many questions along the way but to start with it is good to know the limitations and not to get too carried away with a massive boat that will only allow me on a few of the waterways when a more modest and sensible size boat would allow me to navigate so much more.

 

thanks again to everyone, it’s also great to know that the canal boating community is such a nice one.

Going by your posts you really want to see as much of the canals as possible as your first priority -- a true "continuous cruiser" not a pretend one. You also want to plan ahead for when the inevitable happens and you're a solo boater 😞

 

This really does suggest a 57-58' narrowboat, which should be fine for two of you. A wideboat offers more space but will restrict not just north-south region transfers but also stop you exploring the narrow canals, some of which are undoubtedly the highlights of the UK system.

 

It would also restrict you to wide-lock canals, which (speaking from experience) are a harder work with a wideboat than a narrowboat (narrow-lock ones with a narrowboat are easiest of all) especially when there are only two of you on the boat, and *much* harder if you're on your own.

 

Good luck 🙂

Edited by IanD
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also bear in mind that lots of people join this forum saying they want to buy a boat that can:"cruise the whole system" but then once on the boat many of them rarely venture further than their local stretch of canal.

 

I'm not saying that's you or that there's necessarily anything wrong with not moving very far on one's boat. But there tends to be quite a big gap between stated aims at the outset compared to actual lock miles covered amongst many newbie canal boaters..

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

Basically the answer is NO

 

With a Narrowboat you can go from South to North of Manchester(ish) / Leed(ish) With a wideboat you can get from (roughly) South to Leicester then you need to be lifted out and go from Leicester Northwards to North Manchester(ish) / Leed(ish) You can see a NARROW link from about Northampton to Leicester 

 

Hopefully these maps will show you what is connected to where.

 

Red = Widebeam canals

Green = Narrow canals

 

Narrowboats can obviously use wide canals but not vice-versa

 

 

Wide Canal map.gif

 

 

I would say that most of those planned widebeam extensions are not plans at all but somebodies fantasy of what they would like to see.

The upper Avon navigation has been discussed for years and gone nowhere, there is fierce local opposition. It would be good if it did happen.

The Leicester Arm? Foxton locks are pretty much a national monument, is anybody really going to demolish them and build new wide locks?

The Northampton arm would also require destruction of existing narrow locks even though these are maybe less treasured.

The Bedford Link is the only one with any prospect but has thankfully lost its impetus of late, and would not really offer a North-South link anyway.

 

I propose a narrow canal from Bath down to Cornwall, can we put that on this map please. 😀

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, XxRICKYxX said:

Thanks for the advice, unfortunately it’s not me who has the terminal illness it’s my wife, so when the time eventually comes I will be on the boat alone and the thought is to navigate the canals wherever and for as long as my health and funds of course allow I’m 48 and my with 41 so unfortunately I should have a number of years without her so will make the most of life and use the solitude for memories 👍

From what you have said, that is the most likely course of events, but it is not a certainty.

 

Everyone in my wife's family assumed that due to their age difference, women's generally greater lifespan, my father-in-law's history of heart attacks and his cancer that he would pass before his barely-a-day-ever-in-hospital wife. But she died suddenly of a stroke brought on by an undiagnosed brain tumour, and he has been widowed for almost 5 years.

 

So what I mean is that you should give some consideration to what would happen if you predecease your wife. Because I doubt that she will be able to continue living on the boat alone.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, blackrose said:

Also bear in mind that lots of people join this forum saying they want to buy a boat that can:"cruise the whole system" but then once on the boat many of them rarely venture further than their local stretch of canal.

 

I'm not saying that's you or that there's necessarily anything wrong with not moving very far on one's boat. But there tends to be quite a big gap between stated aims at the outset compared to actual lock miles covered amongst many newbie canal boaters..

 

All of which is true. But buying a boat wider than 7 ft will restrict you to the southern waterways or the northern waterways or the east anglian waterways (unless you move from one area to another by truck). Whereas buying a narrowboat longer than 57ft 6 will exclude some of the Yorkshire waterways, but will still give you access to the vast majority of the connected network.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, blackrose said:

Also bear in mind that lots of people join this forum saying they want to buy a boat that can:"cruise the whole system" but then once on the boat many of them rarely venture further than their local stretch of canal.

 

I'm not saying that's you or that there's necessarily anything wrong with not moving very far on one's boat. But there tends to be quite a big gap between stated aims at the outset compared to actual lock miles covered amongst many newbie canal boaters..

I have been on the Warwickshire ring, the Leeds and Liverpool and the Grand Union into London and each had there own varied appeal, I would not wish to stay in one place when there are so many places to explore. Hence my questions regarding waterways and suitable boat sizes to navigate as much as possible over a prolonged period.

 

but I do get where your coming from 👍

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, David Mack said:

From what you have said, that is the most likely course of events, but it is not a certainty.

 

Everyone in my wife's family assumed that due to their age difference, women's generally greater lifespan, my father-in-law's history of heart attacks and his cancer that he would pass before his barely-a-day-ever-in-hospital wife. But she died suddenly of a stroke brought on by an undiagnosed brain tumour, and he has been widowed for almost 5 years.

 

So what I mean is that you should give some consideration to what would happen if you predecease your wife. Because I doubt that she will be able to continue living on the boat alone.

I would love to think that I will go before her however her maximum term is 2yrs if we are lucky. She had has had the cancer come

back 3 times now despite radical surgery at such a young age. She is now a neck breather and it is extremely unlikely that she would go near a boat or any water past knee height as if she feel in she would drown as the hole she breaths threw in her neck is open directly to her lungs so you see this is a long term plan for myself as I don’t feel I could stay in our house without her. I used to have a boat back in my late teens in Scotland where I would go fishing with my uncle from Blackburn and fish the Leeds/Liverpool canal most weekends so this is why I’m drawn back to this when my life is turn upside down.

 

But again thank you for the advice I do really appreciate everyone’s comments/advice and responses 👌

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, David Mack said:

 

All of which is true. But buying a boat wider than 7 ft will restrict you to the southern waterways or the northern waterways or the east anglian waterways (unless you move from one area to another by truck). Whereas buying a narrowboat longer than 57ft 6 will exclude some of the Yorkshire waterways, but will still give you access to the vast majority of the connected network.

I think a narrowboat 57ft 6” would be the most suitable and allow me to roam more while most likely being more manageable alone as a novice. A wide beam large boat would I’m sure be more comfortable however it seems very restrictive on waterways and also I’m sure much more to maintain and manage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Be sure to arrange an income to survive on.

Budget for much the same level of expenditure as now, on a boat you will not pay council tax, but will have much higher fuel and maintance costs, so it all pretty much balances out.

With current interest rates, it may be better to rent out your house, via an agent, than to rely on a lump sum in the bank.

 

Bod

  • Greenie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also very useful advice, fortunately I would not be needing to sell our house, I have the wife's parents (the dreaded in-laws) who live in an annex here and our 3 boys too, I intend for them all to use the house as couples or individuals and will most likely sell one of our rental properties and live from the income of the other coupe we currently have. Finances are not really the biggest concern fortunately however we have to be sensible and take everything into account, Certainly not millionaires lol and money can soon get swallowed up as in all life choices if things are not planned for in advance hence the work i am embarking on now in advance. Thanks for the pointers Patron definitely something to think about and budget for along with mooring fees, boat repairs, annual insurances and required certifications etc oh and the pressed apple stuff - like apple juice but for grown ups lol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, XxRICKYxX said:

I think a narrowboat 57ft 6” would be the most suitable and allow me to roam more while most likely being more manageable alone as a novice. A wide beam large boat would I’m sure be more comfortable however it seems very restrictive on waterways and also I’m sure much more to maintain and manage.

I've spent a fair amount of time on narrowboats on both broad and narrow canals, and recently a week on a wideboat on the L&L with just two of us onboard -- meaning, just me to do the locks.

 

A narrowboat on a narrow canal is the easy life; the gates are smaller lighter and easier to move, you can often step across one open gate to cross sides, the boat doesn't bang from side to side in the lock (no room!) when it fills.

 

A narrowboat on a wide canal is harder; the gates are bigger/heavier/harder to move (some are complete gits for a single person, like on the Soar), they're all doubles, and sometimes a pain where one persists in swinging open and it's on the side you're not on -- but at least it's often possible to open just one gate, if you're careful not to hit the edge of the closed one when you enter/leave the lock. They often don't have boards to cross on so you have to walk all the way round the lock if you need to get to the other side to open paddles/close gates, then back again. You often need to use ropes to hold the boat against the lock wall when filling to stop it banging across the lock -- yes sometimes if you're careful about opening the paddles (sequence and which side) you can get away without this, but sometimes it's necessary -- unless you're sharing the lock with another narrowboat, which is nice because it also shares the work 🙂 None of which is a problem if there are (for example) four of you on the boat -- you can have one each side of the lock -- but make for a lot more work and effort with only two, and more still single-handing.

 

A wideboat on a wide canal is a PITA in comparison, and not one I'd choose again with only two people. Apart from the gates being harder to move (some are terrible!) you have to open and close *both* gates both entering and leaving the lock, and often also cross sides to do the paddles (walking right around the lock), and more often use a rope when going up because you can't share the lock -- and Murphy's law says this will be the opposite side to the one you've just walked around to to close the gate/paddle. I found last week on the L&L was enjoyable but also the hardest week I've ever had on the canals, considerably harder work than a narrowboat on the Soar and other wide canals -- four people would have been *much* easier, two was hard work, one would be harder still.

 

And you don't even have the option of going on easier narrow canals, you're stuck with wide ones all the time. Again not a problem if -- like many wideboats -- you hardly ever move or only do so occasionally, but if you want to travel round the system (like you say you do) you need to be aware of this. The travelling is harder work on some of the so-called wide canals than a narrowboat, due to poor dredging, moored boats, and the fact that you're pushing something that's basically a wide steel brick through restricted water -- again not an issue on some broad canals and rivers (yes Peterboat, I mean you...) but it certainly is on others.

 

I'm sure people will come on and say "Don't worry, all this can be managed if you know what you're doing" (which I hope I do...) and this is true, but the increased workload on wide canals and especially with a wideboat is still very noticeable with a small crew.

 

Wideboats are great if you want/need the space, don't move much (or only on the few really wide/deep canals or rivers), and preferably have more than two people on board when cruising.

 

This doesn't sound like what you want, which -- as you say -- looks to be a 58' narrowboat 😉

Edited by IanD
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, IanD said:

 

A wideboat on a wide canal is a PITA in comparison, and not one I'd choose again with only two people. Apart from the gates being harder to move (some are terrible!) you have to open and close *both* gates both entering and leaving the lock, and often also cross sides to do the paddles (walking right around the lock), and more often use a rope when going up because you can't share the lock -- and Murphy's law says this will be the opposite side to the one you've just walked around to to close the gate/paddle. I found last week on the L&L was enjoyable but also the hardest week I've ever had on the canals, considerably harder work than a narrowboat on the Soar and other wide canals -- four people would have been *much* easier, two was hard work, one would be harder still.

 

And you don't even have the option of going on easier narrow canals, you're stuck with wide ones all the time. Again not a problem if -- like many wideboats -- you hardly ever move or only do so occasionally, but if you want to travel round the system (like you say you do) you need to be aware of this. The travelling is harder work on some of the so-called wide canals than a narrowboat, due to poor dredging, moored boats, and the fact that you're pushing something that's basically a wide steel brick through restricted water -- again not an issue on some broad canals and rivers (yes Peterboat, I mean you...) but it certainly is on others.

 

I'm sure people will come on and say "Don't worry, all this can be managed if you know what you're doing" (which I hope I do...) and this is true, but the increased workload on wide canals and especially with a wideboat is still very noticeable with a small crew.

 

Wideboats are great if you want/need the space, don't move much (or only on the few really wide/deep canals or rivers), and preferably have more than two people on board when cruising.

 

😉

 

I've got to disagree with much of this and also question how much experience you really have moving wide boats.

 

For starters although of course you have to open and close both sets of lock gates, with a wide boat you often don't have to walk around the lock because you can simply walk across the deck of the boat to get from one side of the lock to the other, (depending of course on how wide the boat is).

 

I do agree with you that a moving a wide boat is generally going to be harder work, but I've moved mine (57' x12') single handed on the southern GU, Paddington arm, tidal and non-tidal Thames, the whole of the K&A, the Severn from Gloucester up to Tewkesbury, the whole of the Warks Avon and much of the River Nene. All single handed. I was craned out to get from the Avon to the Nene.

 

My boat draws 2'2" at the skeg which is less than a lot of narrowboats and on the wide canals I've never scraped the bottom or had a problem getting into the side to moor.

 

It doesn't sound like a widebeam would be the right boat for the OP anyway, so as far as this thread is concerned these issues are moot points, but as you say yourself with a wide boat "all of this can be managed if you know what you're doing".

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.