The Various Types Of Canal Boat You Will Encounter On The Waterways

One of the great appeals of life on the canals is the variety of craft you see meandering up and down the waterways, each one unique as their owners. If you’re new to cruising the canals you may come across some rather interesting sights.

The traditional narrowboat

Kicking things off is the traditional narrowboat, so-called because of its 6ft 10in beam, allowing it to cruise the entire length and breadth of the inland waterways network, should you choose to do so.

What sets the traditional style narrowboat aside from other narrowboats can be located at the stern of the vessel. A traditional narrowboat has a small external deck, usually with just enough room for two at the tiller.

The advantages of this are that the extra space can be utilised more internally, making this style an ideal houseboat.

Semi-traditional narrowboats

Much like the traditional narrowboat, the semi-traditional (or semi-trad as they’re usually referred to as) has the minimal rear decking of the traditional style, but with an additional enclosed seating area either side of the cabin entrance.


A cruiser is a narrow or wide-beam (we’ll get onto those in a moment) with a larger railed stern section with additional seating making them ideal for external socialising. Cruisers are great recreational boats perfect for… well, cruising!


A tug narrowboat had an extended front deck area, traditionally designed for towing. The extended deck is great for boaters who value more time spent outside whilst on the waterways. The added external room comes at a price, namely the cabin space.

Wide-beam boats

Much like a narrowboat in design but, as the name suggests, wider! Beams on these vessels can extend up to 14ft, making their cabin space much roomier. As a result, a lot of owners tend to use these boats as live-aboard vessels, in fact, some liveaboard wide-beam boats are practically floating, luxury apartments.

Dutch barges

Larger than traditional British canal boats, Dutch barges were originally designed to carry cargo along the shallow rivers of the Netherlands. Typically they feature a gaff rig sail and a bluff (broad and flat) bow and stern.

Their large size sees them as more of a liveaboard craft, as opposed to a cruising vessel, as navigating the waterways with their increased length and beam is trickier.

The realms of the bizarre

As alluded to earlier on in this article, life on the waterways is unique, as are many of the people who spend their time on them.

It’s only fair to expect that their chosen vessels would match their idioms, and at times they can be pretty eccentric, with everything from GRP cruisers and even oil rig escape pods…(Yes you read that right!) gracing the canals.

If you’re inspired to take to the waterways as a lifestyle or as a practical alternative to land-based living then contact Collingwood Boat Builders today.

We will talk you through planning the design of your very own waterways escape and then use all our expertise in the boat building industry to make your dream come to life in steel!

For more on our boat building services, be sure to check out our ranges.