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Beginner Guide to Narrowboats

Oct 2023, by Aquavista


This specialist and widely-loved type of canal boat provides a comfortable and peaceful retreat for boat lovers looking to enjoy life in the slow lane.

Click the button below to view our narrowboats for sale, or scroll down to learn more about narrowboats, what they are, and why you should buy one.

What is a Narrowboat?

A narrowboat is a long and slender type of canal boat designed for the UK’s narrow canals. They’re steered with a tiller rather than a wheel and have a maximum width of 2.1 metres and a length of 21.3 metres. 

Narrowboats were originally used to transport goods and raw materials from place to place along the narrow canals and waterways of the United Kingdom. 

From their humble origins as working supply vessels, narrowboats have evolved into popular recreational and residential watercraft.

What's the Difference Between a Narrowboat and a Widebeam Boat?


Something to be aware of when considering a narrowboat to traverse the canals is that they must have a maximum beam of 6 feet 10 inches. Wider beamed vessels will not be permitted for use on the canal system.

Widebeam boats have a much larger width and are unable to travel along canals but are used commonly on rivers and other waterways. 

These types of boats provide more living space and have a greater sense of openness.

While narrowboats are built to navigate canals, widebeam boats are much more spacious, making them ideal for use as a full-time liveaboard. 

Narrowboats, however, hold their own unique charm and offer a more traditional and authentic boating experience.


Can You Live on a Narrowboat?

One of the most appealing aspects of narrowboats is their suitability for use as a place to live. Many individuals and families choose to live on a narrowboat as a permanent or semi-permanent residence. 

Along with being an affordable and minimalist option, living on a narrowboat provides a simple, relaxed way of life while being surrounded by nature and avoiding the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Before investing in a narrowboat, potential owners will want to consider the practical aspects of living aboard full-time.

At Aquavista, we offer residential moorings that give residential boaters a registered UK postal address and all the amenities you’d need in a neighbourhood. Be sure to click the link to learn more about living on a boat full-time in one of our moorings.


Pros of Buying a Narrowboat

Owning a narrowboat will give you access to the UK’s extensive canal system, which allows for travel up and down the country and to many major towns and cities.

Along with being able to access different parts of the country, the perks of narrowboat ownership also include:


Calm Lifestyle

Narrowboats offer a peaceful escape from everyday life. 

Living on a narrowboat allows you to immerse yourself in nature, wake up to stunning views, and enjoy the tranquillity of the waterways. 

Those looking for a peaceful and quiet existence will appreciate the relaxed pace of narrowboat living.


Flexibility and Adventure

With a narrowboat, you have the freedom to explore a vast network of canals and waterways up and down the country. 

For those will a sense of adventure and curiosity, there are endless possibilities for travel and discovery. 

Embark on exciting journeys, visit different towns and cities, and meet new people along the way.


Cost-Effective Living

Narrowboat living has seen an increase in numbers over the past decade as it is an affordable alternative to traditional housing. 

There are some initial costs that will need to be paid when purchasing a narrowboat, and there are ongoing expenses such as mooring fees and maintenance. 

But overall, living on a narrowboat can be more affordable when compared to conventional housing costs.



Sailing down the canals is a great way to meet new people and other boaters. 

The narrowboat community is known for its friendly and supportive atmosphere. 

Living on a narrowboat gives you the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and participate in many social gatherings, such as parties, canal festivals, and other community events.


Cons of Buying a Narrowboat

For those who spend leisure time or live permanently aboard, the drawbacks of owning a narrowboat are few, but new owners should give consideration to them before committing to a purchase.


Space Restrictions

Narrowboats offer a compact and cosy living environment, but space can sometimes feel limited. 

Storage can be challenging, and you'll need to be selective with your belongings and maximize available room and cubby holes. 

If you’re looking for a more spacious lifestyle while living on the water, you can opt for Dutch barges or wide-beam boats - although they’ll be limited on their cruising opportunities.



A narrowboat, like any other mechanised vehicle, will require regular maintenance and upkeep.

Along with engine maintenance and repairs, you'll need to invest time and effort into keeping your narrowboat in good condition. 

Allow for painting, blacking, anode replacement, and, in some cases, over-plating will be necessary to reinforce the hull.


Limited Amenities

Cruising on a narrowboat for a week or two at a time is a pleasant experience. But living on a narrowboat will take a bit more planning. 

Narrowboats contain all the essentials for daily living, such as water, electricity, and an internet connection, but these may be more limited than in traditional homes. 

Adapting to a simpler lifestyle may feel different at first and things like water tank refilling and waste disposal will need to be incorporated into daily life.

At Aquavista, our moorings, including residential and leisure moorings, provide enhanced amenities to make boating life easier.

For instance, our Brinklow Waterside Marina has toilet and show facilities, a herb garden, community events, recycling facilities, BBQ stations, laundry facilities, and even a customer lounge.


Buying a Narrowboat with Aquavista

If you're planning to try the narrowboat lifestyle, Aquavista can assist you. 

As a truster broker with extensive boating experience, we offer a wide range of narrowboats for sale. 

From fully equipped residential vessels to holiday cruisers, Aquavista can help you find the perfect vessel to suit your needs. 

Our team of experts will guide you through the complete process of buying a narrowboat, and ensure a seamless and enjoyable buying experience.

We’ll even find you a place to live at one of our 18 residential marinas, available in locations across the UK like Warwickshire, Lancashire, and even London

Contact us today to see how we can help make your boating dreams a reality.


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