The Narrowboat

A brief guide to The Canterbury

The Layout Of The Narrowboat

Below is an illustration of how The Canterbury was laid out. I've tried my best to give a good idea of the proportions of the narrwboat, but this diagram is far from a precise scale drawing. The length of The Canterbury was about sixty-eight foot (about twenty-one metres), and the width must have been a little under seven foot (about two metres).

illustration: An overview graphic of the narrowboat, with numbers placed over the relevant sections as described below.

Key to plan

1 - Front of the boat, including water tank and butane.

2 - Single bed (sleeping place of Bobby).

3 - Single bed (sleeping place of Finbar).

4 - Bunk bed (sleeping places of Mark and Ben).

5 - Bathroom with bath, shower, basin and toilet.

6 - Seating area / double bed (sleeping place of Rizwan).

7 - Worktop, cupboards and fridge-freezer.

8 - Gas stove / oven and kitchen sink.

9 - Seating area / double bed (sleeping place of Mike).

10 - Bathroom with bath, shower, basin and toilet.

11 - Bunk bed (sleeping place of John) and boat control panels.

12 - Back of the boat, including tiller, and access to diesel engine.

Living On The Boat

The Canterbury is a narrowboat capable of housing ten people (although, at maximum capacity, four of those people will be paired into two double beds). The beds are comfortable but only just large enough to sleep in if you're six-foot-two. Because of the little spotlights each of the single beds (places #2 and #3 on the plan) at the front of the boat has, I decided to sleep the other way so I didn't bang my face on the spotlight each morning. But Finbar rested his head at the end with a spotlight, and he didn't suffer any 40W-bulb imprints during the week. With wardrobe and cupboard space in each sleeping area it's possible to store most of your luggage neatly.

link to photo: The Canterbury

The kitchen area has a gas oven and stove, a large steel sink, a fridge-freezer and enough worktops to prepare enough food for four or five people at a time. The fridge is capable of holding eight cans of ale, a couple of 2-litre Coke bottles, four 500ml bottles of Metz, two cartons of orange juice and maybe a packet of cheese and some milk.

The boat has two bathroom areas, each one featuring a bath and shower, a basin and a toilet. The toilets can be used for about half a week before a pump-out of the sewage tanks under the boat is necessary. A pump-out can be performed at certain facilities points, and will cost between five and ten pounds per tank. This means that the more constipated traveller will make a saving, while those who could shit for Olympic gold will need to take an extra wad of cash. You have to make sure you check the effluent level occasionally, because once a bathroom's tank is full you will not be able to use that bathroom's toilet until you have the tank pumped out, and if that happens with four hours before the next pump-out facility, you'll end up in the shit, unable to to take a shit.

After someone's taken a shower, it's more than likely that the bathroom will become a small flood district, water pooling all over floor as wet people drip carelessly all over the place. Keep this in mind before stepping into a surprisingly warm and steamy bathroom wearing only socks on your feet.

The front of the boat is a great place to sit and chat in nice weather, the tranquil canal setting proving to be incredibly calming. At each side of the front of the boat is a raised section that, as well as serving as a seating unit for a couple of people, opens to reveal storage for things like mooring pegs and paddle keys. Further forward than that is a section that opens to reveal the store for the butane canisters that provide the stove with gas. Above that is the steel front to the boat, including the cover to the water tank, and the mooring rope.

link to photo: The new water-tank cap

The main section of the boat has a built-in radio / tape system with speakers at each end of the main cabin. You can also rent a television, but usually you'll find no way of receiving a strong enough signal to watch anything on it.

At the back of the boat is the tiller and the throttle, used to steer the boat and vary the power to the engine, and enough space to have up to six people standing and sitting, although the steersman will find it hard to see or steer if the back of the boat is that popular (and the front may well lift out of the water slightly because of all the weight at the rear, causing possibility of grounding the back of the boat). Also at the back is access to the diesel engine that drives the boat, and to the propeller. This is necessary in case someone decides to drive the rear of the boat through reeds and gunk, and the propeller gets excess organic material wrapped round it.

link to photo: Everyone at the back of the boat

Just down the steps inside the rearmost sleeping cabin (place #11 on plan) is the collection of controls for the boat. These include control of the inverter (which uses energy from the diesel engine to produce 240V A.C. supply to plug sockets inside the boat), control of the boat's radiator heating, and ignition for the engine. Also in this rear cabin is the isolator switch that cuts the engine (and you must isolate the power before examining the engine).

link to photo: We have ignition