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sailing in europe

I have a 52ft narrowboat with 1.5 BMC engine, would that be able to sail the european rivers and canals. If not, What would be the minimum requirements?

Asked by: david gibbons  | 6.54pm, Thursday 16 October

WW says:

I would strongly advise against a narrowboat on European waterways; they do not generally sit well on the much larger waterways: although on one such as the Canal dû Midi, they are more at home, larger, more commercial waterways, are not easy.
Narrowboats tend to cruise well at around 5mph maximum; which is well below the cruising speed of commercial vessels at 8 knots plus. This means large vessels overtaking with the associated wash.
A BL1.5 is also likely to struggle on faster flowing waterways and pushing against a stream- or even countering the wash of a large vessel, could be a challenge. If keel cooled (skin tank) and the size is too small, overheating is very likely. Also, with general increased temperatures due to a much warmer climate (and a good reason to cruise in Europe!) extra engine ventilation is likely- but care needs to be made that wash from a passing commercial craft cannot easily enter the vents, which could be disastrous. Even forced ventilation might be required.
Also, consider that a long, narrow boat (which, at that length, may struggle to find moorings in some places) and that if you could have a shorter, wider boat which is more seaworthy, and cheaper to run. Also, there are more regulations for boats over 15m in many countries, and many of the moorings, especially in Germany, for example, are geared to boats of this length, leaving longer craft on possibly exposed and uncomfortable commercial moorings.
Narrowboats have successfully cruised abroad (though don't even consider taking one across the sea under its own power!) but tend to be limited to the canals of the South; though the journey down can be quite interesting, assuming a launch in the north!
A wide beam, steel or grp cruiser style is ,more suitable for cruising these waters, hence their popularity. Most waterways on the continent are on a scale where Narrowboats are not the most sensible craft- though with care they can fit in, they are not the easiest option.
You might want to consider trying hiring, out of season, a cruiser on the European waterways, to see how it would be with a narrowboat... Depending on how much experience you have of these waterways, it can alter your idea of cruising a narrowboat on the continental waterways. Personally, I feel that a narrowboat on such large, commercial waterways are too underpowered, lack stability and can be a challenge to work with- however it's not impossible, but some modifications would have to be made to a standard narrowboat to make it useable abroad.

Mark Langley  | 10.23PM, Thursday 16 October

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