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narrowboats: centre-cockpit design?

I have recently read G Booth's book on narrowboat planning. Many of the ideas can be taken in when contemplating a centre-cockpit design (canal users seem to call this a dutch barge arrangement - pardon my sea-sailing parlance!)but I imagine there are other ideas and considerations to be borne in mind? Do you have any suggestions where such information might be found?
A second issue: I plan to spend periods of up to a couple of months cruising and a narrowboat is of course just that - NARROW! Are there any clever techniques for reducing any feelings of claustrophobia (a widebeam is a problem, since it cuts the cruising area in half!)
Any help/guidance you can provide would be gratefully received. Thank you, in anticipation - Tony.

Asked by: Tony Perris  | 9.49pm, Tuesday 28 December

WW says:

Centre-cockpit on canal and river boats is used in the moer sea-going way- as a cruiser/narrowboat with a wheelhouse/cockpit at the centre, and, sometimes, a further cockpit well forward or aft. However, a centred-cockpit narrowboat would not be the same as a "narrowbeam dutch-barge style boat with aft cabin"; though this is down purely to the shape of the cabin and hull profile.
several centre-cockpit narrowboats have been made over the years, with differing methods of success, although the second-hand market takes a dim view of them and values them accordingly.
One of the main considerations with any wheelhoused boat on canals, is that of both air draft, and , less directly, tumblehome of the cabin and wheelhouse. Most fixed wheelhouse boats have to either have very low cabins, and then not full-height wheelhouse (unless the engine is shifted somewhere else and hydraulic drive is used) or need a collabsible wheelhouse. bearing in mind that many narrow canals have low bridges (and tunnels) this may have to be frequently raised and lowered, or cruised with the roof down.
Another aspect is that some wheel steering systems don't lend themselves well to manouvering long thin steel craft in confined quarters, with the degree of accuracy afforded by tillers- one reason that the second hand market doesn't like them so much!
A look at the other WW publications, such as the updated Inland Boat Owners book and the Narrowboat Builders books will give more advice on the dimension issues- Waterscape is useful for downloading the whole BW navigation guidelines/dimensions as well, to that your chosen craft can go everywhere!
as for the space issue- narrowboats aren't that claustrophobic- indeed, many yachts i have crewed over the years (and a number of motor cruisers) have been far more oppressive below decks!
Choosing a light colour scheme, muted finishes, ample light (consider roof hatches and prism deck lights) and not trying to cover every bit of cabin space with shelving really does help, as well as variable lighting- a mix of bright light to work by, reading lights and discrete accent lighting, such as under-gunnel and cupboard lights.
If you chose a "narrowbeam dutch barge" style boat, the near vertical cabin sides can feel more spacious, but at the potential loss of external asthetics, if not done well. Vertical cabin sides also mean less headroom, as the cabin cannot be as tall, unless you proportinately increase the draft.
making sure that the boat is both not split into too many cabins (which increases the boxiness of the interior) and, converselty, isn't just one large open-plan space (which accenuates the length, and makes the beam feel smaller).
For the best ideas, go aboard as many different narrowboats, dutch barges and those inbetween, and see what makes you feel good about an interior.
Hope that helps- if you have any more specific questions, just let us know!

Mark Langley  | 1.23PM, Wednesday 29 December

Readers say:

Thanks for this helpful & informative reply - just the job!

Tony Perris  | 2.03PM, Wednesday 29 December

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