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Lock length restrictions

I am considering purchasing a 70 ft narrowboat. What canal systems will I not be able to use? I believe there are some locks that can not accommodate a 70ft. What is the longest boat length to be able to travel the whole UK system.

Asked by: richard druitt  | 5.25pm, Wednesday 31 July

WW says:

You will be unable to navigate the Huddesfield Broad, the Leeds and Liverpool from Wigan to Leeds (you can go to Liverpool though), but a large part of the system is open to a full legth boat. Locking is easier with a 70ft boat especially on narrow canals, as there is not spare room for the boat to move around too much!
56 or 57ft is the go anywhere length.

Rupert Smedley  | 7.36PM, Wednesday 31 July

There are a very few canals that won't accommodate 70dt boats in Europe- depends how far you want to go.
However, a Narrowboat is not really a suitable craft for the majority of navigations in Europe- though they might be at almost home on the Canal du Midi, the larger rivers and canals are not great for Narrowboats- and they can be badly affected by the movement of other craft. Wider craft are more stable- and you have no advantage having a narrow beam vessel in Europe. Some people have taken Narrowboats abroad, but they are far from ideal craft to have- they are not set up for working big commercial navigations.
Plus it is quite expensive to get your boat abroad- and Narrowboats are mor certainly not suitable for crossing the channel under their own power. As most Narrowboats are category D, they could even be impounded on arrival in Framce as being unsuitable craft. Having taken even fairly seaworthy Dutch barges to see, including channel crossings, I would not even contemplate taking a Narrowboat across- and I doubt, even if you hold relevant qualifications, that any insurance company would touch you. Plus you would then have to conform to SOLAS XII as well...
If you want to cruise abroad, choose something wider (why restrict yourself to a narrowbeam boat) and shorter! Also, if you go over 15metres in length you can face a whole extra range of legal requirements for some waterways.

Mark Langley  | 11.14PM, Wednesday 31 July

Readers say:

Many thanks for this advice - seems a long 70 footer can navigate almost all the UK system then. Do you have any idea if there is restrictions in Europe for a 70 footer??

richard druitt  | 8.02PM, Wednesday 31 July

I'm currently designing my own boat from scratch and boat length is a good important consideration. Some friends of mine had a boat built a few years ago and line aboard. They limited themselves to 58ft so they could cruise the canal network but in truth they just haven't done it and not encountered any shorter locks. All these years they could have had 12 to 13ft of extra living space! My dilemma was how long a boat and I've still not decided, apparently though the shorter 58ft locks on the system are 2 boat widths wide and so a 62ft boat can it's told be shoe horned in diagonally!

richardw66  | 11.51AM, Tuesday 26 November

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