choosing the style of narrow boat you want to build, and answering all the
relevant questions you may have, the first real building step is the Shell.
This is a massive welding task, and should not be undertaken unless you
are more than confident in your metalworking abilities! There are many companies
who will be able to help with, or supply you with the shell pre-built. Click HERE for more information on just such a company. When choosing
the design of your shell, there are two important features which effect
the look of the boat and should be considered very carefully.
There are three main designs of stern used on Narrow boats. - Traditional,
Semi-Trad and Cruiser.
Traditional stern dates back to the heyday of narrow boating, when
the barges were used to carry goods around the country. This Style
incorporates a small rear deck, and hatchway into the body of the
boat. The helmsman stands in the hatchway in order to steer the boat,
leaving little or no room for a second person. Thus this design leaves
the rear of the boat a very solitary place, but does provide considerable
shelter from the wind and rain on poor days.
The Semi trad stern is an adaptation of the Traditional stern for
modern residential boats. Although the sides of the boat continue
back to the rear deck, the roof is cutaway, providing an area for
passengers to stand or sit with the helmsman, rather than leaving
the rear of the boat deserted. From the side or from a distance,
the barge can appear as if it is of a traditional style.
Cruiser Stern originates in hire boats, but is still popular among
private barges. It gives a large rear deck which can be adapted
to have seats along a rail at the rear, allowing many passengers
to use the rear of the boat while in motion. When parked, the rear
deck can accommodate folding chairs so that you can enjoy an evening
There are many variations on the design for conventional narrow boat bows,
although there are two common styles - Josher and Tug. Josher's are named
after Joshua Fellows, of "Fellows, Morton and Clayton", one
of the early carrying companies on britain's canals. The bows of these
boats are long and slender, and today will often be produced with false
rivets to simulate the style of the older barges construction methods.
Tugs on the other
hand will have a long foredeck, often ten feet or more in length. The
Design is based on that of the Tugs which were used to tow other craft
around the inland waterways. The problem with this style, is the space
that is wasted under this deck, which is of little use except for storage,
or child's beds (if they can cope with the cramped space!) But the style
is very distinctive, and is often a popular choice when the interior space
is not too much of an issue.
Although modern narrow boats often have large rectangular windows to maximize
the light inside, the traditional port holes are still popular among the
traditionalists, even though they often lead to a dull, gloomy interior.
An easy compromise for this is to use a combination of both, with portals
in the aft cabin. Also large glass skylights can alleviate this problem.
The Eco Hull
Eco Hull was designed by a team of researchers at a Scottish university,
which minimizes the drag.
Buying a Shell from a manufacturer
When buying a shell, if you decide that the welding task isn't
for you, then make sure you buy from a well known manufacturer, such as Boat Building UK, as buying a less well known, or poorer quality hull
may mean that the value of your boat depreciates in value quicker.