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Home » Product & Planning Guide » Buying Guide » Stern Types on a Narrowboat or Canal Boat


Integral to deciding on your shell construction or aesthetics is to consider the different types of stern design available.

Here we explore these differences in stern design and try to help you decide which option will be best for you.

The traditional stern canal boat is a reflection of the old working boats that plied their trade around the waterways network. Boats were built to carry cargo and living accomodation was secondary so therefore every inch of cabin space was utilised.

To steer the boats, all that was needed was a small rear deck or counter to stand on whilst the tiller or elum was manipulated. The small rear deck allowed the rear cabin space to be maximised and for modern day boats the same applies.

With engines and drive gear either in a separate engine room or cleverly concealed beneath the counter, this stern style is probably the most commonly seen around the network. The pricipal disadvantage is that there is really only enough room for the steerer to stand & steer, with other passengers either confined to the cabin or seated up to 60 feet away in the bow.
In the early transitional days of the waterways network moving from commercial to leisure use, builders and designers responded to the need for more social deck space by developing the cruiser stern.

A common sight around the network & especially popular with hire fleet operators for their holiday customers, the cruiser stern canal boat provides a pleasant deck area for seating for all the family.

The engine is accessed through deck boards and makes routine checks & maintenance a far more pleasant experience than on those traditional stern boats that have the engine partially concealed under the counter deck. Extenal space is gained at the expense of internal cabin area so this is a trade worth considering when you are choosing what will be best for you. Often the stern is enclosed by a safety rail which can be surrounded by a canvas skirt or covered with a hood or dodger for added security & comfort.
The semi-traditional stern is a compromise between the traditional stern and cruiser stern style canal boat.

Viewed from the side, the boat appears to be of the traditional design but in reality the builder has created an extended cockpit which provides both shelter, storage and room for a passenger or two to cruise with the steerer.

Access to the engine is generally good via deck boards and security & comfort can be improved by the addition of a canvas tonneau covers or dodger hood.
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