There is a wide variety of bed types to chose from on your narrowboat. The option you choose will be dependent on the size of your canal boat. Some canal boats will be large enough to accommodate a free standing bed, but many narrow boats will have the bed fitted to the available space, either as a cross bed or lengthways bed.

Fixed king size bed on a wide beam, fitted with a standard mattress
Fixed lengthways bed on a narrowboat, using a 4ft mattress, available from most bed suppliers
Under tug deck bed on a narrowboat that can be pulled out when required

Beds & Mattresses… Choices, Choices

Beds on narrow boats, by necessity, come in a variety of types.

Wide beam craft have no real issues in this area, the only restriction being the 10 to 13 foot width!

Narrow beam craft suffer with lack of space and therefore builders have to devise some creative solutions.

It’s important to know that you are not restricted to standard mattress sizes. Specialist companies will customise small additions to full custom sizes so the only restriction is your imagination. Your builder will advise you of what he is capable of but we thought we’d give you some ideas to ponder.

The “standard” beds are either lengthways or cross double.

Both are common installations, the lengthways bed usually using a standard 4’ wide mattress generally available from most bed suppliers. The benefit is that a base is easy to DIY construct and that the mattress is off the shelf. Beds can be left made up and linen is widely available. You are sleeping aligned with the bow up attitude of the boat and when correctly ballasted the mattress will remain level. The disadvantage is principally the width restriction; on a narrowboat to allow a gangway past the bed, the maximum width is 4 foot which is 6 inches less than a standard double bed which can take a bit of getting used to! Also one occupant will be against the cabin side and this can mean a clamber over the other occupant when getting in and out of bed!

Cross doubles utilise the bed running across the boat. Usually the bottom of the bed is cleverly hinged to fold away during the day. The mattress is in two, or sometimes three sections which are also cleverly stowed on the best designs. This means a full standard width bed of 4’6” can be achieved and even 5’ and 6’ mattresses can be utilised if cabin space permits.

The disadvantages are that the bed has to be stowed every day for access. It the boat is leaning to port or starboard, this can mean a heads down tails up nights sleep which is uncomfortable. You might guess that correct ballast will keep the boat level but experience shows that on some mooring around the system it is impossible to keep the boat level. A customised mattress has to be produced which can be expensive when it comes to the regular bed replacement. There are no issues with hogging the bed though!

If you are fortunate to have space for a second bedroom, which may be a child’s bedroom requiring a single bed; a raised cabin bed can allow for vital storage space underneath or it is normally possible to squeeze bunk beds in as an alternative option.

As many people spend a good proportion of time in bed each day, it is important to get the right bed layout for you. Maybe you are re-fitting a narrowboat or purchasing a sailaway canal boat, now is the time to play around with the design to see what type of bed you can fit in to make best use of the space available. This is easy to achieve using our narrowboat Design Services enabling you to plan the layout of your narrowboat accurately.

Other bed solutions include beds that fold up against bulkheads or side wall panelling which are:

  • Beds that are sofas during the day
  • Beds that are chairs during the day
  • Beds that are dinettes during the day
  • Beds that slide out from under tug decks
Cross double bed on a narrowboat where the mattress is often in two sections and stowed under the gunwhale
Cross double bed on a narrowboat with a section of the mattress stored under the gunwhale
Small section of the mattress stored securely under the gunwhale during the day

Beds & Mattress… How To Tackle Condensation!

Condensation is an issue for many narrowboat owners, and mattresses are an area that can suffer immensely if correct ventilation isn’t in place. The area between your mattress and solid bed base is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mould. When there is no air-flow, a build up of condensation can happen leading to musty smells and a deterioration of your mattress.

Unfortunately it is a fact of life that you perspire when you sleep, up to 2lb of moisture can be lost during the night! The perspiration leaves the body as humidity and will condense on the first cool surface that it finds; in the bedroom, this is usually the bed base or cabin sides. With no ventilation under the mattress the condensation will be trapped leaving it very damp over time.

Ventilation is vital to reduce the risk and impact of condensation. Ensuring the bed base has ventilation holes is one option; you could also consider slats between the mattress and solid bed base to increase air flow. The issue with using slats is that there will still be approximately 50% of your mattress with no air flow.

There are several underlay products on the market designed specifically to go under your mattress to reduce condensation; these tend to be made up of thousands of micro springs that allow air to circulate thus reducing condensation build up.

Alternatively some boaters swear by cat litter tied in an old pair of tights under the bed to trap moisture!

Ventilation on a solid bed base is vital on a narrowboat to prevent condensation
Under mattress underlay with micro springs to increase ventilation on a narrowboat bed
Ventilation holes and underlay in the fight against condensation on a narrow boat bed

Beds & Mattresses

Not what you're looking for? Try some other items within this chapter...

crick boat show 2024

(Saturday 25 to Monday 27 May 2024)


Britain's biggest inland waterways show.

Advance tickets can be ordered by phone and online until 12midday on Friday 17 May 2024. If you are planning to purchase advance tickets, we recommend that you do so well before this deadline to allow time for postal delivery.
Children 16 and under – free entry Saturday, Sunday, Monday

Trade & Preview Day – Friday 24 May 2024
Get ahead and visit The Fit Out Pontoon before everyone else on Preview Day!
Preview Day tickets are strictly limited to a maximum of 1,000 pre-booked visitors and give entry to the Show from 10am – 6pm on Friday 24 May.