Integral to deciding on your shell construction or aesthetics is to consider the different types of stern design available. Traditional stern, semi-trad and cruiser are all stern options available on a narrow boat.

Traditional stern on a narrowboat means a small rear deck so living & carrying space is maximised
A semi-trad stern on a narrow boat creates an extended cock-pit
A cruiser stern on a narrowboat is the most sociable option

Stern Options… Trad, Semi-trad or Cruiser?

Traditional Stern

The traditional stern narrow 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 accommodation 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 principal 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.

Cruiser Stern

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.

Semi-Traditional Stern

The semi-traditional stern is a compromise between the traditional stern and cruiser stern style narrow 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.

If you are buying a used narrowboat, you will probably have a stern perference which will narrow down your search options. If you are having a new bespoke narrowboat built you will need to decide on your stern type when you are considering your overall design as this will greatly impact the internal dimensions you have to work with. Using our DIY Design Plans will help you envisage the space you have to work with depending on your stern choice. This is also a major decision if you are purchasing a narrowboat sailaway.  Your canal boat builder will be able to offer advice depending on your requirements and explain the implications of your decision.

Stern Options

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.