Begin your journey with our Professional Design & Planning Service


Start your sailaway project with The Fit Out Pontoon and not only will you perfect the planning and design process, you’ll receive the ultimate foundation for successfully managing the fit out process. Investing in the planning stages now will save you time and money throughout the fit out, maximising your chances of meeting budgets and timescales.

Our ‘Sailaway Design & Planning Service’ brings the instant benefits associated with expert knowledge of canal boat design, planning and fitting out. We’re here to help you avoid those innocent yet inevitable mistakes made from lack of knowledge and/or experience.

The Fit Out Pontoon’s ‘Sailaway Design & Planning Service’ will help you finalise the specification, importantly ensuring the on-board equipment is aligned with your intended usage. We’ll take you through our comprehensive canal boat design process which includes unlimited revisions. Once the design is finalised we’ll produce you a 1:25 scale detailed production drawing including the specification, layout, electrical & plumbing schematics, full dimensional detail and a separate 2D paint scheme illustrating exactly how you’d like the boat to look externally.

“Save the initial outlay of our ‘Sailaway Design & Planning Service’ through the substantial savings we offer on canal boat equipment. As canal boat builders we have trade accounts throughout the industry and are happy to pass on trade discounts for bulk orders* of canal boat equipment.”

Narrowboat & Widebeam Shells & Sailaways

Shell & Sailaway Design & Planning Service

  • Protect your canal boat investment by planning its success
  • Unique service supporting you through the entire design & planning processs
  • Benefit from our expertise and experience and avoid preventable mistakes
  • With fully fitted plans you can start your build with confidence & reassurance
  • Hull/Sailaway detailed drawings created for the boat builder to work from
  • Gain impartial expert knowledge on all the shell and sailaway options
  • We openly share our dedicated suppliers to help you along with the fitout
  • Benefit from our trade accounts/discounts on canal boat equipment

  • British Marine Inland Boatbuilding Members

Buying a shell or sailaway can be a daunting prospect


CALL 0115 727 0165


In recent years there has been a huge growth in the shell only and sailaway market, partly down to people looking for a cost-effective way to get on the boating ladder and secondly due to a surge in demand from those looking to put their own take on a canal boat interiors. Many shell and sailaway buyers are first time boat buyers, with little or, no knowledge of boats/boating. If you fall into either of these categories you’ll quickly see when looking around and talking with boat builders the buying process for narrowboat or widebeam shells and sailaways is quite daunting.

Boat Builders rely on your direction, you’ll need to understand all the options, evaluate which ones you’ll need, and as required where they’re to be positioned/installed. The secret to buying a canal boat shell or sailaway is planning, it’s how to avoid costly mistakes and steep, painful learning curves. The only way to make the decisions involved with a shell or sailaway is to plan the boat to a fully fitted stage and work backwards.

As an independent canal boat design consultancy we’ve directed over 200 boat builds. We know all the options, which of these will best suit your needs, how they are installed and any associated considerations. Combine this with our industry leading design and illustration skills and we’re sure you’ll agree we’re positioned perfectly to plan, and manage the design of your canal boat shell or sailaway.

Our sailaway design service is recognised throughout the boat building industry. The Fit Out Pontoon have frequently worked with many of the UK’s leading boat builders, production builders and bespoke builders. This experience has given The Fit Out Pontoon a very unique, broad knowledge base relating to fitting out processes, all of which we openly share with you! For anything we may not be sure on as member of the British Marine Federation we have open and unrestricted access to their technical team who are only too happy to help with your questions.


The first stage of our service is to preferably meet you at our design studio (although we’ve often done this over Skype for overseas customers, or telephone for those in the UK that can’t get to us) for a 4-5hr design consultation. During this tailored consultation we look to achieve three things:

1) Getting to know each other & question time – We here to give you our impartial knowledge
First step is to get to know you and understand why and how you are intending to use your canal boat. Find out where you are in the buying process so we can get a feel for how we need to tailor the consultation to your needs. We’ll also look through any material you’ve brought with you such as photographs and sketches.

This is also a great time to ask as many questions as you like relating to canal boats and canal boating. We want you to leave us feeling like you’ve learnt plenty, experience shows our customers really appreciate an opportunity to get honest impartial feedback whether it be relating the lifestyle, boating itself, and of course anything related to purchasing or fitting out canal boats.

2) Detail a Specification – Tailored to your intended usage & budget
Here we start to get technical and together we’ll run through our detailed requirements list, looking at all the options associated with buying a sailaway and explore the decisions you’ll need to make during the fit out process. In summary we’ll look at the overall boat requirements – style, shape and size, integral parts, propulsion, plumbing and electrics, layout, appliances, materials and finishes.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to gain a grasp of the more technical details, quite often we’ll go off on tangents explaining anything you’d like to understand in detail.

3)  Begin the Design Process – Exploring initial layout ideas
At this stage of the consultation we’ll have all the information required to start looking at the initial design of your canal boat. We have various scaled canal boat templates that we can can print off and start sketching on. At the end of the consultation the aim is to put an initial design together which will form the foundation for the design process.

Following on from the design consultation the rest of the process can be done remotely with us talking over the phone, bouncing emails and sending you pdf drawings to review. The preliminary design stage is focused around the layout and location of all the equipment and appliances, ensuring they will work in practice when it comes to the fit out process. There are no time restraints during this stage nor are there any limitations of the number of drawing revisions you can request.

Once we’ve locked down the layout we can start adding further details such as window and hatch positions, plumbing and electrical details. Again there are no time restraints during this stage nor are there any limitations of the number of drawing revisions you can request.

With the design now fully developed and refined we can move to the final drawing creation which includes the specification, layout, electrical & plumbing schematics, full dimensional detail. Once we’ve completed the main drawing we’ll explore the external paint scheme and produce a separate drawing illustrating exactly how you’d like the boat to look externally. If you look further down this page you will see some finished examples of our technical drawings.

Benefit from substantial savings on canal boat equipment. As canal boat builders we have trade accounts throughout the industry and are happy to pass on discounts for bulk orders* of canal boat equipment. We can put together numerous packages ranging from propulsion systems, electrical systems, wiring looms, plumbing systems, diesel central heating systems, toilets systems, stainless steel water tanks and more.

* Minimum order value of £2500, no maximum order value.



Top Drawing – Fully fitted customer drawing
Bottom Drawing – Boat builder sailaway drawing

12ft widebeam canal boat with enclosed bow


Top Drawing – Fully Fitted Customer Version
Bottom Drawing – Boat builder sailaway lined plus drawing

Enclosed bow on a 57ft narrowboat
Detailed plans for a 57ft sailaway canal boat with semi cruiser stern


Top Drawing – Fully Fitted Customer Version
Bottom Drawing – Boat builder sailaway lined plus drawing


Top Drawing – Fully Fitted Customer Version
Bottom Drawing – Boat builder sailaway lined plus drawing

We’d love to hear from you.

Drop us a line on 0115 727 0165, or CLICK/TAP HERE to send an enquiry…



Canal boat shells are more commonly purchased by boat fitters without in-house steel manufacturing capabilities. As inferred by the name it’s just a steel shell you’re buying. This gives the benefit of huge flexibility and control over the entire fitout and provides the most potential for the cost savings or margins if looking to resell post fitout. On the flip side buying a narrowboat or widebeam shell requires the most amount of planning, work and capability. You’ll require a combination of skills/contacts/sub-contractors to take on the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fitting out and painting stages. In terms of purchasing you’ll need to buy pretty much everything so a detailed knowledge of the systems, products and onboard equipment is essential. Meeting the requirements of the RCD and BSS will need to be planned from start to finish and evidence of your compliance throughout will be beneficial when it comes to obtaining a RCD certificate of conformity (essential if the vessel is to be sold within 5 years).


For customers taking on a DIY fitout canal boat sailaways are much more appealing than a basic shell. They’re sold as a water tight units including many features; windows, ballast, sub floor, engine / drive gear, anodes and fender eyes, all fully battened and spray foamed. Many customers feel these additional items are better suited to the experts to fit and install and the difference in price can more often than not be justified. The fact the engine and drive gear is professionally installed, propshaft aligned and supplied with a complete warranty alone is very appealing. The project size is dramatically reduced and therefore the time involved and its considerably easier to find contractors to help with the remaining aspects of the build.


Even though this type of sailaway has an enhanced stage of completion they’re probably the least popular choice of sailaway. Sailaway lined canal boats come fully lined out with 2 full bulkheads and 1 half bulkhead and the 12v and 230v wiring tails positioned as specified. Most customer looking for a sailaway which has been lined out internally prefer the boat supplied with the 12v and 230v systems fully installed along with the plumbing and heating system and so order a sailaway additions (also know as a sailaway plus). However if you are confident or have someone at hand that can install the electrics and plumbing the sailaway lined option may well be appeal.


Most certainly the preferred route for DIY boat fitters. All the major components and systems are fully installed, tested and supplied with a manufacturers warranty. The boat internally is fully lined out with bulkheads fitted to specified locations. The boat is supplied to a completed stage comparative to buying a house. The project becomes much more familiar to first time buyers/DIY fitters as it’s focused around fitting a bathroom and kitchen and manufacturing/building any furniture and storage required for the bedroom and saloon.