Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A narrowboat is a boat or small barge used on narrow beam canals in Britain. Modern narrowboats are made about six feet ten inches (about 208 cm) wide. They are typically up to 72 feet (22 metres) long, although some locks are restricted to boats 60 feet (18 m) long and a few to only 40 feet (12 m).
Narrowboats are descendants of the working boats used during the Industrial Revolution. The first boats were wooden, horse-drawn, and designed for cargo rather than passengers. The canals went into economic decline in the 1830s as the new railways took away their business, and the impoverished boat-operators began to live on their boats as a way of saving money. Large families of 'boat people' were squeezed into tiny cabins, which were often ornately painted with traditional designs, usually of roses and castles. There are many enthusiasts dedicated to restoring these old boats, and new 'narrowboats' are built to similar designs. The original boats are sometimes called narrow boats to distinguish them from the modern narrowboats.
Modern narrowboats have steel bodies and diesel engines, and are used as homes and for recreation. Some boats are replicas of the old working boats, complete with traditional paintwork.
The number of licensed boats on British waterways is estimated at about 48,000 (British Waterways, 2004), of which most are narrowboats. There are perhaps another 5,000 legitimately unlicensed boats kept in private moorings.
- National Association of Boat Owners (NABO) - 3,000 members in 2004
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