Riding Through a Lock on a British Narrowboat

Awe-struck by the sight of the colorful, long house boats, I peppered the people floating past with questions. Friendly folks answered all of my silly inquiries.

‘One guy, Pete, even offered to let me ride through the lock with him. I hopped aboard and sat on a tractor seat in the stern where he guided the boat with a tiller. As we went through the lock, I waved like the queen to the boaters on the shoreline waiting their turn to go through the locks.

After we went through the lock, Pete suggested, “Fancy a walk-through tour?”

His 11-year-old son, Alfie led me through the narrow galley of their boat that reminded me of a skinny RV without the wheels.

The average 7 foot by 50 foot narrow boat has about 350 square feet of space for a bedroom, kitchen, living area, toilet, and cockpit. A small refrigerator, stove, cupboards and a narrow table squeezed on one side of the boat. Most have electric heat or a wood burning stove.

In the mid section, Alfie proudly showed a lounge area. His comic books were scattered on the coffee table along with checker board.

“Me ’n dad sleep on the couch that folds out into a bed right in front the telly,” he added. “Granddad sleeps in the bow and this here is the toilet and shower.”

Unlike most, their boat had the luxury of two bathrooms, one in the bow and another in stern. Across the narrow walkway was a built in washing machine.

“We’ve been with my grandparents for three weeks of holiday. Wish I could live on the boat forever,” Alfie told me, “except when granny yells at me for sitting on the roof! She’s afraid I’ll fall through.”

When the canal transport of goods was replaced by trains, holiday makers began renting 'narrowboats' and roaming the canals, visiting towns and villages they passed. Waterside pubs and village shops cater to boaters. Most towns along canals have free moorings that can be used for 1 to 2 days. Boaters lasso mooring posts along the canal side with heavy braided ropes. Then they hop off and head to the nearest pub.

Much like the English cottages in the village, each boat on the canal has its own name and unique identity with eclectic collections of artifacts, various potted plants and flower boxes decorating their colorful painted exteriors with names like Athena, Beulah Mae, Lady Anne, Jemima, Tubby Bunny, Rollin Along, Bubbling Billy, End and Beginning

Trying to decipher the lingo of canal boaters is like learning a foreign language. References include: Back pumping. Blow - a warning of collision. Bow, or fore end. Deck. Fore and aft.

Cruising the canal can be enjoyed by all ages and “boat” people were an eclectic groups of families, retirees, free spirits and throwback hippies

For some canal boat living has become a way of life. Getting back to nature and rural living, riding the canal is a great escape from our frantic modern-day pace and offers slower way of life that everyone envies at times.

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