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02-Apr-2020 08:53

not everyone has the same taste in boats or views on a particular design or type of craft.If that were not the case we would all be cruising the canals in identical boats!The unenlightened amongst us will quite often confuse the three terms, much to the annoyance of narrowboat owners, canal enthusiasts and boat anoraks in discussing canal cruiser design where does one begin?It is undeniable that subjectivism will find its way into this aspect of the subject, after all...Canal barges are between 60 and 70 feet in length depending on the canal they were built for.However, they are at least 14 feet 6 inches beam, are usually used for carrying cargo and are made from steel, wood or even concrete. Longboats were what the Vikings used to convey them on their raping and pillaging voyages of discovery in the Dark Ages.

Today, canal boats fall into two distinct categories... Inland Hire Cruisers and Deans Pleasure Craft both from Christleton, Sam Weavers Cambrian Canal Cruisers at Waverton, Jenny Wren and Egg Bridge Hire Cruisers (formally Weaver and Parry) also of Waverton, Beeston Castle Cruisers, The Golden Line boats based at Bunbury before Dartline (and later... now Anglo Welsh), British Waterways Hire Cruisers and Nantwich Hire Cruisers (later Simolda) both of Nantwich Basin, Ladyline (also at Barbridge), Holidays Afloat and Watertravel from Market Drayton, Dartlines sister company Shropshire Union Cruisers based at Norbury Junction, Countrywide Cruisers of Brewood, Double Pennant from Autherley, and many more companies lost in the mists of time (and memory).Some of the craft from these companies remain in my memory for various reasons; the boats may have been ugly, poorly designed, had unique design features, had memorable crews or been involved in incidents of note.The materials that these craft were constructed from varied as well.The more memorable craft from that era that come to mind are the Water Gentian and its twin "Water Lily" (British Waterways Hire Cruisers) a converted 60ft narrow boat with a centre cockpit and wheel steering in the cockpit plus a tiller at the stern accommodating ten berths (featuring "real" rivets).

Apparently, Water Gentian was very difficult to steer from the wheel and, as its size may imply, not very manoeuvrable.

Also, as far as hire craft are concerned, I have concentrated on one area, namely the Shropshire Union and Llangollen Canals as they are two of the most popular cruising canals in the country and also because this is the area that I know best.



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