... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Wednesday 3 April 2019

A local boat for local people

I wouldn't like to swear that this was a Sheffield keel (or Sheffield boat) but it's certainly the nearest thing I've seen on my travels so far. I realised in conversation with David the weekend before last that I know next to nothing about these boats, and now I'm here I really should, so I've started giving myself a crash course, starting with Paget-Tomlinson's British Canal and River Craft (1979).

What I learned first from David, and have since built upon, is that the term 'keel' actually denotes the kind of sailing rig that the boat would have had, rather than actually telling you anything about its hull. They come in various sizes, with the Sheffield size being the most common.

Now this is interesting, because a Sheffield boat is 61'6" x 15'6".

My new 2017 edition of Nicholsons (p. 149) says 'No boat longer than 60'0" may now use these [Tinsley] locks.'

So have the locks suddenly got a foot and a half shorter? Is this why they felt obliged to use a cut down large Northwich instead of a Sheffield boat to lead the bicentenary parade? I was speaking to the lock keeper on Sunday (of which more, perhaps, anon.) Maybe I should have asked him. Or maybe not.


  1. "inch and a half shorter" ??? Are you practicing having senior moments for when you eventually get there? I make that eighteen inches, or a foot and a half shorter (unless I'm having one).

    It looks like Nicholsons are wrong again as the Canal & River Trust Dimension Data shows the length as "18.75m or 61 feet 6 inches" in their data at

    It's a CRT waterway so they set the rules, not Nicholsons.

  2. Ah, good spot - thanks Paul!
    Interesting thought that Nicholsons have it as a new development - so why they should have thought that... Perhaps I'll ask my new friend the lock keeper next time I'm passing.