Narrow Interior of ALL Narrowboats:OK, so let us detail some of our possible concerns when dealing with the 'narrowness' of narrowboats when accommodating 'larger guests' - those from overseas may not be familiar with the UK canal system. Please do not be offended by our frankness. We are honest people who believe that before spending considerable sums of money on a cruise in a narrowboat, potential clients need to understand a little bit about narrowboats and our 'industry'.
The main UK network of narrow (and some wider) canals was built in the late 1700s and early to mid 1800s. It was the transport system that helped the industrial revolution come about. By the standards of those days, the network cost a fortune to build and one way of keeping building costs down was to limit and standardise the width of bridges over the canal, and similarly limit the width and length of the lock chambers. The narrow standard (majority of UK canals) became 7ft wide with locks limited to 72ft in length (a few canals limited locks to 62ft or 58ft in length). The early canal engineers had invented a system for carrying freight by boat - not passengers. So 'long and narrow' narrowboats became the norm for boat design on most UK canals - even though some later canals were built for wider boats.
The inherent narrowness does limit possible accommodation on narrowboats. In common with all narrowboats, Willow was built to suit the narrow English canal system. Take a look at the photo of Willow in the left hand margin - not much room for anything more in that English lock. In addition the experts in hydodynamics will tell us that a long narrow boat will 'swim' more efficiently in a relatively narrow channel - the original working narrowboats on the main UK canal system were all about efficiently moving heavy loads from A to B using a narrow channel. Whatever the actual width of our canals in Scotland, Willow (like for like) is much faster and more manoeuvrable on the shallower Union canal than wider beamed boats (it's all to do with Mr Archimedes). Quite often we can go/do what they can't.
At 65ft overall, Willow is currently the longest vessel used commercially on the Scottish Lowland canals, but she is nevertheless a 'narrowboat'. The maximum recommended length for the locks here is 63ft. But, because Willow is a 'narrowboat', she is able to safely fit (diagonally) into the wider Scottish locks. British Waterways (Scotland) management are very aware of Willow's length - indeed they helped facilitate her move north to Scotland, and provided a mooring at the Falkirk Wheel to suit her length.
Some Hotel narrowboats on the English canal network operate as two boats working together (motor boat and unpowered butty), with accommodation for up to 8 guests plus 3 or 4 crew. This means that there has to be enough bedrooms for up to 12 people - an average of 6 people per boat. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the dining area has to be big enough to accommodate a dining table and chairs suitable for up to 8 people. With such a vessel guest cabins are by necessity small, just to fit everyone in, perhaps with 24ins wide single bunks - and with some cabins not being spacious enough to be fully en-suite. We on Willow have gone for a somewhat more spacious option, by limiting our accommodation to suit just one couple.
So we class our accommodation as being spacious by hotel narrowboat standards - but accommodation is nevertheless small by the standards of even UK on-shore hotel rooms. Our guest double bed (some hotel narrowboats provide twin 18 inch wide beds) is a narrowboat standard width of 4ft - whereas a standard UK double bed is 4ft 6ins. One US client told us that 4ft width is the standard single bed width in the US - other US clients have told us that's 'baloney' (their words) - but clients do need to be aware of these things before coming. The en-suite shower room is spacious by other hotel narrowboat standards but, again, undoubtedly small by on-land hotel room standards.
We are honest people and we wish to make it very clear that we are offering a narrowboat holiday. Willow is a quality hotel narrowboat with its oak 'parquet' flooring, oak columns, split level lounge and unique all weather bow/observation cabin - and we personally love it. We have had 'larger' people on board who have had no problems with our narrowboat accommodation, but if you are 'on the large side' you may wish to pause and consider the accommodation before booking - you are welcome to discuss these issues before committing to such a booking.