Narrowboats are built long and thin to go anywhere on the "cut" as the English canal system is affectionately called. Some of the rivers and later canals have big, wide locks but many are old hand-cranked industrial revolution locks 70 feet long and 7 feet wide. Some Northern locks are 57 - 60 feet long and 14 feet wide. Hence the largest "go anywhere" cruiser is the ubiquitous "narrowboat" or "narrow boat", 60 feet long and 6' 10" wide. Our boat is built of 10-6-5-4 steel plate, so called because the baseplate is 10mm thick, hull 6mm, cabin sides 5mm and roof 4mm. The boat displaces over 15 tons. Inside it is like a long, thin RV. From the bow, the accommodations are: Lounge, galley, master bedroom, bathroom, guest cabin/office. In addition to propulsion, the diesel engine under the stern deck generates electricity (12 and 240 volts) and heats the domestic water. Further heating is provided by a stove in the lounge and a Webasto unit, which provide heat to radiators and for the bathroom and kitchen. Cooking is by LP gas.
The guest cabin has a permanent 6' 6" by 3' single berth, which doubles as a bench seat during the day. A work table folds out to it from the wall opposite. At night, a 4' by 6' 4" double bed folds out on to the single berth. Thus, at maximum, the cabin could accommodate a couple and a child, sleeping in L-shape fashion. Barb likens canal cruising to "luxury camping" and I guess that's as accurate a description as any.
There are over 3,000 miles of canals and navigable rivers in Britain. Canal cruising is very much an outdoor pursuit. The steerer, who is also responsible for boat safety, stands exposed on the rear deck, tiller in hand and with a good view of the rain pounding the top of the cabin. The crew scurry around readying locks, operating swing bridges, making tea, giggling and trying not to fall in the water. Everyone takes turns at steering, unless they don't want to; it's the only job that does not require much physical effort. Some locks on wide waterways, such as the Thames, have big hydraulically-operated locks staffed by keepers but most are manually operated by winding "paddles" up and down to let the water in or out and heaving on balance beams to open or close the gates. Everyone gets rained on. A lot. Progress is slow - a mile and a lock each take 15 minutes minimum, so we measure distance traveled in "lock-miles". A crew can spend all day negotiating the Caen Hill flight of locks in Devizes, for example, and only travel a mile.
On a typical night, we will moor up outside a pub or in a leafy remote glade or in the middle of Stratford-on-Avon, London or Liverpool. Boats can moor anywhere on most rural canals, providing they do not obstruct the channel. Restricted visitor moorings are available in most towns.