Canal Boats Under Sail

Traditional Techniques: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2022

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones looks at the use of sail power by canal boats

Sail power on inland navigations has been used for hundreds of years, mainly by keels, barges and other varieties of commercial craft working on rivers. What is less well known is the use of sail by narrowboats on both river and, more surprisingly, on canals. It’s not difficult to understand how this came about as river transport preceded the canals and old-established working techniques used for generations were naturally adopted by boaters on the new ‘cuts’. It is known that some of the boaters turning to the newly developed narrowboats specifically designed to ply the narrow canals of the English Midlands came from families who worked barges on the country’s major rivers. With new canals forming connections between navigable rivers, narrowboats soon ventured onto these running-water navigations and used river-working techniques to safely operate that portion of the trip.…

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