This photo was taken in Manchester last year. Behind the youth hostel where we were staying, there was a little canal and there were several narrowboats moored there.
Narrowboats were 'working boats', used to ferry goods between communities. The boats mustn't be above 7 feet (2,13 meters) wide to be classed as a narrow boat. The reason for that was that the canals wouldn't be much wider. Because the boats are so narrow, it seems they are very long, but the maximum length is 72 feet (about 22 meter), otherwise they wouldn't fit the locks in the canals.
In the days before lorries, narrowboats were used to ship goods from one town to another. The earliest boats used horsepower to get around: the horses would walk on the towpath alongside the canals and tow the boats. After a while the competition from the trains got noticed and families started living on the boats to be more mobile and to be more available. This in turn led to most children living on board to be illiterate, because attending school would be extremely difficult, since they were always on the move.
Nowadays the narrowboats aren't used anymore to haul freight. Most of them have disappeared, the ones that are still remaining have been turned into homes or are being used in the tourist industry. Many people are still major enthusiasts for the boats and repair and restore them lovingly and with great care.
Unfortunately I didn't get to see the inside of one of the narrowboats moored in Manchester. I didn't want to intrude on their private space. If I ever get the chance though...
For more N words please check out: ABC Wednesday