This weekend is the 2016 Historic Narrowboat Rally at Braunston (June 25th and 26th). It’s the 13th working narrowboats rally and it’s the UK's biggest! More than 80 historic boats gather and take part in parades. There’s always a real ale beer tent, food stalls, traders, waterways artists, live music and Morris dancing. It’s free to get in, with a £10 fee for parking and all profits go to canal and local causes.

Historic narrowboats tend to be 70 feet long working boats, lovingly maintained by heritage enthusiasts. Traditionally the back cabin is painted with roses and castles, and is decorated with horse brasses and souvenir ribbon plates. The living accommodation is tiny with the cargo hold taking up the majority of space on board.

Historically working narrowboats carried a variety of goods throughout the extensive canal network. To this day you can still find a few fuel boats delivering coal and diesel to live-aboard boaters in the traditional way. However, these days a “working boat” might mean a very different kind of business.

Roving canal traders are those who have turned their vessels into a floating shop. On the UK canals in contemporary times you may see boaters selling cheese, painted canal ware, handicrafts, art, food and drink, homebrew equipment, jewellery, herbs, fenders and even dog treats. During the summer months in England these trading boats can be seen gathering at colourful floating markets. The Roving Canal Traders Association has a list of floating market events on their website.

Other floating businesses on the canals include party boats, restaurant boats, café boats, and hotel boats to name but a few. Check out the #BoatsThatWork hashtag on Twitter to follow their adventures in real time!

Working afloat does look appealingly idyllic, and if you live near a pretty canal you’re probably never far from a trip boat business. If you’ve ever dreamed of working on the water check out the trip boat business we have for sale near Milton Keynes. This 70ft narrowboat for sale is well equipped and newly painted with a solid queue of bookings. There is also a 30ft dayboat for sale and permission to run a hire boat from the same wharf which is rented at favourable terms. It’s a fantastic opportunity to run your own business on one of the loveliest parts of the Grand Union Canal.


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