Do Canal Boats Have Showers?


Living on a narrowboat is quite civilised. In fact, in the modern day you’ll find pretty much everything you would expect to find in a normal house, maybe just scaled down a bit. Showers are no exception. We’re going to take a look at what the shower facilities are like on a narrowboat.

Do Canal Boats Have Showers?

Yes, of course they do. Gone are the days of having to have a quick ‘strip wash’ with a damp flannel. As a matter of fact, some showers on canal boats are rather nice. That said there are certain limitations that you have to bear in mind.

No 15 minute showers!

You should be aware that on a narrowboat, water is a bit of a precious commodity. This is much more relevant if you are on the move, especially in more remote areas. If you are on a residential mooring it is much less of an issue. Well, at least when it comes to water quantity. You still probably won’t be able to go for a good long soak…


Because you’ll possibly run out of hot water! Due to the restricted amount of space on most narrowboats you probably aren’t going to find a 30-kilowatt boiler anywhere inside (there simply isn’t the space).

So how is the water heated on a canal boat?

Generally, in one of two ways. The old-fashioned way, which is still used on many boats, is to use the engine to heat the water. A heat exchanger pipes water around the engine manifold and then back to a tank. The engine runs, gets hot and is cooled slightly (which is a good thing) by the water. This water can then be used for a shower or washing up!

And the other way?

Many boat owners are now opting for a calorifier. It is basically a miniature boiler specifically designed for use on a boat. They range in sizes, the smallest of which is around 20 litres (good for washing up, not so good for a shower). They work in a variety of ways. Some are similar to your immersion heater at home. Others are gas powered. And some even use the residual heat of your stove to keep water warm.

Either way you’ll get some hot water. But not a massive amount. But you are still going to need a long enough shower to give yourself a good scrub, so what’s the solution?

A shorter shower.

We are probably a bit spoiled at home. In fact, we are going to go as far as to say we use far more water than we really need to. Generally, you can get a fairly good wash provided you don’t hang around. A top tip is to have a splash of water, turn the shower of whilst you lather, then give yourself a thorough rinse. Our record is 4 litres used, and that includes tooth brushing and a shave!

A less powerful shower.

At home on dry land your shower probably gets its pressure directly from the effect of gravity (like a rain shower) or from your boiler. On a boat you aren’t going to have the luxury of either of these things. Electric pumps seem to be the order of the day, but just like water, electricity can be a rare commodity, especially when you are on battery power only. Therefore, the pump tends to be fairly low power. That doesn’t mean you have to have a substandard shower though. If you have a small shower head with smaller holes then you can get quite a strong spray effect which is good enough to get you clean, and actually feels pretty amazing if we do say so ourselves.

You can go green

No not because you haven’t had a shower… We mean be environmentally friendly. It is now possible to heat hot water using the power of the sun. And you’ve got the ideal place to mount solar panels. On the top of your cabin! Obviously, this is the UK so it might be a bit unreliable at times, but surprisingly solar panels don’t need direct sunlight, just daylight.

Where does the water go?

Well, if you had the outflow below the waterline, guess what will happen… absolutely nothing. Without going into the complex realm of fluid dynamics, the water would simply pool in your shower tray. It actually has to be pumped out. There are a couple of options fitted to canal boats when it comes to using the pump.

The first is that you let the run off pool in the shower tray and then press a button to evacuate it. The second option is slightly more advanced. Some shower trays have a sensing unit. When they get wet from ‘grey water’ in the plug hole, they turn on automatically, and stop again once the water has been pumped out. Cool eh?

Watch your elbows.

As we are sure you are already aware, space is at a premium on a canal boat. Whilst a roomy shower is nice, it maybe doesn’t justify taking up half the boat. As a result, shower cubicles can sometimes be a little ‘poky’. That said with intelligent use of the space some narrowboats do have ample shower room, some corner mounted showers are fitted in a round fronted ‘quadrant’ style, affording a surprising amount of room.



In answer to the question, do canal boats have showers? The answer is a resounding yes. And some are not half bad. We think that it may take a bit of adjustment for what is considered ‘a normal shower’. But that said, if your aim is to keep smelling as fresh as a daisy, instead of wanting a luxury spa experience then you should find the facilities on board more than adequate. Now where did we put the loofah?


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