Boating Terminology – Interiors

The long history of boating has contributed to its specific boating terminology, which can be hard for the newcomer to understand. Some of these narrowboat terms are directly related to their history, while others are more general terms used in boating. This blog post forms the second boating glossary in our short series. Here we aim to unravel the mysteries and explain the meaning of terms used to describe elements of the interior of a narrowboat.

Bed cupboard – a tall cupboard in a canal boat’s cabin with a door that drops down to convert into a small double bed.

Berth – sleeping accommodation on a narrowboat. (For example a four-berth boat will have enough accommodation for four people).

Boatman’s cabin – on working canal boats, this was the cabin where the boatman and his family lived and slept. This traditional style is often reproduced on modern boats.

Bull’s eye – a small round porthole, which is fitted in the top of the canal boat’s cabin top. It has convex glass to let the maximum amount of light in.

Calorifier – a water heating device that uses heat from the boat’s engine. It can be combined with immersion or central heating, or connected to an onshore electrical supply.

Cassette toilet – a chemical toilet that has a removable waste storage cassette underneath. Some models also have an electric flushing mechanism.

Cross bed – a double bed that goes across the full width of the boat. When not in use, part of the bed folds or slides away to provide gangway access.

Dinette – a table and seating arrangement with storage underneath, which converts into a bed.

Elsan – a manufacturer of chemicals for toilets in narrowboats, often used as a generic term.

Fiddle – a raised lip or rail around the edge of a shelf to prevent items from sliding off.

Galley – a narrowboat’s kitchen area.

Holding tank – a storage tank used for toilet waste, which is then emptied at an onshore pump-out station.

Houdini hatch – a skylight in the cabin roof, which can be used as an emergency escape hatch or for ventilation.

Macerator toilet – a pump-out toilet where the waste is chopped up into slurry.

Mushroom vent – a mushroom-shaped opening in the roof of the narrowboat, which provides ventilation.

Pump-out toilet – a toilet where the waste is flushed into a holding tank, which is pumped out at a pump-out facility.

Reverse layout – An interior layout that has the bedroom at the front of the narrowboat and the galley and lounge towards the stern.

Saloon – the lounge area on a boat.

As you can see, some terms are self-explanatory, while others are more of a mystery, but they all add to the magic of boating. Understanding the language helps you to feel part of the boating community.

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