Barge Boats - Towboat - Canal Boats
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and
canal transport of heavy goods. Some barges are not
self-propelled and need to be towed by tugboats or pushed by
Canal barges, towed by draft animals on an adjacent
towpath, contended with the railway in the early industrial
revolution, but were outcompeted in the carriage of high-value
items due to the higher speed, falling costs, and route
flexibility of rail.
|On the Great British canal system, the term 'barge' is used
to describe a boat wider than a narrowboat, and the people who
move barges are often known as lightermen. In the United States,
deckhands perform the labor and are supervised by a leadman or
A towboat is a boat designed for pushing barges or car
floats. Towboats are characterized by a square bow with steel
knees for pushing and powerful engines.
They are most often seen on inland waterways and western
rivers where they can push more than 50 large barges lashed
together into a tow of varying shapes and sizes.
Towboats that travel long distances (linehaul)
include living quarters for the crew. Outside of the USA
towboats are usually referred to as "push boats" or "pushers".
The captain and pilot steer the towboat, which pushes
one or more barges held together with rigging, collectively
called 'the tow'.
|The crew live aboard the towboat as it travels
along the inland river system or the intracoastal waterways.
These towboats travel between ports and are also called
Poles are used on barges to fend off the barge as it nears other
vessels or a wharf. These are often called 'pike poles'. On
shallow canals in the United Kingdom, long punt poles are used
to maneuver or propel the barge.