I wish I'd known about this book the last time I was at Castlefield in Manchester. Filling up with water at the Bridgewater Canal sanitary station there I was approached by a security guard. I assumed I'd transgressed some unwritten law by my presence but no: he only wanted to ask a question. "Could I recommend him a book about the boats?" During his time there he kept the boredom at bay by watching the comings and goings on the cut and now he wanted to know more.
I honestly didn't know what to suggest. The standard canal histories didn't seem appropriate - he wanted to know about the canal as it is today. For the same reason the classic texts such as "Narrow Boat" or "Flower of Gloster" didn't seem right either, so all I could do was point him in the direction of Ian Allan's excellent transport bookshop on Piccadilly Station Approach and hope that he'd find something therein.
It was only later that weekend, when I visited the shop myself that I found "Narrowboats Explained" by Trevor Yorke, which fitted the bill exactly. In 96 full colour pages it contains a three-part history of the canal system (rise, fall and renaissance). Then, with the aid of photographs, drawings and "Eagle" style-cutaways shows you all aspects of the boats themselves: superstructure, engine, hull and cabins all explained so that even this mechanically-illiterate reader can now tell a skeg from a keelson and understand just exactly what a "semi-diesel" is!
Unusually, the book covers both working boats and modern leisure craft and even includes a section on the "domestics" of modern boats, explaining how boaters get their heat, light and running water; where they sleep and how they cook, wash and, er, go to the toilet!
I'm sure this was just what my security guard was looking for and if I'm ever asked the same question again I shall have no hesitation in recommending:
"Narrowboats Explained" by Trevor Yorke, published by Countryside Books at £7.99
ISBN 978 1 84674 146 3