And then, just before Christmas, I found the Winter 2010/11 issue in WHSmith with a printed "sticker" on the cover stating "EXCLUSIVE TO WHSmith". I bought it, and had another jolly good read.
The magazine is splendidly glossy, with a wonderful smell, and is full of authoritative articles on historical aspects of the waterways. You won't find a cruising guide to a popular canal, nor a write-up of the latest 150 grands-worth of luxury narrowboat. Neither - and this is the best thing - will you find much advertising. Indeed, in the last issue of 48 pages within the cover, there are just three pages of adverts, and even these are just promoting subscription deals or books connected with the magazine.
It's stuffed full of fabulous photos and compelling copy. (Captain Ahab, you'd love it.)
Its editor is Hugh Potter, of Waterways World. The two titles are sister magazines.
To give you an idea of what you'd get if you bought NarrowBoat, this was in the last issue:
- an analysis of photographs of a "Jam 'ole Run" with a wealth of detail about boat working practices (7 pages)
- a feature on a tug boat built in the 1920s for the Regent's Canal (2 pages)
- an article on a fleet of boats which served the Potteries for a century (4 pages)
- boating during the second world war with extracts from the diary of a woman training "Idle Women" (4 pages)
- photographs of boating activity at Leighton Buzzard in the 1930s (2 pages)
- the story of the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal (11 pages)
- a map with various early nineteenth century proposed routes for a Western Junction Canal linking Aylesbury to Abingdon (2 pages)
- a collection of photographs of traffic and tunnels onthe Trent and Mersey in the 1950s and 60s (4 pages)
- an examination of the Carclaze-Scredda tub boat canal in Cornwall (2 pages)
- readers' letters (5 pages)
- a few pieces of heritage news (2 pages)
NarrowBoat Magazine's website home page tells you that the mag is not available in newsagents.
But click on "see the contents" ... and it tells you that, as I found, it is indeed available in a newsagent, namely WHSmith.
I've just realised an interesting thing: between designing the cover for the website and printing it for the paper version - aside from the extra text on the Smith's version - an extra female boater has been inserted in the centre of the picture. And, in case the scene wasn't seen as wintry enough, a tree covered in hoar frost has been added (see top two images).