Pilot House, Helm Station There are compromises in all of boat design, and the flat bottom rectangular cross section of the canal barge possesses the greatest internal accommodation per length of vessel per fixed draft....just as do the ocean ranging tankers (admittedly the ocean tankers are normally operated in a fully loaded condition so as not to present their flat bottoms to the sea surface very often). But I believe that most shallow draft canal barges are destined to have this same sort of hull shape. Adding a very slight V to these flat bottoms accomplishes nothing in my opinion. Adding a 'keel plate' would add to their directional stability, and likely their resistance to sliding across the water's surface sideways. I'm thinking a somewhat exaggerated I-beam down the bottom's centerline, and with a portion of its bottom flange exposed to the exterior of the hull, would contribute to the vessel's longitudinal stiffness as well as its directional stability. I take issue with your pilot house observations. As far as 'looking stupid', I would draw your attention the pilot house on Roi Soleil....I very much like this arrangement, both in terms of looks as well as practicality. Perhaps you would counter that this is not the 'traditional Dutch barge'. I would much rather be up in the front of the vessel when I was trying to negotiate my way through obstacles in the water, or when I was attempting to dock a canal barge vessel, rather than aft and trying to pear over all of the obstacles that might be present on the forward deck. And look at Roi Soleil...both an inside and outside steering postion...marvelous! This steering position is also very close to the cleat onto which I would tie my spring line as I power into the dock or canal's edge. I also like the manner in which this forward pilot house almost dictates the upper- level cabin space that follows it. To have just the fwd pilot house would likely look rather weird, but with the added long saloon and galley we have a very delightful cabin with lots of natural lighting, a feeling of spaciousness, and great visibility outwards to the surroundings.