Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Internal layout and design

Basically this boat was designed from the outside with 14ft front deck, 44ft 6in cabin and 3ft 6in back deck.
Internally the design we settled on (eventually) would be briefly.

Back cabin 9'
Engine room 7' 6"
Bedroom (X bed) 7'
Bathroom 4'
Galley 6'
Saloon 11'

At this stage I would like to thank those who showed us their boats when we were planning ours.
You can read all the books available and draw plans till you are buried in them but there is no substitute for actually seeing what works in 3-D and benefitting from other's experience.
At this stage it's also worth seeing the ideas which seem to work and indeed work very well for others but are not chosen because your own priorities are different. Where to put the bedroom when you are 6ft and like to spread sideways a bit was the most challenging of these decisions.
To that end thanks to the following:

Dave Moore, nb Resolute - bed pulling out from under tug deck into saloon.
John and Ruth Blundred, nb Zenith - bed in extended back cabin.
Derek and Lesley Flinders, nb Endevour - cross bed (this suited us best)

The 6 ft through galley was chosen to maximise storage space

We like the atmosphere of back cabins and have decided to carry this decorating style right through the boat.
The above photo is of the back cabin in Oslo our previous boat.
Glennys crochetted the blanket on the seat, made the curtains and made the lace decorations along the edges and in the porthole.

The 3 photos above show a friend's boat decorated in this style. Thanks Leon and Ray.
In addition to having a cosy ambience it is relatively inexpensive to produce in the same way that the old boats were of scumbled softwoods to represent oak etc. (ie cheaper than expensive hardwood fit outs)

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Choosing the boat and design. (T-7)

When you have the rare opportunity of  starting with a clean sheet for a bespoke boat you don't want to waste it so we were reluctant to go down the Josher of even Northwich route. Despite having a liking for the Brinklow produced Cowburns and even having a chance for a look at Swan which was then on the bank at Dadford's being restored our inclination was to go for a boat styled after a tug.
The former types above should of course have a hold rather than a full length cabin so I reasoned that it would be possible to get closer to the original shape of boat with a tug replica. Some early tugs, originally built for towing (rather than cut down carrying boats) are of similar proportions to a modern leisure boats.

Worth a mention at this point is the very informative BCNS article by Martin O'Keeffe on tugs:

Subject boats considered were:

1 GJCC steam tunnel tugs.
Beaten to it with a genuine steam powered replica by Keith AKA "tunneltug" with Hasty, currently under build at Brinklow. Have a look at this fine boat:

Another nice looking tunnel tug replica is Pilot. Although diesel powered, the funnel in this boat is cleverly arranged, in a realistic position as though on the boiler, to be the chimney for the saloon stove.

2 Stentor by Walkers.
Thanks to the books "Colours of the cut" and "Walkers of Rickmansworth" Stentor seems to be a very well known boat with lots of information available including build drawings from national Maritime Museum.
There is even film available of Stentor in later years after conversion to a leisure boat.
The length and proportions are close to what I envisaged to allow a practical internal layout. To this end Dave and I fiddled around with the layout of the inset pannels and rivetted centre section over the engine room. However we could not get it to look right with the engine further back in the replica.
Most other features we wanted to incorprate though would fit well if a replica of Hector, Stentor's  sister vessel was chosen since Hector was built with full wooden cabin rather than a metal skinned engine room.

3 We therefore decided to build a replica loosely based on Hector incorprating the following features:


- Full length gunnel rubbing strake.

- Bow to be compound curved,  based on a modified version of Dave's 5 plank josher pattern modified to use a stem iron recovered from a wooden boat. Unfortunately we tried the stem iron Dave had against the bow patterns and it was a poor fit so we are currently trying to source another suitable one...
 The wooden bows being built at Walkers at the time are shown clearly in a picture of Arveleecom inWalkers of Rickmansworth.

- Counter and rear deck.
This will be of eliptical shape (like a GU boat) and  extended behind the tiller where a single towing hook will be installed.
-Front deck and fore deck
14 feet long, possibly without the cratch beam.


- Inset pannels, four along the cabin, grooved to represent vertical wooden planks.
There will be 2 hatches (rather than 1) each side for practical reasons. The extra hatch will be between the galley and saloon each side.

- Portholes. Hector had small portholes and not many of those either.
For practical reasons some compromises have to be made and larger portholes will be one of these.
However the intention is to use only 7 (4 stbd  3 port) 8 inch diameter tug style portholes in the cabin sides with 3 more in FMC type pigeon boxes over the engine room, galley and saloon.

NB "Rivet counters" may notice that some aspects of this boat are different to the original.
In some cases practicalities (and keeping Mrs W happy) force compromises.
Dave has lived on a wooden boat and has plenty of knowledge and photos so he will make suggestions of further design features as build progresses.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Choosing a builder

When this project started about 2 years ago we were lucky enough to own Oslo, a 70 ft Northwich Trader which was our first boat. bought second hand on which we cut our boating teeth.

It was (is) a very nice boat but a bit on the big side for 2 of us and a small dog when used as holiday boat rather than a live aboard.
We decided therefore to sell Oslo and have a boat built to our own design by an elite builder. Also secretly I fancied a crack at a fit out.

At this stage the only design criteria were:
- Tug with traditional lines, but preferably something a bit different
- Vintage engine, preferably another Gardner
- Traditional type interior with engine room and back cabin.
- Port holes only. Supplementary lighting from side hatches and roof boxes.

(To be continued - bear with me I'm rebuilding the bathroom at home)

After a couple of years boating it became apparent to me that there are a few (less than 10) narrowboat builders that stand above the rest and in conversations with experienced boaters the same names are accepted. Choosing within this group is difficult but whenever I saw a boat that had me going back for further detailed examination, to talk to the owner or just to stand and enjoy looking at it, it usually came from Brinklow Boat Services or David Harris.
(please forgive me for those who I haven't mentioned)

Brinklow were easy to find as they have a website and advertise.
Finding David Harris required a bit more effort as he doesn't advertise or have a website (yet!?..............) and at first I could only find old out of date phone numbers. Eventually I found David Harris via a happy customer on the canal  world discussion forum.

Mindfull of not wanting to be a time waster I made brief visits to both the above builders and, convinced that either could build something special decided on the basis of a build slot which suited my personal circumstances best. It would be Davis Harris.

Worth a mention  whilst I remember:
In the present climate where some long established boatbuilders (and some less reputable ones) have folded the question is often raised about customers loosing money. In both cases above this need not worry a potential customer as the customer buys, and thus owns the materials, and the builder is engaged to build the boat. This reduces the builder's outlay and costs.

Having decided to make a second visit to Dave Harris to discuss my requirements and place a deposit
I was surprised to find my word being good enough and deposit cheque politely turned down.

For a bit of interest here's a few photos of the Dadford's wharf site.
General view.


Boat under repair by Ian Kemp

More old boats

It's a very atmospheric site, like a boat museum merged with a working  dock.
There are three businesses trading at the site:

- David Harris, in the shed.

- John Sanderson, who took over the painting business of Phil Speight  - and maintains his standards.

- Ian Kemp, the boat restorer and occasional builder.
Ian is well known for his restoration work. He always has something interesting on the bank and that's where President goes when work is required.  He has also built some stunning boats. One of my favourites is Gazelle, a copy of the steam tug Antelope shown here:

Next post.
Choosing a boat.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Introduction: T-10 (days) and counting.

This blog will be a construction record of a narrowboat to be built by David Harris Boatbuilder and Andy Watson at Dadford's Shed, Stourbridge commencing 31 March 2011.

The boat will be a (loose) replica of a wooden hulled tug as built by Walkers of Rickmansworth for operation on the Birmingham Canals. It will be 62 feet long and powered by a vintage Gardner 3LW diesel engine.

As a pile of steel is not very photogenic (what do you expect at this stage) here's a picture of the engine.


I had a 3LW in my last boat and got on with it very well so finding another at the right time was lucky
The engine was supplied by Walsh's who operate from premises close to the old Gardner works near Manchester. Consequently they have a few ex Gardner employees and a good stock of spares.
They are more involved in the heavy commercial vehicles than canal boats although the former is probably a more demanding market. I enquired amongst a few boat owners with Walsh's engines and they were satisfied with both the engines and after sales service so I committed to this one.
The photo above shows it as delivered to Dadford's in October 2009.
After spraying a can of WD40 over it, plugging orifices and removing the air filter and protruding delicate parts I built a crate over it and Dave put it out of the way.
Below is the link to Walsh's website: