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Alpha95

Cheap Narrow boat, Big project

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Hi. Myself and my girlfriend have just bought a cheap 30ft narrow boat to turn into a live aboard. Because of length this is more of a tiny home I suppose. We took a bit of a risk and paid £900 for it with 6 months storage free. Reason it was cheap is it was sold for the price of unpaid fees, but it does need a lot of work! 

Although we knew nothing about the previous owner we can see he had the intention at some point to finish it and put it on water. Its packed with new insulation boards, lots of timber, sealer, tools, sheets of steel, windows and pretty much everything else needed, even a shower unit and shower tray not fitted. Pretty much everything.

The is a few issues with it but rust is a major one! The bottom steel has rusted from the inside out leaving some rust holes behind. Its kind of a v-shaped hull so instead of the bottom being totally flat it has a small dip. I will post pictures tomorrow as its a bit hard to explain but this is the affected area where water has been sitting. The rest of the steel seems okay and no sign of any pitting under the paint. It also has never been re-plated so this is another option I suppose, but personally I'd rather cut out problem areas and replace. I also know there is mixed opinions on both options.

We will be carrying out all the work ourselves apart from the welding (I can weld but rather have an experienced marine welder do it all and we just do the cuts and prep) but this is also slightly different to usual narrow boats. The top half is wooden rather than steel that we have mostly seen, this is fine and makes things easier on our part though a little more up keep.

One question I have is ballast. How do I calculate such a thing on a boat like this? We've looked at different types of ballast and feel the engineering blocks is probably the best and easiest method but how do we calculate how much weight we will need on board?

Any suggestions will be great and we will keep this post updated with progress. We are hoping for around a 3-4k budget which sounds tight but seeing as we are carrying out the work ourselves this should be manageable. We just need the hull sorted and treated inside and out before the extras come into play.

Thank you

 

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8 minutes ago, Alpha95 said:

Hi. Myself and my girlfriend have just bought a cheap 30ft narrow boat to turn into a live aboard. Because of length this is more of a tiny home I suppose. We took a bit of a risk and paid £900 for it with 6 months storage free. Reason it was cheap is it was sold for the price of unpaid fees, but it does need a lot of work! 

Although we knew nothing about the previous owner we can see he had the intention at some point to finish it and put it on water. Its packed with new insulation boards, lots of timber, sealer, tools, sheets of steel, windows and pretty much everything else needed, even a shower unit and shower tray not fitted. Pretty much everything.

The is a few issues with it but rust is a major one! The bottom steel has rusted from the inside out leaving some rust holes behind. Its kind of a v-shaped hull so instead of the bottom being totally flat it has a small dip. I will post pictures tomorrow as its a bit hard to explain but this is the affected area where water has been sitting. The rest of the steel seems okay and no sign of any pitting under the paint. It also has never been re-plated so this is another option I suppose, but personally I'd rather cut out problem areas and replace. I also know there is mixed opinions on both options.

We will be carrying out all the work ourselves apart from the welding (I can weld but rather have an experienced marine welder do it all and we just do the cuts and prep) but this is also slightly different to usual narrow boats. The top half is wooden rather than steel that we have mostly seen, this is fine and makes things easier on our part though a little more up keep.

One question I have is ballast. How do I calculate such a thing on a boat like this? We've looked at different types of ballast and feel the engineering blocks is probably the best and easiest method but how do we calculate how much weight we will need on board?

Any suggestions will be great and we will keep this post updated with progress. We are hoping for around a 3-4k budget which sounds tight but seeing as we are carrying out the work ourselves this should be manageable. We just need the hull sorted and treated inside and out before the extras come into play.

Thank you

 

First to consider.

 

Its a short boat, any steel you add will drastically affect the draught and the trim so you will have to ballast it when it is afloat and you have added most of the fitout weight, stove, cooker, mattress, etc. Leave floor panels removable, not trapped under bulkheads etc. so you can add ballast where it is needed. Scrap steel takes less room than bricks, sash weights, steel billet offcuts etc. and don't soak up water to cause more rusting. Remember filling diesel and water tanks will seriously alter the draught and trim.

 

Sounds like a very old Springer with a timber top, you are far braver than I to take this on. It was probably built with 4mm or 3/16" plate, take care, insurance companies are refusing to insure if any part of the hull is below 4mm thick.

 

 Secondly,

 

The timber top is an annual repair job, it will leak where it joins the steel hull, always. And round every window and door.

 

Be warned, not discouraged, but this could be a real money pit, both now to get it back in use and forever going forward. What engine/gearbox do you have and what condition is it in?

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4 minutes ago, Boater Sam said:

First to consider.

 

Its a short boat, any steel you add will drastically affect the draught and the trim so you will have to ballast it when it is afloat and you have added most of the fitout weight, stove, cooker, mattress, etc. Leave floor panels removable, not trapped under bulkheads etc. so you can add ballast where it is needed. Scrap steel takes less room than bricks, sash weights, steel billet offcuts etc. and don't soak up water to cause more rusting. Remember filling diesel and water tanks will seriously alter the draught and trim.

 

Sounds like a very old Springer with a timber top, you are far braver than I to take this on. It was probably built with 4mm or 3/16" plate, take care, insurance companies are refusing to insure if any part of the hull is below 4mm thick.

 

 Secondly,

 

The timber top is an annual repair job, it will leak where it joins the steel hull, always. And round every window and door.

 

Be warned, not discouraged, but this could be a real money pit, both now to get it back in use and forever going forward. What engine/gearbox do you have and what condition is it in?

Thanks for the reply. Yes your right it does look like 4mm. I did have the same thought about access and have a few ideas in mind to make this easy without it being noticeable that the floor can be lifted. We had the idea to use poor man's fiber glass curving over the edges where the wood is attached, try and stop water sitting in these areas and seeping through. We've had some good results with poor man's fiberglass in the past and epoxy fiberglass around the leaky windows and doors, we also want to fit roof hatches so this will have to be done also. It's a bit of a risk but manageable. 

This engine isn't as massive priority just yet as it will be put on a residential spot and I doubt we will really move it from there, but I am a motorcycle mechanic by trade and was previously a car mechanic so shouldn't be much issue to get it going if it's just been sitting for awhile. 

This is the reason why I want to get the hull done to top standard and treat the inside and outside so really I've only got to pull it out of water when it needs to be blacked and not have any major headaches. 

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7 hours ago, Alpha95 said:

Thanks for the reply. Yes your right it does look like 4mm. I did have the same thought about access and have a few ideas in mind to make this easy without it being noticeable that the floor can be lifted. We had the idea to use poor man's fiber glass curving over the edges where the wood is attached, try and stop water sitting in these areas and seeping through. We've had some good results with poor man's fiberglass in the past and epoxy fiberglass around the leaky windows and doors, we also want to fit roof hatches so this will have to be done also. It's a bit of a risk but manageable. 

This engine isn't as massive priority just yet as it will be put on a residential spot and I doubt we will really move it from there, but I am a motorcycle mechanic by trade and was previously a car mechanic so shouldn't be much issue to get it going if it's just been sitting for awhile. 

This is the reason why I want to get the hull done to top standard and treat the inside and outside so really I've only got to pull it out of water when it needs to be blacked and not have any major headaches. 

 

If you haven't already, have a hull survey done, it will cost maybe £300 out of your budget but it could save you £000's. You may think the 'rest' of the hull is sound but you don't know without a structural survey. Do you want to pay someone to weld up the known holes, finish fitting it out, pout it in the water and it sinks ?

 

The only way to get an (almost) leakproof join between the cabin and the hull is to remove  the wooden cabin, weld (minimum) 2" high steel upstands along the hull and then rebuild the cabin overlapping the upstands.

2" angle iron makes it simple.

 

It sounds like the boat is in the ideal condition to undertake the work and you are not going to be worried about damaging any internal fittings

 

The differential expansion between metal / wood / fibreglass / silicone will mean that any 'bodge' will not work - do it properly and do it once. If you don't, every time it rains you are going to end up with rotting woodwork wet bedding, damp clothes, soggy boxes of food, and a miserable life.

 

Good luck.

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7 hours ago, Alpha95 said:

Thanks for the reply. Yes your right it does look like 4mm. I did have the same thought about access and have a few ideas in mind to make this easy without it being noticeable that the floor can be lifted. We had the idea to use poor man's fiber glass curving over the edges where the wood is attached, try and stop water sitting in these areas and seeping through. We've had some good results with poor man's fiberglass in the past and epoxy fiberglass around the leaky windows and doors, we also want to fit roof hatches so this will have to be done also. It's a bit of a risk but manageable. 

This engine isn't as massive priority just yet as it will be put on a residential spot and I doubt we will really move it from there, but I am a motorcycle mechanic by trade and was previously a car mechanic so shouldn't be much issue to get it going if it's just been sitting for awhile. 

This is the reason why I want to get the hull done to top standard and treat the inside and outside so really I've only got to pull it out of water when it needs to be blacked and not have any major headaches. 

What is "poor man's fibre glass"? Sounds like a bodge to me and as has been said bodges don't suit a wood and steel boat.

 

Have you realised how difficult it can be to get a residential mooring, especially when you don't say where you are? Many areas have long waiting lists for these.

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You have taken  on a big project. Whereabouts are you? You could really do with someone who knows stuff having a quick look. It does indeed sound like an old Springer. I would imagine that the steel that came with the boat was for overplating the bottom. I would suggest that you find a welder and get him to give an idea of the cost of the work. I would not worry about ballast yet. Has it got holes cut for sink waste water, exhaust, air intake for engine if there is or was one? I would weld these up and start again when you fit it out, they should be well clear of the waterline. The only way to ensure a waterproof join is to have a steel 'upstand' welded to the 'side deck' You might not end up with a perfect boat with this project but it doesn't matter, you might sell it on for a small profit and get something else, who knows? You will accumulate some skills and stuff and useful tools and starting with a old steel boat is a better place than starting with a rotten old wooden boat and no money like some of us did.  Good luck!

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First off we have residential mooring sorted out already, so we aren't worried about that.

Poor man's fiberglass is a use of canvas soaked in a outdoor and uv protection paint, this turns the canvas into a hard shell similar to fiberglass. A lot of the tear drop caravan guys use this method to build their campers though have seen it used on boats. Definitely wouldn't call it a bodge seeing as it's leak proof.

 

Also we haven't had a survey done but we have a friend of ours with a metal thickness tester. We are going to do this once the bottom is welded up as even with over plating the bottom needs to be done first.

The boat does have waste holes cut, we are going to start again with these as the don't suit our intended layout.

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No-one so far appears to have pointed out the sheer amount of effort you are going to expend on this, along with the money you'll have to spend on this project is going to far exceed the time and cost of fitting out a new 30ft shell, and this one will be worth one tenth of the value of a new one when you've finished. 

 

I'd scrap it now if I were you and pour your money and effort into a new one. Use this as a donor for engine and a load of other stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Mike the Boilerman
Logic error!
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27 minutes ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

 

No-one so far appears to have pointed out the sheer amount of effort you are going to expend on this, along with the money you'll have to spend on this project is going to far exceed the time and cost of fitting out a new 30ft shell, and this one will be worth one tenth of the value of a new one when you've finished. 

 

I'd scrap it now if I were you and pour your money and effort into a new one. Use this as a donor for engine and a load of other stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very wise words.

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1 hour ago, Mike the Boilerman said:

 

No-one so far appears to have pointed out the sheer amount of effort you are going to expend on this, along with the money you'll have to spend on this project is going to far exceed the time and cost of fitting out a new 30ft shell, and this one will be worth one tenth of the value of a new one when you've finished. 

 

I'd scrap it now if I were you and pour your money and effort into a new one. Use this as a donor for engine and a load of other stuff.

 

I don't disagree, although a new 30ft sailaway from Collingwood will cost 30 times what the OP has paid for this boat.

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I'm not majorly concerned about the amount of work involved from a time point of view. We like building stuff and working on things, plus my brother is a builder and gas fitter, father does electrics and construction, I did much the same before I pushed mechanics into a full time thing. We have met some very talented trades people that can lend a hand and some very good welders. We much rather salvage an old boat than buy a new one, plus the price will still be lower even if that means putting some new steel on. Still pricey but could still be avoided. We get more satisfaction from building something and spending time on it than just buying something new and be done with it, we've never been that way inclined and with our motorcycle business that's pretty much how we are now. We've salvaged projects people have said will never see the road again. We like challenges and completely understand the work and time involved, maybe I came across like it was a 5 minute job? Not sure. 

Our only real concern is the hull itself, but only concerned at what amount of work has to be done to it before we can start constructing the rest of the boat. This is our first job. It's rotted from the inside out in 2 places where water has sat on bare metal. These will be replaced. Even then we bashed that section with a hammer and it wouldn't budge or fall through. We are going to assess exactly what needs doing to the hull hopefully by next week 

 

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Most of the advice on this forum is by people that have no idea what they're talking about but just feel the need to comment,  so take it with a pinch of salt. 

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Alpha95 said:

It's rotted from the inside out in 2 places where water has sat on bare metal.

 

If it has rotted right through in two places it is very likely to be thin in others. Insurers of boats over 25-30 years old (which I assume this is) normally want to see a hull survey with hull thickness measurements of at least 4 mm. Since your boat appears only to have started life at this thickness you may struggle.

And an insurance company will be reluctant to accept readings from your mate with a thickness tester. They will want a report from a qualified marine surveyor (with professional indemnity insurance).

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12 minutes ago, Alpha95 said:

We like building stuff and working on things, plus my brother is a builder and gas fitter, father does electrics and construction, I did much the same before I pushed mechanics into a full time thing. We have met some very talented trades people that can lend a hand and some very good welders.

Just be aware that there are regulations regarding who can work (particularly gas) on Liveaboard boats.

A Gas fitter must not only be aware of the GSIUR regs but be qualified (ticketed) to work on LPG with a boat endorsement. A 'LPG ticket' for a caravan for example is not sufficient. The requirements for boat installations are very different.

 

On the 'electrical' side, do not consider using domestic 'twin & earth' cable. You need to use multi-stranded 'flexible cable'. The sizes will be shown in the specifications I send you.

 

There are ISO specifications which may help you.  I cannot post them on here as the forum software will not allow Pdf's. Send me a PM with your email address and I'll happily send you copies of the AC Electrical, Low voltage DC, and gas requirements.

 

Are you also aware of the boat safety scheme certificate (BSSC) which is like a car MOT and which the boat must pass before a boat licence can be granted.

This covers everything from the type of fuel; tank, to the size of the battery cables, to how the batteries are secured, gas testing etc etc.

Edited by Alan de Enfield

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Before you consider anything else, you need to cost up a complete overplating below the water line.  If you are only starting with 3/16" you are already at the limit before you account for any pitting.   The cost of replating may well blow most (if not all) of your budget.  Don't forget to include the cost of moving the boat and preparation.

 

You may be better off keeping it as a source of parts and start with something that will float.

 

ETA:  with a lightweight top and  6mm overplating,  it may well float too low in the water to be practical.

Edited by dor

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18 minutes ago, dor said:

ETA:  with a lightweight top and  6mm overplating,  it may well float too low in the water to be practical.

The dangers of overplating a small NB (it sinks !!)

 

https://www.pla.co.uk/assets/sb1of2012-narrowboatsinking-inadequateventsfreeboard1.pdf

Safety Lessons The hull of the vessel had been completely double plated and the increased weight of this plating had resulted in a reduced safety clearance; with the bottom of the engine room vent being positioned approximately 65mm above the waterline.  With 3 persons positioned on the aft deck the bottom of the engine room air vent became submerged beneath the waterline by 50mm, the resulting downflooding and sinking of the vessel was inevitable.   

 

 

https://www.iims.org.uk/the-dangers-of-overplating/

 

http://canalrivertrustwaterfront.org.uk/heritage/a-thrifty-beginning/

 

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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Provided you have an infinite supply of 'free' time (your own) and at least twice as much money as you think it will cost then you have a viable task ahead.  The last two words of your own thread title say it all.  Even a small boat is a big project.

Sort the hull first.  You should not overplate, because you don't need to and the extra steel will bring weight and trim problems.The boat is stripped so go over it with your mates' meter on about a 6 inch grid and mark up  every area that is less than 4mm thick.  Then decide if the job is worth the cost of steel and paying a welder to cut out and replace.  Check the stern tube and shaft at the same time, so the welder can sort a new one whilst he is at it.

 

Then worry about the top. There is much good advice above  but wooden tops, with or without painted canvas waterproofing, are a long term war of attrition, which the leaks will always win   eventually.   DAMHIKT.

 

Finally, worry about the fit out.  If you want to sell it within 5 years it ought, at present at least, to have  an EU Recreational Craft Directive assessment , because it has been comprehensively refitted.   A de E has offered some of the Standards needed.  Someone else mentioned the  Boat Safety Scheme.  You need to be familiar with both, as do any of your mates who help out in specialist areas.

 

Good luck.  Having a residential mooring sorted has probably fixed one of  the hardest parts

 

 

N

 

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2 hours ago, Alpha95 said:

 

Poor man's fiberglass is a use of canvas soaked in a outdoor and uv protection paint, this turns the canvas into a hard shell similar to fiberglass. A lot of the tear drop caravan guys use this method to build their campers though have seen it used on boats. Definitely wouldn't call it a bodge seeing as it's leak proof.

 

 

Very good material in fact, I have used it on a ply boat roof some years ago and it used to be a normal thing (on railway carriages???)  I laid it on synthaprufe then used every half empty tin of gloss paint in the shed before top coating it. It soaks up a hell of a lot of paint, lasts for years, has a reasonable non slip surface  and is not hard to remove. These days I wouldn't use it as lorry side curtain material is available new (and secondhand) I would not be surprised if Mr. Alpha 95 ends up knowing a lot of practical boaty stuff in a few years. However, if I could just mention grammar, in the first post it really should be ' My girlfriend and I' and not 'Myself and my girlfriend'.  Can I be a member of the pedants club now, please?

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I think everybody is agreed its a big project but if you do everything by the book, worried about the pointless RCD, had professionals in to do all the tricky bits, tried too hard to comply with all the CRT rules and regs and saw problems at every turn nobody except the wealthy would ever get a boat. I reckon its because of this that half the people on narrowboats these days can't fix anything that goes wrong, can only buy and sell through brokers, keep an army of surveyors in work, all have identical boats and if I don't stop right now I will upset a lot of people and get another warning so I will go and do the washing up.

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2 minutes ago, Bee said:

..................tried too hard to comply with all the CRT rules and regs

How can you 'try too hard', you either comply and get your licence, or you don't comply and your licence is refused.

 

(Agree with you on the rest, even the RCD is not applicable)

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11 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

How can you 'try too hard', you either comply and get your licence, or you don't comply and your licence is refused.

 

(Agree with you on the rest, even the RCD is not applicable)

I could have put it better. Ultimately a surveyor must OK a checklist but I do think that slavishly following the rules leads to many boats being boringly identical. There are probably half a dozen ways of installing that most risky of things, a solid fuel stove that are safe, compliant, and efficient. Most of them end up in the starboard front corner but halfway down the boat could be a better place ,(it works better for thermosyphon systems) or even right at the back.  Working to a checklist like the BSS can make it very easy for boatfitters, professionals and for those of us who cannot or don't want to pay other people just reproduce the same old formula. Nobody wants dangerous boats, people manage to do daft things quite well in spite of the rules but the more regulations there are the more predictable and dull the boats become.

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@Bee poor people die in narrowboats which don't meet some of those regs (BCS and Co alarm fitting spring to mind)... I'd rather they were in cr*p (but safe) social housing and/or without a second home. 

 

OP seems to not be in that category and has (access to) the skills some of us are forced to substitute cash for. 

 

Someone's first home/project boat sank opposite me this week. A cheap boat a risky investment for most people - especially if they can't afford to loose the lot!

 

 

Edited to add: your subsequent message I agree with :-) 

Edited by TheMenagerieAfloat

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Cheers for the responses. I can't reply individually or I may be here all day. 

We have had a look into what's required and will be doing things by the book. As for sinking worse case is the first spot the residential yard has offered is when it's done we can be put into a mud berth, not very far to sink but I don't wish to find out exactly how far.

We have access to someone who has been marine welding for nearly 25 years. I think the point was missed about testing the thickness for metal, we have someone to test this for us who is not doing a official survey. This is so we know what points are affected so we know where to carry out the repairs.. The costly official survey will be carried out after its done. 

I must apologise for grammar. I eagerly left school with not very good results to do a trade and spent too much time I'm my youth buying old cars to learn how to fix and building things 😁 . My girlfriend normally proof reads everything but I thought I'd get away with it on here.

Edited by Alpha95
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26 minutes ago, Alpha95 said:

We have access to someone who has been marine welding for nearly 25 years. I think the point was missed about testing the thickness for metal, we have someone to test this for us who is not doing a official survey. This is so we know what points are affected so we know where to carry out the repairs.. The costly official survey will be carried out after its done. 

Unless you only insure it 3rd party (not ideal if it is your home and everything you own is inside) then you will need an acceptable survey result from a marine surveyor who is 'acceptable' to the insurers. The insurance industry seems to have taken it upon themselves not to insure any boat with any spot less than 4mm steel and as many Springer boats started out at 3.75mm and 4mm steel 40 years ago the chance of them meeting insurance requirements gets progressively more difficult.

 

I know 'we' are where we are, but I think that asking here before jumping-in may have resulted in finding a better hull for your project. Many such hulls are littering boat yards around the country and are given away or even paying someone to take them.

Their scrap value is 'negative' as the labour cost of cutting them up is higher than the income from selling the steel.

 

I really would suggest having a survey before you spend any money (even mates rates) so you can make an informed decision as to the best way forward.

The offer of the specifications for cabling and gas installations etc still stand if / when you decide to go ahead.

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