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60ft narrow boat hull with wooden cabin


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  • 1 month later...

So with the current lockdown and not being able to get to the boat. We have started building the new superstructure in the back garden. 

 

Started cutting the beak joints to sit on the upstand and then mocked up the framing. I am going to run a beam down the centre to give the boat a bit of pitch for the roof. 

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4 minutes ago, Welsherfarr said:

I am going to run a beam down the centre to give the boat a bit of pitch for the roof. 

 

The normal solution is to use curved timbers across the roof. Either cut them from a wider piece or laminate from a number of thinner strips glued together and clamped to a curved former.

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I wish you luck with your project, but speaking of my personal experience on putting a wooden top on a steel hull I couldn't  recommend it unless it was a historic boat requiring a sympathetic restoration. I did one when I was very young and had no experience of narrowboats so I was working blind. There were no internet forums then! It did last for my ownership of some 5 years without any problems. I have had two other woodentops, one of which I currently have. If you do it properly getting the right materials it could be OK but if you use DIY softwood and cheap Chinese ply it will not work and the boat will be worthless. If you use decent materials  such as Iroko for the frames and proper marine plywood for the skin it will cost a lot more than having a steel top put on. Work out the cost of materials , glue paint epoxy coating etc and apart from your time and if it your first attempt you will probably make some expensive mistakes. Save money by having the steel top put on and spend your time on the internal fit out then you will have a nice boat that should be worth what you paid for it including the new steelwork. Most decent yards could put on a top in two to three weeks. Save money by doing all the strip out and prep yourselves.

  • Greenie 3
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Thanks Mike, 

All Valid points I have had a few quotes on a steel top. I cannot afford that level of out lay at the moment. 

It is something I will look to have done maybe in the future. 

Really like the challenge and of learning the wood work skills. 

 

Anyone know of any books on wooden narrowboat construction? 

 

 

 

  • Greenie 1
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50 minutes ago, Welsherfarr said:

Has anyone ever built a 2 storey narrowboat? Or one with a lifting poptop roof like a campervan? 

There was one at Upton many years ago

 

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I am not aware of any books or publications on fitting wooden tops to steel hulls but there might be? There are some on the construction of traditional wooden back cabins on wooden or steel working boats. It was only for a fairly short period of time when steel pleasure boat hulls were fitted with wooden tops before they realised it was better and cheaper to make a complete steel shell. The first ones were often built by constructing wooden frames and planking up the sides and roof with t and g boards and then covering the outside with masonite(a sort of waterproof hardboard) or thin marine ply. Otherwise use thicker ply (3/4") without the boarding. Sometimes the outside was sheaved with aluminum sheet. The structure has to be rigid and fixed to the steel hull to allow for some movement between the metal and wood due to temperature changes.

I would not disturb the superstructure more than is needed and live with it for a while and see how you get on. Roofs can be covered in glass/grp if fairly solid and other leaks with mastic and lead or copper patches at low cost. I am not sure how your superstructure was done.

First thing to do might be to work out how the cabin is constructed.

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bargus.jpg.f290412aa6aedcfa1431cf85d39e7f32.jpgThis lasted about 20 years with a lot of patching up towards the end (and we added a glass fibre cover on the flat bit), then another 10 years with the canvas added  keeping the rain out as the woodwork got softer and more porous - perhaps you could keep yours going for a while with similar canvas.

 

 

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Edited by Phoenix_V
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On 24/06/2020 at 13:00, Tracy D'arth said:

Seconded, you will have great problems selling it with a timber top.

For what you will spend on timber and wooden doors and windows, you could have a fine steel cabin, trad or cruiser and have no maintenance hassles later. 

 

There is a boat fabricator in Southam Oxfordshire that has done this for a friend of mine. They put the steel over the existing wooden cabin so the all the original fit out was retained, very cheap way of getting a good boat.

Would that be Martin Kedian? He built a steel ellum for a friends boat and it was a work of art.  You could also try Roger Farrington at Braunston bottom lock. Another artist in steelwork.

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The wood on my current boat is completely rotted with dry rot and wet rot throughout. It needs to be removed before we can move aboard. I am currently building the frame work with 2x4 treated timber with uprights and beams every 2 ft. Currently trying to make the doors for the hatches. 

I really like the photos phoenix V. That frame work is what inhave been thinking of. Was it your boat? Did you build it? 

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11 minutes ago, Welsherfarr said:

Less chance if dropping tools in the cut this way. 

I hope you are not going to try to do this sort of job whilst the boat is afloat. I would say it is impossible but somehow people find a way. Find  a friendly yard where you can get the boat out, plenty of tarpaulins and a van! You will be amazed at the amount of material you will have to get rid of for a start. When I did mine I had a commer van(It was that long ago). It took me a year 2 days a week just to put the cabin on a 40ft boat working on my own. Unless you are under cover the weather limits what you can do. If the boat it that rotten all you will have is a hull and engine by the time you have pulled it apart.

Not wishing to pour cold water on the project but just realise this is huge job unless you have a team of willing and able volunteers.

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41 minutes ago, Welsherfarr said:

 

I really like the photos phoenix V. That frame work is what inhave been thinking of. Was it your boat? Did you build it? 

I had a share in her, an ex GU working boat one of the other owners rebuilt the front part of the  cabin  in the 80s. As seen in the first photo of the previous post. (The rear was rebuilt at a different date). She has since been sold and deconverted. The picture below shows her just before deconversion, looking at it the roof may have been reskinned at some point (plus I think we renewed/repaired  some of the internal beams) there  was certainly a lot of give when you walked on it. There were always small but annoying leaks. Covering the front part of the cabin with canvas definitely extended it's life though it was difficult to seal round windows and chimneys. Where the handrails were fixed was also a continuing source of irritation. The main omission was of course the lack of an upstand from the gunwales. Unless really expensive the ply will always delaminate wherever damp gets in. Do spend well on sealant which will have to be flexible. When you start rebuilding the frames look at what is holding the hull sides from springing outwards and make sure you replicate, unless held in in some way they will ineveitably spring out (in our case it was 2 steel bulkheads which probably were not enough). Probably too late now but if you cannot afford hardwood for the frames pretreated timber would be worth it. Bargus's website is here https://bargus.weebly.com/1982-2016.html

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Edited by Phoenix_V
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Our website for thelma is narrowboatthelma.co.uk 

 

We are trying to document our journey with this boat to be able to lock back when we get bogged down with the daily slog. We can remind our selves of how far we have come. 

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On 24/06/2020 at 13:15, dmr said:

 The woodentops that I have seen always look rough, but then I probably don't notice any good ones. The differential expansion will require a gap, a big one looks wrong, a small one will always hold damp. Plywood is the most popular material but its really hard to stop some damp getting in causing the plys to de laminate. The common fix is then to "paint" a layer of glass fibre (GRP) over the top and this invariably looks bad.

 

...............Dave

For over twenty years I struggled with leaks in the wooden cabin on our butty.  In the end I encased it in fibre glass and resin using the West System.  It looked OK for a few years but then the cracks began to appear. I think coating with fibreglass is at best only a stop gap measure.

I've now got a steel cabin and it's a huge relief not to have to spend more time on maintenance than  boating.

 

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6 minutes ago, koukouvagia said:

For over twenty years I struggled with leaks in the wooden cabin on our butty.  In the end I encased it in fibre glass and resin using the West System.  It looked OK for a few years but then the cracks began to appear. I think coating with fibreglass is at best only a stop gap measure.

I've now got a steel cabin and it's a huge relief not to have to spend more time on maintenance than  boating.

 

 

In my much younger days I did a few glass fibre repairs on the dodgy old cars that I owned. A little later I was lucky enough to get access to full metalworking facilities and some superb metal workers who taught me how to weld. Looking back the glass fibre repairs were just a huge wast of time.

 

...........Dave

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21 minutes ago, koukouvagia said:

For over twenty years I struggled with leaks in the wooden cabin on our butty.  In the end I encased it in fibre glass and resin using the West System.  It looked OK for a few years but then the cracks began to appear. I think coating with fibreglass is at best only a stop gap measure.

I've now got a steel cabin and it's a huge relief not to have to spend more time on maintenance than  boating.

 

IMG_0433.JPG.f44d391b71c142b26aa76ce5a0cb4e0c.JPG

 

1196817820_P1000112(1).jpg.7f04cd48eea0bfae59644c87a0e9e76b.jpg

I suspect the problem with fibreglassing a wooden cabin is that the wood is vapour-permeable, whereas the fibreglass is not. The wooden cabin is a good insulator, but a thin layer of fibreglass is not. So moisture from cooking, occupants breathing, evaporation from bilge water etc. permeates the wood and then condenses on the cold inside face of the fibreglass, where it causes rot in the wood and a breakdown of the bond between the wood and the fibreglass, with inevitable results.

I imagine the same happens when a wooden cabin is sheathed with steel, so the inside face of the steel rust away, but it takes rather longer for the whole thing to visibly fail compared with fibreglass.

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I have had some success with West epoxy and glass fibre composite materials over a well constucted marine plywood cabin. The problem comes when you try to cover a cabin that has panels and timbers that naturally expand and contract at different rates. On narrow boats doing the roof alone can be successful in forming a rigid top but I wouldn't do it on the sides without using expansion joints. Not a cheap option -I spent nearly £1000 on materials for my current roof. It is the sort of thing you do after you have a problem but I don't expect to ever do it again 4mm of epoxy and two pack paint lasts a very long time.

If you are starting from scratch a steel top is better and cheaper every time.

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41 minutes ago, David Mack said:

I suspect the problem with fibreglassing a wooden cabin is that the wood is vapour-permeable, whereas the fibreglass is not. The wooden cabin is a good insulator, but a thin layer of fibreglass is not. So moisture from cooking, occupants breathing, evaporation from bilge water etc. permeates the wood and then condenses on the cold inside face of the fibreglass, where it causes rot in the wood and a breakdown of the bond between the wood and the fibreglass, with inevitable results.

I imagine the same happens when a wooden cabin is sheathed with steel, so the inside face of the steel rust away, but it takes rather longer for the whole thing to visibly fail compared with fibreglass.

In my case it was when the wood dried out after applying the fibreglass that the trouble started.  The cabin roof was made from thick pine planks.  Over the years these had soaked up the rain which, despite all my efforts, had been leaking in. 

After the fibreglassing the wood dried out completely and then a few years later it began to shrink and crumble.

 

P1120710.JPG

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We had our last boat professionally reskinned with wood including canvas on the roof. As we wanted to preserve the interior and keep the wooden feel. In hindsight it was a mistake and led to constant maintenance. It would have been cheaper to have it reskinned in steel. Unless you have the skills , money and time to use the right materials AND happy with the thought of ongoing maintenance I would stop and go for a steel skin.

  • Greenie 1
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