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There you go again John, what is wrong with 6mm cabin sides? Not quite 6mm but my boat has 5mm cabin sides and roof, the benefit being that there is no need for any frames welded to the sides producing all those wobbly bits that show up in the sunlight. Admittedly with these modern shallow draught boats it would make the boat a bit unstable but when you've got more than 30" below the water there is no real problem with stability.


On the engine loctation issue, how about this one? The engine in my boat is in the Back cabin with the bottom end of the beds either side of it. It is in a nice strong steel box which is insulated, but it still makes the cabin nice and warm in the winter. As for the boaty feel the engine is hard mounted, which produces a constant reminder that you are on a boat when it is running.

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I have no problem with the 15mm bottom plate, I had mine built with 12mm and it made a big difference to increased stability and lessening the amount of ballast required.


Six mm cabin sides would make the boat very 'wallowy' with all that weight high up, many of the better builders use 3mm for the cabin and roof and they buy it in long lengths, only minimal if any framming is required, lighter plate if anything is flatter than the thicker sizes.


David's trad' type engine will have a much nicer feel that the one proposed for the 'Duke Box Boat'.

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I have just done some calculations John and the weight of my cabin and roof all constructed from 5mm steel is about 0.8% lighter than a cabin with 6mm sides and a 4mm top, so the "wallow effect" should be about the same. I have never noticed that my boat wallows any more than most other boats, and seems to be more stable than many of these modern shallow draught boats where most of the boat is out of the water. I guess that the 2ft 9" draught must make a difference, the hull is also 7ft wide not 6ft 10", but whether the mininimal amount of extra width and weight would make any difference, I am not sure.

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I am sure you are correct with a heavy deep draughted boat the extra weight will not be so significant. I did once know a chap who had 5mm cabin sides welded on to of his lightweight timber cabin, you could get sea-sick in his boat.


I would dispute your arithmetic, 0.8% ?

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I think I have missed something here or someone is pulling my leg.


Build anything from 5mm plate and it be 1/6th or 16.6% lighter than the same thing built from 6mm plate.








I can not follow your calculations. There is no length measurement, and you are multiplying imperial measurements by metric measurements and giving the answer in imperial square inches! Or am I the one that is missing something?

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Oh dear, I think I am loosing the will to live. Only Rusty Duck can see the relevance of my figures. The mixture of imperial and metric, whilst unconventional, (I do it all the time) does not make any difference to the equation, as long as like is compared with like. The length of the cabin is immaterial as the differential between the two examples will be the same where both examples will use the same common length. For those who are not convinced, and for the mathmaticly challenged, I will attempt to explain using all the factors.


The Student designed boat had a cabin with sides of 6mm and roof of 4mm. My boat has sides and roof both of 5mm. My cabin roof is 5ft 6ins (168cm) wide and the cabin sides are 36ins (92cm) high. The length of the cabin is 40 ft (610cm)


My Boat


Roof (168cm) - 168cm x 610cm x 0.5cm = 51240 cubic cm.


Cabin sides (92cm) - 92cm x 2 x 0.5cm = 56120 cubic cm


Total volume - 51240 + 56120 = 107360 cubic cm.



Student Designed Boat


Roof (168cm) - 168cm x 0.4cm x 610 cm = 40992 cubic cm


Cabin sides (92cm) - 92cm x 2 x 0.6cm = 67344 cubic cm


Total Volume - 40992 + 67344 = 108336 cubic cm


Student Boat volume 108336 cubic cm


My Boat Volume 107360 cubic cm


difference 976 cubic cm



976 as a % of 108336 = 0.9%


There has been a small slippage of 0.038% in the conversion to nearest cm from inches but the principle remains that there is less than 1% difference in the volume of the two examples. Multiplying the two examples by any weight per cubic cetnimetre will produce exactly the same result.


I don't think I have missed anything !!!!

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Oh dear, I think I am loosing the will to live. Only Rusty Duck can see the relevance of my figures.  ....

I don't think I have missed anything !!!!


Erm David, you have missed out the additional ribs and stringers required by the thinner (flatter, longer) plate, as mentioned by, I think, John several posts back.


Quote from the boatman of the double-ended (then new) Dudley Tunnel electric tug - "It worked well on paper, not so well on water"!


BTW rustyduck

I'd hate to see the price tag though
- is it not for sale at GBP 30K :) ? The guy is an electronics engineer and has gone way over the top on that aspect, rather along the American style of 'just throw money at the problem' rather than the finesse achieved by relatively impoverished UK and other European engineers - not to mention the ex-Soviets. I am not biased, I am a computer engineer - just wait for my 1st April article in a canal mag :lol: !


I do not have my copy to hand but I commend a book, I think it is:

Steel Boat Building - Thomas Colvin


I will check my copy next week. Whilst totally international, it never mentions a narrowboat! However, I would suggest that this is the minimum reading required for anyone specifying a boat built of metal, especially steel! Its a pity I do not have an Amazon affiliate number as you all rush out to buy it - try the Public Library. If you find an aspect of steel boat building that it does not cover - start a new thread!



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  • 2 weeks later...

Full length pelmets.


Some of the many problems you will encounter on lining out;


Making a neat transittion between deck-head and cabin side.


A neat method of hanging curtains.


A place for concealed lighting.


A cable trunking on both sides of the boat.


Have a look around B & Q or other such emporiums you will find a range of 'Torus' board there is a range of widths but 5" is about right, it is made to be used as a profiled skirting board for use in older Victorian type houses. Turned upside-down it makes a perfect decorative pellet.


Fix a 35mm square batten 40mm below the deck-head full length of the boat. The pelmet board can then be fixed to the batten with decorative screws or using those neat plastic screw covers you can buy.


You now have a full length removable pelmet which will cover curtain rail, fluorescent lighting and a cable duct above. Paint it in a primary colour and decorate with roses, people never put enough colour into boats these days.

Edited by John Orentas
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  • 3 months later...

Cutting large holes.


When fitting out you are often faced with the need to cut a hole up to 3 or 4 inches diameter in plywood or other sheet material.


Large wood working bits don't work well on sheet materials, they splinter the surface and generally make a mess.


Instead get yourself a set of tank cutters of the type that electricians use for cutting holes in steel enclosure, they make a neat hole in most materials.


For cleaning up the inside of the hole use a 'flap wheel' you can get small ones which will fit the chuck of an electric drill.

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If you dpnt have a flap wheel. Get a piece of round steel that will fit into your drill. Hacksaw a slot along the length about 1" long and insert a peice of sand paper, or emery for metal, making a sort of flag. When this spins in your drill you will have a similar effect as a flap wheel. :D

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  • 4 months later...



It is a real issue, I have been on boats that don't feel like boats at all, they may have an engine room of sorts but everyting remotely boaty is hidden away behind the latest trendy household accessories.


For me I like boats, that's why I have bought one, it has a woodburning stove, I don't have a kitchen I have a galley, when I am in bed it has the feel of a bunk, my engine room has equipment fixed to the walls, wiring, pipes, ropes, exposed lighting and a workbench. If this description fills anyone with horror I would suggest they have no business having a boat.


Others will say in a pompous sort of way "that's all very well but I like to be comfortable", then I would say they have missed the point, boats can be comfortable too.


You only have to read many of the contributions on this site to realise that a sizable minority go to great lengths to embrace a suburban lifestyle and create modern home counties semi.


There is no irony in this, but I do honestly wonder at times, "why the hell has this bloke bought a boat".

I wonder about the £75,000 's worth of tug, that goes out of the marina and ties up in the countryside, then a hand pops out of the door with a tv ariel, and thats the last you see of them !

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  • 1 month later...

Great Solution Colin - I'd been wondering for a while about how to tackle this problem on my NB. No inspection hatches or anything fitted on the dry bilge side and from what I've read condensation etc will form in just about any boat. And of course all those water droplets have to go somewhere..........

Cheers for a neat solution.





On the subject of floors, and just out of interest, how many of you have inspection hatches at the rear of your boat that enables you to periodically check for water in the dry bilge?.

If you haven't one then here is a little tip on a quick and easy installation.Select a suitable point between the bearers at the rear of the boat as close as you can to the steel bulkhead that divides the wet and dry bilges. Using a brass pumpout deck fitting drill the appropriate sized hole, clear as much ballast as you can, this may require you to hammer and chisel through a paving slab or a brick depending on what has been used for ballast (this doesn't mean a 14lb sledge hammer or kangos because if you do you won't need an inspection hatch to see if there's any water - you'll be standing in it). If it's steel ingots then you won't be able to remove any but don't worry, ideally its better if you can get down to the base plate. All you need to do now is hacksaw off the hosetail on the back of the pumpout fitting position it in place and screw it to the floor. For future inspections all you need to do is to unscrew the centre bung and with a torch you can see the base plate and any water present. Those who have steel ballast and couldn't remove any to see the base plate can feed a dry taper through as far as you can to see if there is water present. Should there be then you can pump it out from here until you find the cause. Before someone says it could just be condensation I am only providing the means for you to be able to see any water and not probable causes, that can be for another thread.

For those of you that are at the ballasting stage this is the time to select your spot and leave a clear area then the fitting is easier. The idea of using a brassfitting is that you can polish it if it's in view, it's also neat and unobtrusive and eliminates the need to construct carriers that would be needed if it was a removable drop-in hatch,as I have said very easy at build stage, and quite easy on existing boats. Hope this helps some of you


All the best


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  • 5 weeks later...

Battening a curved deck-head.


Most boats will require some form of battening fixed the the steel framing of the deck head to which the lining can be attached and to give thermal barrier, whether the framing comprises rolled angle or square hollow section the problem is the same.


One method of forming and fixing battens to angle section used to be by the use of typ. 1.25" square timber, to allow it to bend to the correct profile there would be a saw cut every inch and 3/4 of the way through the wood, this method not only looks horrible, it weakens the structure and makes the bend un-predictable, it would be held in place by wood-screws through the usually pre-drilled frames.


Where the framing is square hollow section steel the temptation is to simply screw thin battens to the under side of the frames, this method is not good as the necessarily thin timber lack strength and does not give the required insulation.


I have devised a method for use on either of the two types of framing. The end result is a curved, laminated timber, 1.125" square with the correct profile to suit the roof of the boat, it is fitted alongside the frames and fixed to them with wood-screws. And they can be made at home.


I constructed the following jig from steel but an equally effective one could be built from timber.


1. Measure the roof profile, you can generally assume a true arc, so just the width and height is needed, allow a touch extra curve as your battens will probably straighten out a bit.


2. I used a length of 100 x 50mm steel box for the base of the jig and a strip of 4 x 50mm to give the curved profile, by bending it by hand and tacking down the edge a nice curved 'wall' can be created to which the laminated beams can be clamped.


3. Timber yards will usually stock battens of roughly 30mm x 9mm. Three of these are glued together and fixed in your jig with G clamps, (the more the better) and left over-night, so in 3 weeks or less you will have a full set of deck head beams. When fixing them make sure that there will be a good 6mm clearance between frame and roof lining.


I found this method particularly good when using T & G boarding, the only application where I like to use the stuff. You can pass the jig on to someone else when you have done with it.

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Where the framing is square hollow section steel the temptation is to simply screw thin battens to the under side of the frames, this method is not good as the necessarily thin timber lack strength and does not give the required insulation.

If all you want is a extra thiness of wood for insulation, why dont you simply screw 2/3 thin batterns to the hollow sections, and cut out all the time/effort making curved laminated batterns?

- You could even stick a bit of glue between then, and then screw them up. (even using a cordless electric drill for speed...)




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