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allybsc
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After a brilliant weekend at Ellesmere Port my OH has now become as enthusiastic as me to buy a historic boat, it's not imminent as we have some work to do on Taurus to get her in tip top condition for sale. When the time comes and we find the perfect boat for us should we be put off if it has a composite hull?

We've asked loads of people and the advice is conflicting. What do you think?

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After a brilliant weekend at Ellesmere Port my OH has now become as enthusiastic as me to buy a historic boat, it's not imminent as we have some work to do on Taurus to get her in tip top condition for sale. When the time comes and we find the perfect boat for us should we be put off if it has a composite hull?

We've asked loads of people and the advice is conflicting. What do you think?

 

Very personal choice. About 5 years ago I spent a couple of days on a composite and I thought "this bottom feels lovely, snuff dry" etc. Soon afterwards, it was sold and very quickly had to have a new bottom fitted costing £1000s.

 

To me wood is still wood even if it is out of sight. You have to love the stuff and every credit to those who do.

 

George ex nb Alton retired

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Very personal choice. About 5 years ago I spent a couple of days on a composite and I thought "this bottom feels lovely, snuff dry" etc. Soon afterwards, it was sold and very quickly had to have a new bottom fitted costing £1000s.

 

To me wood is still wood even if it is out of sight. You have to love the stuff and every credit to those who do.

 

George ex nb Alton retired

 

Hello George,

Thanks for the reply, I hope you enjoyed your weekend at the port.

I must admit it's worrying as we are not very "handy"! I suppose if we found a boat that we loved (beyond all good sense) with a wooden bum then we would just have to make sure we had a contingency fund for new planks. I've been researching it but I find the more I read the less I know :blink:

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Hello George,

Thanks for the reply, I hope you enjoyed your weekend at the port.

I must admit it's worrying as we are not very "handy"! I suppose if we found a boat that we loved (beyond all good sense) with a wooden bum then we would just have to make sure we had a contingency fund for new planks. I've been researching it but I find the more I read the less I know :blink:

 

From what I understand (and I am happy to be proved wrong), the reality of a wooden bottom being removed is that the boat has to have a lot of the interior stripped as it is the bottom that ultimately supports it - so not a job to be undertaken lightly

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From what I understand (and I am happy to be proved wrong), the reality of a wooden bottom being removed is that the boat has to have a lot of the interior stripped as it is the bottom that ultimately supports it - so not a job to be undertaken lightly

 

Ooh hello Richard, it was nice to see you all at the weekend. This is the sort of stuff we need to know so we don't come a cropper, if we take an old boat on we want to be able to keep it up, any really mahoosive unforeseen outlay might scupper us!Thanks for your reply x

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From what I understand (and I am happy to be proved wrong), the reality of a wooden bottom being removed is that the boat has to have a lot of the interior stripped as it is the bottom that ultimately supports it - so not a job to be undertaken lightly

 

We are talking (ex) working boats so I presume we are also talking open hold for most of the length?

 

George ex nb Alton retired

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Whether wood or steel/iron bottoms, there will be a need for any internal fittings to be shifted for access when work is needed. Those who work with wood may claim it is best. likewise for those who work with metal, they both have advantages and disadvantages - all depends on your viewpoint and perhaps experience.

 

One thing I can say from first hand experience, is that after we had the wooden bottoms replaced with steel on YARMOUTH, the boat felt much different. Whilst obtaining much greater strength structurally with a steel cabin and bulkheads, it lost something that is hard to describe: - feeling; warmth; homeliness. It had become a steel box. Would you have steel bookshelves, or wooden ones? Well, that's hardly an analogy, but most would plump for wood of course.

 

Wood can rot, and steel corrodes. Massive contingency plans are always part and parcel of boat ownership, and one reason why I no longer own one. Spend all your dosh on buying, and there may be trouble ahead.

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We are talking (ex) working boats so I presume we are also talking open hold for most of the length?

 

George ex nb Alton retired

 

Well most of the length will ideally be open hold, I would like a small compromise on creature comforts and have a bit of a cabin extension for galley and ablutions.

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The maintenance / stripping out argument is irrelevant, whichever needs replacing it's a major issue to the internal fitout.

 

The thing about wooden bottoms is they like to be wet so not quite so compatible with a conversion.

 

As long as you don't mind damp bilges I would definitely (personally) go for a wooden bottom and wooden cabin, I have lived in both and wood is much warmer (and cooler in summer).

 

I would say that the bottom material shouldn't be the factor that decides the boat and unless they are shot (whichever material) I wouldn't rebottom if not needed.

Edited by Chris Pink
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Whether wood or steel/iron bottoms, there will be a need for any internal fittings to be shifted for access when work is needed. Those who work with wood may claim it is best. likewise for those who work with metal, they both have advantages and disadvantages - all depends on your viewpoint and perhaps experience.

 

One thing I can say from first hand experience, is that after we had the wooden bottoms replaced with steel on YARMOUTH, the boat felt much different. Whilst obtaining much greater strength structurally with a steel cabin and bulkheads, it lost something that is hard to describe: - feeling; warmth; homeliness. It had become a steel box. Would you have steel bookshelves, or wooden ones? Well, that's hardly an analogy, but most would plump for wood of course.

 

Wood can rot, and steel corrodes. Massive contingency plans are always part and parcel of boat ownership, and one reason why I no longer own one. Spend all your dosh on buying, and there may be trouble ahead.

 

Part of me likes the idea of caretaking a boat with an elm bottom but I would constantly worry it would sink! The plan is to sell our boat and keep a fund for works needed on a longer term basis.

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Part of me likes the idea of caretaking a boat with an elm bottom but I would constantly worry it would sink! The plan is to sell our boat and keep a fund for works needed on a longer term basis.

 

sinking feeling? Why didn't you say? In which case elm every time, if it leaks you just nail a bit of wood over the hole, try doing that with a bit of rusty metal.

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The maintenance / stripping out argument is irrelevant, whichever needs replacing it's a major issue to the internal fitout.

 

The thing about wooden bottoms is they like to be wet so not quite so compatible with a conversion.

 

As long as you don't mind damp bilges I would definitely (personally) go for a wooden bottom and wooden cabin, I have lived in both and wood is much warmer (and cooler in summer).

 

I would say that the bottom material shouldn't be the factor that decides the boat and unless they are shot (whichever material) I wouldn't rebottom if not needed.

 

I do like wooden cabins, they just look lovely to me. If we were to renew the bottom in elm how reliable is it likely to be, I know the wood needs to be wet to keep it swollen, does that make any living space damp?

 

sinking feeling? Why didn't you say? In which case elm every time, if it leaks you just nail a bit of wood over the hole, try doing that with a bit of rusty metal.

Hahahaah...should I budget for waders too?

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I do like wooden cabins, they just look lovely to me. If we were to renew the bottom in elm how reliable is it likely to be, I know the wood needs to be wet to keep it swollen, does that make any living space damp?

 

 

Hahahaah...should I budget for waders too?

 

I lived on a boat with wooden bottoms for 10 years I didn't find it damp though I needed to pay attention to the bilges, keeping them clear.

 

They will possibly need a bit of attention at docking, renewing bits of caulking - good caulking stops the boat hogging but if in good knick now they'll outlast you. after all, by design they are 3" elm, designed for dragging around 20 odd tonnes, riding nearly empty they don't get much wear at all.

 

Replacing bottom planks on a composite boat is not difficult.

 

it won't be damp in the cabin as long as ventilation is taken into account.

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sinking feeling? Why didn't you say? In which case elm every time, if it leaks you just nail a bit of wood over the hole, try doing that with a bit of rusty metal.

 

This is true. We had the pump come on one night at regular intervals and after a search discovered a leak where the bottom boards were bolted up to the chine by the engine. With the boat still in the water, we slackened off a few bolts, hung over the side and reaching below water line stuffed some bitumen soaked rag along the gap. Nipped up the bolts again and stopped the leak. Always kept the bottoms wet though.

 

When we punched a small hole in the bow plating (iron) on the water line breaking thin ice, that got fixed with a nut, bolt and some washers. Holes in a steel or iron bottom are no so easily bodged (sorry - repaired). Though I've heard of some French Peniche methods using rashers of bacon and quick setting cement. Cuisine of some sort maybe. Possibly had the in-laws coming.

 

Edit:

 

Talking of wooden bottoms, looking along our bilge, we could see fungi growing at one point. It was beneath where the stove was situated. Wood brought in for the fire would drop spores which found their way through to the bilges. I don't recall they were growing out from the boards, mostly from the detritus that collected at that point. Gave us food for thought though, and was one of the many reasons why we went for steel. Were I to be in the same situation again, I'd go for new wood.

Edited by Derek R.
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I lived on a boat with wooden bottoms for 10 years I didn't find it damp though I needed to pay attention to the bilges, keeping them clear.

 

They will possibly need a bit of attention at docking, renewing bits of caulking - good caulking stops the boat hogging but if in good knick now they'll outlast you. after all, by design they are 3" elm, designed for dragging around 20 odd tonnes, riding nearly empty they don't get much wear at all.

 

Replacing bottom planks on a composite boat is not difficult.

 

it won't be damp in the cabin as long as ventilation is taken into account.

 

At the weekend we had a poke round the workshop at the port, there was a stack of planks waiting to be used, thems' substantial pieces of wood I couldn't imagine travelling enough miles to ever wear them away. Eventually we will live ont' boat, can't now as we are both still working so I would think decent bilge pumps would be essential for when we are at home.

 

This is true. We had the pump come on one night at regular intervals and after a search discovered a leak where the bottom boards were bolted up to the chine by the engine. With the boat still in the water, we slackened off a few bolts, hung over the side and reaching below water line stuffed some bitumen soaked rag along the gap. Nipped up the bolts again and stopped the leak. Always kept the bottoms wet though.

 

When we punched a small hole in the bow plating (iron) on the water line breaking thin ice, that got fixed with a nut, bolt and some washers. Holes in a steel or iron bottom are no so easily bodged (sorry - repaired). Though I've heard of some French Peniche methods using rashers of bacon and quick setting cement. Cuisine of some sort maybe. Possibly had the in-laws coming.

 

I wonder who was the first to think that bacon would fix the hull?

 

Steel is mucho expensive these days, is that an argument for keeping the wood do ya think?

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(snipped)

I wonder who was the first to think that bacon would fix the hull?

 

Steel is mucho expensive these days, is that an argument for keeping the wood do ya think?

 

Animal fats are naturally resistant to water - ask a Cow!

 

As to any argument for or against, it's ultimately down to the size of the wallet, what makes you happy, and a desire in preserving an existing piece of history.

 

Check out Chris Collins work HERE. Follow the thread to see stages of development. Impressive stuff.

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Edit:

 

Talking of wooden bottoms, looking along our bilge, we could see fungi growing at one point. It was beneath where the stove was situated. Wood brought in for the fire would drop spores which found their way through to the bilges. I don't recall they were growing out from the boards, mostly from the detritus that collected at that point. Gave us food for thought though, and was one of the many reasons why we went for steel. Were I to be in the same situation again, I'd go for new wood.

 

It heartens me that you would go for wood, I'm sure I would be checking the bilges very regularly.

 

What we should do really if we had our sensible heads on is to do up our own boat and live on that, it's built like a tank and will outlast us, we've never had a scrap of trouble with it in 7 years (it's 16yrs old) apart from failing batteries which we pepped up with new acid and bat aid! But...I have a yearning for an old boat that I can't quite explain, I've tried to suppress it but it just won't go away!

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I agree that wear and tear is not a problem and as Derek and Chris say, it's relatively straightforward to do running repairs. However, elm rots, even though it's kept wet. When I first docked our motor when it still had its elm bottom I was a bit alarmed to see that an area of about a foot square had rotted away from underneath leaving about a quarter of an inch thick layer of sound wood on top. To all intents and purposes the bottom looked sound, but if I'dstamped on it, or worse, had a load of coal been tipped in, a huge hole would have opened up. Because I was going to have an undercloth conversion, I felt that there was not alternative but to have a steel bottom. However, should the next owner wish to put an elm bottom back on, he will find that all the chine angles etc. are still intact and no irrevocable damage has been done to the original hull.

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I've had boats with timber bottoms and I've had them with steel bottoms.

As has been said already, there are merits to, and problems with, both, but I'm sorry to tell you that your choice of boat will ultimately be dictated by your heart, not your head. Don't ask-just do it and worry about it afterwards, because if you really fall for an old clunker, you won't be swayed by rational discussion or argument!

Ken Keay had a fairly accurate way of describing any work to be done on old boats-"Think of a figure, double it, add 20% and save up for the rest".

Good luck with it.

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Well most of the length will ideally be open hold, I would like a small compromise on creature comforts and have a bit of a cabin extension for galley and ablutions.

 

Just my thoughts when looking for the replacement for Sandbach. As the realisation that I will never carry again (bad back) took hold, the compromise cabin extension grew into Badger which has enough hold left for about 5 tonnes of coal, provided someone else loads/unloads it:-)

 

George ex nb Alton retired

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I agree that wear and tear is not a problem and as Derek and Chris say, it's relatively straightforward to do running repairs. However, elm rots, even though it's kept wet. When I first docked our motor when it still had its elm bottom I was a bit alarmed to see that an area of about a foot square had rotted away from underneath leaving about a quarter of an inch thick layer of sound wood on top. To all intents and purposes the bottom looked sound, but if I'dstamped on it, or worse, had a load of coal been tipped in, a huge hole would have opened up. Because I was going to have an undercloth conversion, I felt that there was not alternative but to have a steel bottom. However, should the next owner wish to put an elm bottom back on, he will find that all the chine angles etc. are still intact and no irrevocable damage has been done to the original hull.

 

Eek and again eek! I bet you thanked your lucky stars. I'm pleased that you can rebottom and still leave the important bits intact, I don't want to be a vandal of any kind.

 

Animal fats are naturally resistant to water - ask a Cow!

 

As to any argument for or against, it's ultimately down to the size of the wallet, what makes you happy, and a desire in preserving an existing piece of history.

 

Check out Chris Collins work HERE. Follow the thread to see stages of development. Impressive stuff.

 

I talk to the cow's outside, they don't have much conversation TBH :lol:

I've skimmed that thread but I'm going to settle down with a cuppa and read it all now...thanks.

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I've had boats with timber bottoms and I've had them with steel bottoms.

As has been said already, there are merits to, and problems with, both, but I'm sorry to tell you that your choice of boat will ultimately be dictated by your heart, not your head. Don't ask-just do it and worry about it afterwards, because if you really fall for an old clunker, you won't be swayed by rational discussion or argument!

Ken Keay had a fairly accurate way of describing any work to be done on old boats-"Think of a figure, double it, add 20% and save up for the rest".

Good luck with it.

Thank you. Your absolutely right, I know I'm going to see an old rust bucket and fall head over heels, I suppose I'm trying to offset any emotional decision by overthinking it before we set off with a bag full of the queens pounds

 

Just my thoughts when looking for the replacement for Sandbach. As the realisation that I will never carry again (bad back) took hold, the compromise cabin extension grew into Badger which has enough hold left for about 5 tonnes of coal, provided someone else loads/unloads it:-)

 

George ex nb Alton retired

 

Badger is a fine boat. I hope your backs better and you got home OK.

 

If you want to talk about the work involved in rebottoming a composite boat roger fuller might not be a bad place to start as he did the second half of ilford fairly recently.

 

 

Daniel

Thanks. When we get closer to a decision, I'll have a conversation with him. He's not too far away from us so he would be a good choice to do any work needed.

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I agree that wear and tear is not a problem and as Derek and Chris say, it's relatively straightforward to do running repairs. However, elm rots, even though it's kept wet. When I first docked our motor when it still had its elm bottom I was a bit alarmed to see that an area of about a foot square had rotted away from underneath leaving about a quarter of an inch thick layer of sound wood on top. To all intents and purposes the bottom looked sound, but if I'dstamped on it, or worse, had a load of coal been tipped in, a huge hole would have opened up. Because I was going to have an undercloth conversion, I felt that there was not alternative but to have a steel bottom. However, should the next owner wish to put an elm bottom back on, he will find that all the chine angles etc. are still intact and no irrevocable damage has been done to the original hull.

 

Wear & tear certainly can be an issue. Wooden bottoms need shoeing - steel strips nailed or crewed up along the outer edges to protect the timber and the bolt or spike heads. This shoeing can get ripped off on rubbish on the bottom of the canal, it needs to be maintained if the boat is used rather than just tied up most of the time.

 

Large elm boards as needed for boat bottoms are close to being an extinct species these days, because of Dutch Elm disease, the timber usually used now is Opepe, a tropical hardwood.

 

Replacing bottom boards on a composite boat is generally a very straightforward operation, though.

 

Tim

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Wear & tear certainly can be an issue. Wooden bottoms need shoeing - steel strips nailed or crewed up along the outer edges to protect the timber and the bolt or spike heads. This shoeing can get ripped off on rubbish on the bottom of the canal, it needs to be maintained if the boat is used rather than just tied up most of the time.

 

Large elm boards as needed for boat bottoms are close to being an extinct species these days, because of Dutch Elm disease, the timber usually used now is Opepe, a tropical hardwood.

 

Replacing bottom boards on a composite boat is generally a very straightforward operation, though.

 

Tim

 

I read somewhere that a new elm bottom should last for 20 years if looked after, if we budgeted for every plank being replaced it should be OK???? How often would you expect to dock the boat after that?

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