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Hairy Animal

The history of our 90 year old narrowboat

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When would you think the first narrowboat specifically designed for leisure use was built?

 

Previous to buying Malaya I would would have thought maybe the 1960s or 70s. Before that, most leisure use on the canals seems to have been with converted working boats, as indeed was Tom Rolt's Cressy in the 1940s which really popularised canal cruising.

 

Malaya though was launched in May 1926 and designed at the outset as a leisure narrowboat with a beam of 6' 9" and 40' in length, three cabins able to take a family of up to six, and a toilet and small galley.

 

Waterways World latest issue (October) has my article about Malaya's history which readers of this group might, I thought, be interested in reading?

 

Enjoy.

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Thanks, we're looking forward to getting her afloat again, though I fear it's looking like 2017 before that happens; 4+ years of sustained restoration!

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Very interesting stuff!

 

Pleasure boats have been with us a long time. Where the challenge comes here is defining narrow boat and possibly built for pleasure, or indeed pleasure itself

 

I've no idea of the history of Rodolph De Salis' "Dragonfly" but it was narrow beam, was it a narrow boat? And was his voyage for pleasure?

 

C J Aubertin's caravan afloat was narrow, but was it a narrow boat?

 

On a similar theme, I've just read a book of a journey through the K&A in 1926, written by C Herbert Smith. The boat described is not a narrow boat, it's 20 feet long, 4 feet wide, and has a small petrol engine driving a shaft. Wooden built with a canvas awning, would such a boat have been purpose built or adapted from a rowing skiff?

 

Keep telling us more about Malaya, I'm fascinated!

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Am I correct in thinking you can only look at the link to Waterways World latest issue if you are either already a subscriber, or are prepared to pay for an on-line viewing of a particular issue?

I didn't seem to be able to see anything of interest that was free to view.

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I remember a wooden butty 70ft with a clinker conversion in the early 70's called 'Edwina M' (after Mrs Mountbatten I expect). It had a lovely Lister CE2 and a brick open fireplace with a boiler in the chimney. I was told it had been built pre war (WW2) solely for pleasure and had never been worked. It was for sale on the Northern Stratford for £500 (I think).

I always wish I had bought it

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I've no idea of the history of Rodolph De Salis' "Dragonfly" but it was narrow beam, was it a narrow boat? And was his voyage for pleasure?

 

 

"Dragonfly" was built as narrow boat inspection boat and used for surveying by the owner who was CEO of FMC Ltd. It was kept near his house in Iver on what is now the "High Line" site. After doing this the boat passed to the GJCCo as a maintenance boat and can be seen in a few of Mr Milners pictures of work on the GJCC. Its fate I do not know.

Edited by Laurence Hogg

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Am I correct in thinking you can only look at the link to Waterways World latest issue if you are either already a subscriber, or are prepared to pay for an on-line viewing of a particular issue?

 

I didn't seem to be able to see anything of interest that was free to view.

 

I'm sad to say that neither did I.

 

Peter.

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Very interesting stuff!

 

Pleasure boats have been with us a long time. Where the challenge comes here is defining narrow boat and possibly built for pleasure, or indeed pleasure itself

 

I've no idea of the history of Rodolph De Salis' "Dragonfly" but it was narrow beam, was it a narrow boat? And was his voyage for pleasure?

 

C J Aubertin's caravan afloat was narrow, but was it a narrow boat?

 

On a similar theme, I've just read a book of a journey through the K&A in 1926, written by C Herbert Smith. The boat described is not a narrow boat, it's 20 feet long, 4 feet wide, and has a small petrol engine driving a shaft. Wooden built with a canvas awning, would such a boat have been purpose built or adapted from a rowing skiff?

 

Keep telling us more about Malaya, I'm fascinated!

Thanks MP.

 

Canals have indeed been used for pleasure trips for a very long time. Sightseeing trips into/through Sapperton Tunnel on the Thames & Severn Canal were noted as being popular in a book published in 1811

 

C. J. Aubertin's 'Caravan Afloat' seems to have been essentially a large punt with a cabin constructed on top. Narrow enough certainly for any standard narrow canal in England, but having no engine (it was towed everywhere, mostly by the crew) and probably basic, if any, toilet & galley facilities, it wasn't really much like a modern narrowboat I would suggest?

 

Thanks Laurence for the info about 'Dragonfly', a boat I'd heard of but knew nothing about.

 

'Malaya' though was very much designed to exactly the same sort of specifications as any modern narrowboat. Quoting from an article in 'The Motor Boat' magazine dated 2nd April 1926, entitled 'A 40-ft. Canal Cruiser', it describes 'Malaya's' construction in some detail and starts with these paragraphs:

 

"An Unusual Boat Intended for Use on Inland Waters at Home and Abroad.

 

Canal cruising is increasing in popularity, and unquestionably the attractions are considerable to those who prefer quiet inland waterways to the more boisterous characteristics of open-water yachting. During the past few years numbers of motor boats have been built and many more converted, all with a view to making them specially suitable for canal cruising.

A most interesting vessel of this type is being built at the yard of Mr. H. C. Banham, of Cambridge, to the order of Mr. Poths, of Boston, the design having been prepared by Mr. A. H. Comben. Due to the restrictions necessitated by lock dimensions, it is by no means an easy matter to evolve a good canal cruiser, but in this case the designer appears to have achieved the desired object and the boat is of by no means unprepossessing appearance.

 

The overall length is 40 ft, and as the maximum beam permissible is only 7 ft, the moulded breadth of the boat is 6 ft. 9 ins., and the addition of rubbing strakes brings this figure up to 6 ft. 11 ins. The accommodation is, however, not unduly cramped, and 6 ft. headroom is arranged in spite of the fact that the craft has a draught of only 2 ft. 3 ins."

 

This does imply that 'Malaya' may not actually have been the first such boat, but if any other similar craft still exist, it would be very interesting to know of them and compare notes. I suspect though that 'Malaya' may well be the oldest such boat still afloat (or will be when we get her back in the water).

 

If anyone's interested, I put a bit of video here on YouTube of 'Malaya' being carefully lifted out of the water at Jalsea Marine in Northwich (R. Weaver) prior to transportation to her current home in a cow-shed. It's about 4½ minutes long because the crane driver takes it very carefully. Note the sad state of the woodwork (even worse inside), windows (sealed units no longer sealed) and the very black hull below the waterline - white when last refurbished.

 

One further point of interest is that, by the look of the plans, 'Malaya' was designed with a flushing toilet and a small galley with sink & cooker (probably only a camping size one). If the toilet that came with 'Malaya' when we bought her was the original, and it's quite likely that it was, it was a Simpson-Lawrence No.397 Bow Toilet, i.e. a 'sea toilet' which flushed straight through the hull into whatever waterway the boat was on at the time. Needless to say, we've sadly had to change the toilet as there wasn't enough space to have a modern composting toilet as well as the glorious brass & ceramic Simpson-Lawrence.

Edited by Hairy Animal

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Its quite easy to adapt a sea toilet to discharge into a holding tank but on a 40ft narrow boat there would be limited room for a decent size tank so it could get quite expensive unless you opted for the dreaded 'self pumpout' setup.

 

I fitted a Lavac sea toilet in my barge which goes to a holding tank. The way to get around the flush water issue is to fit a small plastic water tank with a float switch and a solenoid valve so you get flush water from the domestic supply. The amount of water used can be altered by drilling an air hole or two in the inlet pipe from the tank to the toilet.

 

Just a thought as it would be nice to keep the original bog in there :)

 

Eta just noticed you wanted a composting system so my advice was probably useless anyway

Edited by magnetman

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Banhams built- not many of their boats survive.

 

We pass the site of their yard on the tripboat, it's now a block of flats and a marina with three boats in, none of which go anywhere ever!

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Its quite easy to adapt a sea toilet to discharge into a holding tank but on a 40ft narrow boat there would be limited room for a decent size tank so it could get quite expensive unless you opted for the dreaded 'self pumpout' setup.

 

I fitted a Lavac sea toilet in my barge which goes to a holding tank. The way to get around the flush water issue is to fit a small plastic water tank with a float switch and a solenoid valve so you get flush water from the domestic supply. The amount of water used can be altered by drilling an air hole or two in the inlet pipe from the tank to the toilet.

 

Just a thought as it would be nice to keep the original bog in there smile.png

 

Eta just noticed you wanted a composting system so my advice was probably useless anyway

It would have been really difficult to make space for any form of holding tank, and the AirHead toilet we've bought (yet to be fitted) is very compact should only need emptying every six months or so it seemed to be a good compromise. The toilet was sold on eBay some time ago. I was sad to see it go but I believe it now has a new home in a motor-home.

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Banhams built- not many of their boats survive.

 

We pass the site of their yard on the tripboat, it's now a block of flats and a marina with three boats in, none of which go anywhere ever!

I know of one Banham's boat of similar age: Lady Beatrice, a much smaller boat of about 8' beam and I think about 25' in length. Probably a gentleman's day boat as it has no sleeping space. Having seen it a few years ago, the family resemblance to Malaya is striking. There are quite a few Broads Cruiser style Banham boats from the 40's, 50's & 60's still around I believe.

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That's beautiful.

 

Presumably you can see the content at the end of the link, or have the mag?

 

 

Daniel

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