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Phil_B

What boat builder for manufacture of a custom designed shell?

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Hi, I'm new here and I'm interested in having my own designed Narrow Boat built so am dojng some preliminary research. I was wondering which boat builders would be able to accomodate me in building their shell to my design modifications? I'm happy enough to go along with a boat builders hull design, but the cabin, bow and stern deck I wish to do to my design.

 

That said, I am generally looking for a traditional/standard hull. I'm not keen on Josher or Reeves types of hulls. I'm sure they perform well but to me I don't like the look of them, they look a bit strange on a Narrowboat I think, kind of foreign looking. I also am looking for a reasonably cheap shell build but reasonably decent workmanship also, so no real bad weld seams/lack of care on build, etc. I'm looking at building a NB around 34ft and so looking for a shell to be built for around 12k or so.

 

Ideally somewhere down south of UK would be good with me as it's where I'm from so I can visit regularly. Possibly Kennet & Avon canal direction maybe. I'm wishing to do the fit out myself just bringing in some trades for the more technical jobs. The engine, etc, window and door fittings I will want the boat yard to do. Also I would like to know of any boat builders that are ok of letting me have CAD file of the hull/shell so I can modify the cabin to my requirements to get an idea of how the whole thing will look.

Edited by Phil_B

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You might be expecting a bit too much there Phil but I wish you well.

PJ Barber is known for individual boats but your budget is very small for a custom design by a good builder.

Which boats already have the features you are looking for?#

Sam.

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Probably none.  Very few if any steel narrowboats are buult to anything that would be recognisable as a formal design package.  As for a CAD package little hope of it existing let alone being loaned to you to modify.

Most steelwork is done by experienced fabricators and platers who learned the arts whilst working for others.  If you trace the skill tree I reckon the roots would be in Springer, Fernie, Hancock and Lane and perhaps Colecraft.  There are other sources such as BW and Willow Wren but to a lesser extent. The tools of the trade are not much more complex than tape, chalk and wooden or metal patterns, backed up by a plsma cutter angle grinder gas axe and welder.

It is unlikely that someone with a reputation to preserve will want to let an amateur with no experience looseon the most visible and characteristic elements of a shell.  Amateur built (designed) boats rarely look right or swim well.  There is a reason the building 'names' are still there, still  (always) busy and sought after second hand. 

 

You can certainly set out the window and door layout, but any drawing package will do that once you have picked a builder and found out what his hull depth and cabin side dimensions are.  The extent of the cabin is also something you will need to agree.  Maximum length may be  limited by tje bow shape and the need to look right but by and large the builder will be happy to adjust.

 

This query in one form or another pops up regularly and so far I have not seen anyone come back and say "xxx" is doing it with me, nor has anyone shown a final outcome.

 

N

PS  I don't build boats either!

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Try Aintree boats as they have some smaller NBs. BUT like anything else, custom built to your specification WILL  cost more, AND if you change your spec in the middle of the build, it will cost EVEN  more. I trust you know that, so not sure why you are also asking about reasonably cheap shell build to the highest standards. Seems very naive, but we all need to start somewhere [not all start on the K&A of course].

PS I think you might have difficulty persuading anyone to build your boat unless you pay for the whole thing in advance and agree to no in-build modifications.

PPS I think you will find all builders will tend to say they do good welding, otherwise no one would ask them to build!

PPPS Most on here advise newby boaters is to buy a second hand NB and start boating. A sailaway [which is what you are asking about] will cost a lot less than a boat fitted out by a professional, but people still pay for a professional fit out ............... thus they save a lot of hassle, time, and wasted money. The re-sale value of an amateur fit out will be a lot less than a modern quality fit out. B&Q laminate flooring for example, just does not cut the mustard.

PPPS If you want to put your sketch on here [hand drawn will do], we can envisage the 3-D  bit, The forumites will give you a few ideas of their own, but don't expect them to hold back! 

Edited by LadyG

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Mel Davis would probably build what you wanted - he prefers traditional desighns but has built odd things like an "Eco-boat" to customers' individual equirements. But I doubt whether he'd do it for £12,000.

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None of the builders I work with would be willing to go down your preferred road, having already established a reputation for their product. Serious deviation involves a lot of work, both time and labour expensive. I’ve seldom seen one offs that l liked, though I confess to being somewhat right of Ghengis Kahn in things traditional. As others have said, your budget seems somewhat optimistic. Good luck.

  • Greenie 1

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You have several points that don't gel Max quality to own design, minimum price & a design that the chosen builder will have to alter from his standard set up All is possible but not to your criteria custom work is usually priced much higher than the standard product some shell builders will only build their proven units & a possible builder to construct what you want if feasible will no doubt have a long lead time& wiil if you find a builder will be in the ballpark of a 50or more ft shell as the fore & aft bits are the difficult parts to construct the bit "Tween" is mostly flat plate Best of luck  but expect rejection

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Thanks guys, appreciate the input :) Well when I say modifications I'm generally talking about window and door sizes, positioning and number off. Also external seating to my layout, guard railings where I want them, and perhaps some shutters. The hull I am perfectly happy to use whichever boat builders hull they use to their design. The cabin too generally to their design so long as there us a good 6ft of internal headroom. I'm generally interested in a semi - trad stern with then engine put in by the boat builder I'm the stern.

 

I got the 12k or so guide from this webpage:

 

http://www.liverpoolboatco.co.uk/id6.html

 

Do they have an ok reputation? OK will do for me. So I kind of thought a bit of variation as outlined would just be a bit of extra steel or as seems to be the case with the website cited part of the package.

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10 minutes ago, Phil_B said:

 

 

I got the 12k or so guide from this webpage:

 

http://www.liverpoolboatco.co.uk/id6.html

 

Do they have an ok reputation? OK will do for me. So I kind of thought a bit of variation as outlined would just be a bit of extra steel or as seems to be the case with the website cited part of the package.

That page dates from 2006, since when prices have risen considerably, and Liverpool stopped building about a year later. The current Collingwood Boats company grew out of them - they are also a budget-level builder. Check their web site for more up-to-date prices.

EDIT: I have just looked at Collingwood's web site and, though there is a full list of prices for extras (handrails, fridges, bulkheads and so on) I can't see any prices for the shells themselves.

Edited by Athy

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Go and talk to some boatbuilders with some rough sketches, if they like your ideas they may be interested in doing it for you, if your ideas are daft or have disadvantages that you have not thought of they will tell you. Forming the front and back sections is a trickier part of boat building so expect to pay a far price, I don't think custom and budget go together.

Try Colecraft, they built to various designs including some customisation for hire fleets. Also maybe Tony Gallimore at Boot Bridge (Star Line Boats, Coventry canal) though don't know whether a housing development has claimed his boat building shed, have not been there for a few years now.

 

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

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Ok thanks Athy & Dave. Didn't realise the website was so our of date. Colecraft might be a possibility then. Are sailways ok?

 

http://sailaways.net/configure

 

They are quoting around 15-16k or so for a hull although that is without an engine. Though perhaps I could get a marine engineer to fit that cheaper. I'm ok with the budget end of boat builders so long as some pretty straight forward customisatons as outlined are ok with them. I'm pretty handy on CAD so can draw these up for them correct to scale in elevation, plan and section to save them some time and bother. I'm not planning any alterations to anything below the gunwales, front, back or in between. Also I'm quite happy it the standard 10mm base plate and standard side & roof thicknesses.

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If its just window size and shapes, doors, length of cabin etc then I would guess that any builder does that all the time, I know Colecraft were happy to do that when they built my last narrowboat (25 yrs ago!)  Thing is that its like an indian meal, basically not terribly expensive but by the time you've had naan bread, onion bhajees, a couple of pints of lager and some other odds and ends it doesn't half add up. Keep it basic. Good luck.

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19 minutes ago, Phil_B said:

 

They are quoting around 15-16k or so for a hull although that is without an engine. Though perhaps I could get a marine engineer to fit that cheaper. 

 

There is no doubt a hull builder will fit an engine as part of the build WAY cheaper than any 'marine engineer' can do it for at a later date. 

 

 

21 minutes ago, Phil_B said:

I'm ok with the budget end of boat builders so long as some pretty straight forward customisatons as outlined are ok with them. I'm pretty handy on CAD so can draw these up for them correct to scale in elevation, plan and section to save them some time and bother.

 

You're not 'getting it'. I don't think I've EVER seen a computer in any decent fabricator's workshop. They use chalk and tape measures. If you offered a CAD file they'd probably say they use grinders these days instead of files.

 

 

Someone asked here about shell builders a month or so ago and put up a link to a general tanks and architectural steelwork firm who dabble in shell building. A really big firm  whose main business would definitely require them to use CAD and who would read your drawings/files. Have a search back. 

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When I had the my boat built by Pipers as a lined sailaway I did do CAD drawings for the cabin layout. They gave me the internal length, width for the cabin and I used that to lay things out. I came prepared with printed drawings for window positions, internal bulkheads, roof vent positions, and for the electrics, positions for ceiling downlighters, main and 12V sockets, pumps and aerials so the wiring could be fitted behind the lining. Also, the locations of skin fittings for sinks and the bath tub. These were all referenced from the bow internal bulkhead as a datum. Nothing here was major customisation to the steelwork, just cutting holes in a shell to a standard design at certain places that would have to have been cut somewhere anyway. 

 

Simon Piper did comment that this was the first time any customer had done proper CAD drawings, rather then sketches on the back of a fag packet. Pipers were/are quiet a forward looking company and they had just installed a computer controlled router for doing woodwork for fit outs, so designs could go straight from CAD to wood. In one respect they were still very traditional and all design was in inches. Not sure if they still do narrowboats. Seem to concentrate on wide beam barges these days.

 

Your success at doing your own customisation of a design depends on your skill at being able to visualise a 3D boat from drawings. Especially with major changes to steel work you can end up with something very ugly that just looks wrong. The aesthetics of narrowboats is part tradition and part what looks right. Very easy to screw up.

 

Jen

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30 minutes ago, Jen-in-Wellies said:

When I had the my boat built by Pipers as a lined sailaway I did do CAD drawings for the cabin layout. They gave me the internal length, width for the cabin and I used that to lay things out. I came prepared with printed drawings for window positions, internal bulkheads, roof vent positions, and for the electrics, positions for ceiling downlighters, main and 12V sockets, pumps and aerials so the wiring could be fitted behind the lining. Also, the locations of skin fittings for sinks and the bath tub. These were all referenced from the bow internal bulkhead as a datum. Nothing here was major customisation to the steelwork, just cutting holes in a shell to a standard design at certain places that would have to have been cut somewhere anyway. 

 

Simon Piper did comment that this was the first time any customer had done proper CAD drawings, rather then sketches on the back of a fag packet. Pipers were/are quiet a forward looking company and they had just installed a computer controlled router for doing woodwork for fit outs, so designs could go straight from CAD to wood. In one respect they were still very traditional and all design was in inches. Not sure if they still do narrowboats. Seem to concentrate on wide beam barges these days.

 

Your success at doing your own customisation of a design depends on your skill at being able to visualise a 3D boat from drawings. Especially with major changes to steel work you can end up with something very ugly that just looks wrong. The aesthetics of narrowboats is part tradition and part what looks right. Very easy to screw up.

 

Jen

Thanks Jen, that is what I am talking about. I think for my benefit in knowing exactly what I want & where, seeing how it all looks together and then being able to communicate this precisely & effectively to a Boat Builder CAD would be essential. If they don't use CAD that's fine but to my mind I still would like to submit drawings to be approved with. Otherwise I could end up with anything. I think for the builder it would be handy to have a definative set of drawings so they know what is specifically required and how it should be looking. I'm qualified in Architectural Design so know what you mean about things looking right. That shouldn't be a problem.

 

I'm also thinking with drawings I can email them off to several Boatbuilders which should make it easier for them to quote on as they will know exactly what they are dealing with. I think Bee's suggestion of keeping it as simple as possible is a good point also. Most of my current ideas are but think it is always good to keep that in focus and simplify as needed.

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Does your planned alterations have an effect on the "swims" of the boat?

You mentioned you didn't like Josher or Reeves type hulls.

If it is a "proper" Josher hull as replicated by Brinklow boats it is a design that has stood the test of time.

Again I'm sure Reeves hulls wouldn't be so popular if they didn't swim well.

It is all very well having fancy "up top" if the boat handles like a dead whale.

 

A good while ago now a Nottingham couple had some very avant garde ideas with regard to boat design.

A boat named Whitefield, a bold concept but in the end a failure on canals. It was more suited to river use.

WHITEFIELD---00197.jpg

WHITEFIELD---00176.jpg

 

Quote from the then owners blog:

' How about replacing the tiller with a joystick, have depth, speed and rudder position gauges, a GPS and a bow camera for checking its clear before venturing out of the Marina. And then of course, the inside would have to be totally different too. '

And so armed with our list, we looked at web sites and then visited several boat builders to put forward our thoughts. Now that was interesting!  Many of them just stared with their eyes seeming to glaze over as we tried to explain our bizarre concept for the cut. The lights were on but there was certainly nobody home at many of the places we visited.......

...........I’ve also forgot to mention that all areas have a telly, five in all, just so we can keep up with the news when going to the loo, working on the computer, going to bed or having a shower. Over the top or what!

 

Edited by Ray T

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9 minutes ago, Phil_B said:

Thanks Jen, that is what I am talking about. I think for my benefit in knowing exactly what I want & where, seeing how it all looks together and then being able to communicate this precisely & effectively to a Boat Builder CAD would be essential. If they don't use CAD that's fine but to my mind I still would like to submit drawings to be approved with. Otherwise I could end up with anything. I think for the builder it would be handy to have a definative set of drawings so they know what is specifically required and how it should be looking. I'm qualified in Architectural Design so know what you mean about things looking right. That shouldn't be a problem.

 

I'm also thinking with drawings I can email them off to several Boatbuilders which should make it easier for them to quote on as they will know exactly what they are dealing with. I think Bee's suggestion of keeping it as simple as possible is a good point also. Most of my current ideas are but think it is always good to keep that in focus and simplify as needed.

The canal is still a place were a lot of business is done face to face rather than by email, this is one of its charms. Successful boat builders are busy people and probably won't spend time looking over your emailed drawings. I suspect they meet a lot of dreamers, timewasters, and avid collectors of multiple quotes. Book a time and turn up for a face to face meeting if you have a serious intention to get a boat built.

 

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

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2 hours ago, Phil_B said:

Well when I say modifications I'm generally talking about window and door sizes, positioning and number off. Also external seating to my layout, guard railings where I want them, and perhaps some shutters.

That's not a custom shell.  That's a standard shell in a style you like with a couple of extras, and is far more likely than what you originally described.

 

If you want "odd" window placement the builder will need to know in advance to avoid landing them on joins or supports, but honestly a CAD drawing is way too far to take this level of tweaking to a standard design.

 

Do you have any simple drawings/sketches showing concept elevations and plan?  That would be enough for most builders, and if you are feeling very brave post them on here so you can get the combined wisdom of the forum.

 

Just remember what they say about opinions ... 

 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, dmr said:

The canal is still a place were a lot of business is done face to face rather than by email, this is one of its charms. Successful boat builders are busy people and probably won't spend time looking over your emailed drawings. I suspect they meet a lot of dreamers, timewasters, and avid collectors of multiple quotes. Book a time and turn up for a face to face meeting if you have a serious intention to get a boat built.

 

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

I'd second that. I had already visited several builders and had face to face discussions. This not only lets you see their work and methods, but also lets you know if they are people you can work with and are sympathetic to what you are trying to get made. The drawings were only made after the final selection of a builder.

 

With boats, especially shorter narrowboats, differences in a couple of inches in cabin length and width are important and can make the difference between an internal layout that works and one that doesn't. Detail design can only be done once a builder is selected and their standard internal cabin size is known.

 

Jen

Edited by Jen-in-Wellies

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14 minutes ago, Jen-in-Wellies said:

With boats, especially shorter narrowboats, differences in a couple of inches in cabin length and width are important and can make the difference between an internal layout that works and one that doesn't. Detail design can only be done once a builder is selected and their standard internal cabin size is known.

I sort of agree with you, but not entirely.

 

Detailed design of your exact requirements will dictate the minimum cabin size - you can fit the same design in a cabin a few inches or indeed a few feet longer as long as the windows are in the correct places.

 

To be blunt though, most self-fitout boats are bedroom, bathroom, galley, and all the rest gets left as open saloon with a couple of recliner chairs in!

  • Greenie 2

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19 minutes ago, Jen-in-Wellies said:

I'd second that. I had already visited several builders and had face to face discussions.

They do tell you a lot. For example, the boatbuilder at a show in Burton-on-Trent who gave us precise directions as to where on the canal his show boat was moored, we trudged down there, and there was no boat! He got crossed off our list instanter.

   When we met the man who would eventually build our boat we knew within about five minutes that he was the right man for the job.

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1 hour ago, Ray T said:

Does your planned alterations have an effect on the "swims" of the boat?

You mentioned you didn't like Josher or Reeves type hulls.

If it is a "proper" Josher hull as replicated by Brinklow boats it is a design that has stood the test of time.

Again I'm sure Reeves hulls wouldn't be so popular if they didn't swim well.

It is all very well having fancy "up top" if the boat handles like a dead whale.

 

 

 

How a boat "swims" is a really important factor in enjoying your boat.

 

My first shareboat had a Pat Buckle hull (cheap boatbuilder). It handled like a pig, suddenly veering off course without warning when going around a bend if the bottom got a bit closer to the top, being blown all over the place in the slightest wind etc.

 

My second shareboat had a Graham Reeves hull,  and was at least an order of magnitude better.

 

The boat I bought has an Alexander hull and it is a big improvement on the Reeves hull in the handling department, especially reversing. A friend has a Hudson and that is slightly more positive than my boat in the handling department.

 

 

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2 hours ago, cuthound said:

 

How a boat "swims" is a really important factor in enjoying your boat.

 

My first shareboat had a Pat Buckle hull (cheap boatbuilder). It handled like a pig, suddenly veering off course without warning when going around a bend if the bottom got a bit closer to the top, being blown all over the place in the slightest wind etc.

 

My second shareboat had a Graham Reeves hull,  and was at least an order of magnitude better.

 

The boat I bought has an Alexander hull and it is a big improvement on the Reeves hull in the handling department, especially reversing. A friend has a Hudson and that is slightly more positive than my boat in the handling department.

 

 

Veering off topic for the benefit of the OP, you mention a 34ft boat as your choice.

In general the longer the boat the better it handles as the "swims" can be made longer. A swim is the taper at the bow from the stem post to the side of the boat. At the stern it is the taper below the counter.

In the first picture you can see how long the swim is at the stern of a working boat. With a 34ft boat  will a useful length swim be achievable as the boat will finish up all swim and no hull side. Don't forget a swim will intrude into the internal back of the boat if it is of sensible length to be useful.

Second picture is OWL, a Josher, picture courtesy of Κουκουβάγια of this parish

HNBC076_zps97ecfc41.jpg

 

IMG_0202.jpg

Edited by Ray T

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