Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Thoughts on a Narrowboat Specifications

Whilst lying in bed last night counting a large flock of sheep jumping a fence it came to me I’d not documented my thoughts about the design and specifications of Waiouru.  What did we think we got right and where did we go wrong with the layout and specifications.  I’m going to try and rectify this over the next few posts.


Although we had hired narrowboats on four previous occasions we’d never inspected a ‘live aboard’ boat.  Being on the other side of the world might have placed us at a disadvantage however the internet is a source of information, albeit any assumptions or deductions need to be carefully validated.  I found the posts from Maffi regarding the construction of The Milly M quite useful and read the entire blog twice.  My own experience in Antarctica was useful when it came to the insulation and I was also grateful to those boaters whom I contacted asking for information. 

With my employer easing me out of employment I had plenty of time to write 32 pages of detailed specifications.  Little did I realise it would scare off 90% of the boat fitters I approached!

The contractual problems with the first boat builder have been well documented and I don’t intend to touch on them again.  Rather, I’d like to provide any reader thinking of having a boat built what we did in the way of specifications… and why!

The Design

One of the first things identified was the need to ensure we had a “good” shell.  It’s considerably easier to alter the interior of a boat, so you want to get the exterior shell right.  We were very happy with our shell builder  (Tyler Wilson).  Actually we were so pleased with the quality of the shell their website link remains on our blog.  I think we opted for almost every extra (Boatman’s Beam, Recessed Panels) apart from the Josher Bow which frankly I didn’t understand.  If I’d known what a Josher Bow looked like we might have added it to the specifications.

If you are going to live in a 6ft diameter steel tube it’s likely to feel claustrophobic.  Therefore we wanted an ‘open plan’ layout where you could see the full interior length of the boat.  We selected portholes for three reasons.  The first was security thinking the average thief might find it difficult squeezing through a 1ft diameter porthole.  The second reason was it would give us more wall space.  Finally, it offered more privacy.  We obtained additional natural light by having three Houdini hatches.  Subsequently we were advised most thieves enter via the doors or hatches.

The boat layout evolved into a semi reverse layout with the bedroom in the bow followed by the bathroom.  The saloon was the largest open area with free standing furniture.  Next was the galley and then the back cabin.  All our hireboats had a corridor down one side and numerous partitions.  We didn’t like this because the ‘Tumblehome’ (the sides of the boat above the gunwale lean in towards the roof) meant we tended to ‘crab’ our way down the corridor otherwise our shoulders wouldn’t fit.  The corridor was also wasted space.  Finally it meant one side of the boat was lighter than the other thus requiring ballast to level (trim) the boat.   Waiouru was designed with a central corridor down most of it’s length.  The corridor was slightly offset where it passed through the bathroom.  This reduced the problem of ‘trimming’ the boat.

Early on I identified 57ft was the maximum boat length if you wanted to get around 99% of the network.  I thought we would just managed with 58ft and this subsequently increased to 58ft6in after I realised I’d failed to allow for the thickness of internal partitions.

Part 2 to follow

I wouldn’t want you to think I’ve not been making progress on my projects.

Today I used the drawer handle template to router out the first rebate in the Jarrah timber.  But first I had to mark the location of the handle on the Jarrah.


With the first rebate made on all 10 drawer fronts I started making the next template which will be used to cut the deep recess.

Meanwhile a courier arrived to deliver the oil catch can I’d purchased for the 4x4.  It wasn’t cheap but I’m very impressed with the quality.


It’s made from thick stainless steel. 

The purpose of the oil catch can is to filter the oil from the diesel engine blow-by vapour.  As part of the emissions control system the blow-by vapour is recycled back into the engine for a second burn.  The problem is another part of the emissions control system returns hot exhaust gases into the engine.  These hot gases contain carbon and the carbon will combine with the oil to form ‘sludge’ in the engine inlet manifold eventually choking the engine.  None of this would be a problem for owners who only retain their diesel vehicles for 3-5 years, but this will be our second to last vehicle (the last being an electric mobility scooter :-) and therefore I want the 4x4 to have a long life.


Ade said...

Interesting post Tom like the spec. Revisit compilation will be a great source of info.

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Ade, How are you going with your boat hunting?

Ade said...

Hi Tom fine till September last year then no. 1 daughter needed rescuing from London we no longer were a Darby and Joan with time to do what we wanted and so much spare time. Karen is a home maker and we were now 4 at home again. So it went on the back burner we were intending a Narrowboat holiday again this September but it gradually got ruled out as I'm suffering with bad joints in knees and ankles have done all my life reactive arthritis, but 2 times it has hit before I got over it in 3 to 6 months on drugs this time much worse so can't walk far cycling is ok but not hills or bug distances. But just had treatment and new drugs by injection so hopefully be right soon.
See how the health goes and then it will back on the front burner again.
Cheers for asking.
I can post that in my blog now!