Friday, 8 December 2017

Thoughts on a Narrowboat Part 8–The Stern

This is going to be the final part of my thoughts on a live aboard continuously cruising narrowboat layout.  If I’ve been boring you there will now be a change of topic.

Narrowboat sterns tend to be either ‘Trad’ (just room for the steerer), ‘Cruiser’ (an open stern deck) or ‘Semi-Trad’ (roughly a cruiser stern but with sides so it looks like a Trad when viewed from the side.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  Many hireboats have a cruiser stern because it provides an open area where hirers can congregate and socialize.  Trads maximize the internal cabin space and shield the lower half of the steerer in inclement weather. 

All the boats we hired had cruiser sterns and it was a miserable feeling being at the tiller soaking wet from driving rain and wind.  We opted for a semi-trad stern for four main reasons.

  • By installing a pram cover over the stern it created an area where one could get out of wet clothing before entering the boat.  It was also a reasonable area for drying wet coats, hats, etc when moored during inclement weather.
  • The area allowed us to fit lockers on either side.  One was for our two 13kg gas bottles and the other held the central heater header tank and starter battery.
  • There was some protection for the steerer when cruising in bad or cold weather.
  • Room for two or more people.

The engine bay was well set out with the Hurricane central heater forward on the port uxter plate with the hospital silencer behind it.  The starboard side had the calorifier  and the large traction battery bank sat across the stern.  The propulsion train consisted of a Beta 43 connected to a python drive and thrust plate.  A Vetus water lubricated stern gland eliminated the need to grease the drive shaft.  An Axiom propeller powered the boat. 

There were two lockable diesel tanks at the stern.  The propulsion tank had a capacity of 295 litres and the heater tank held 90 litres.

I had specified a steel bulkhead between the engine compartment and the cabin.  It provided a strong waterproof barrier to deck level.  My idea was that should the engine compartment spring a leak it would take longer to sink the boat.

I was pleased with the way the thrust plate on the Python Drive directed all the force from the propeller into the hull rather than into the gearbox/engine and eventually the engine mounts.  The engine appeared to be very happy with this arrangement

If we were to do this again the only thing I might change is the Axiom propeller which was quite expensive.  Because this was the only propeller we had during our time on the boat I have no way of assessing whether it was better than the conventional propellers.  However it certainly didn’t give us any problems.

Another thing I would look at changing is the location of the diesel tanks.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I’d look at fitting them under the floor of the main cabln.   I would stay with the 20mm thick baseplate which both eliminated the need for ballast and would provide room for tanks under the floor in what is usually the bilge.

The attention we paid to ensuring the boat was well insulated kept us warm in winter and cool in summer.  It also reduced our heating bill and ensured we always had a dry bilge.  

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