Friday, 25 November 2005

Learning about canals and boaty things Pt 2

Ok so now I have a lot of good info about boats and boaty things, but I am still not a boater. What I really need is a boat. Do I want a new one or second hand? Do I need a big boat or small boat? How do I intend to use it?

All very relevant questions and all very personal.

I have lived all my life in other people's houses. Even when I bought my own house it was someone elses house before. When I bought a car it was someone else's car before. For a change I want something that is mine and not someone else's cast off, so new build it was going to be.

I spent 25 years 239 days in the Royal Air Force. I lived in a lot of places and got to know those places, but I never really 'saw' England. If I am going to live on the canals this is one thing I am going to correct. I want a boat that will 'do' the system, or at least a good 95% of it. It would seem that 57ft is the maximum length to get around the all system comfortably. It can be done in 60 footer but there are some locks a 60 ft wont fit in and some locks that it will have to go in at an angle. 70 ft is very restrictive and limits the amount of canals that can be accessed.

When I finally got down to 'designing' my boat I started out with the idea that 57 ft would be ideal (most long term boaters suggest this). Unfortunately I just couldn't seem to get it all in to the space available. I had to stretch the design by 1 ft and reduce the size of the shower room to ensure I had enough living/sleeping space and an office/spare bedroom. The office was very important, I am not the best writer in the world but I have had some success and writing would be where I want my spare time to go. Whether or not I get published is another matter. So now I'm going with 58 ft.

So what type of boat do I want? Well it helps to know what types of boat there are.

Narrow boats are classified by the type of stern they have.

The 'Trad' mimics the lines of a traditional working boat. The stern deck is short and narrow tapered like the pointier end of an egg. This means there is little room and more than one crew on the deck would make it crowded. In days gone by there was no necessity for more than one person on the deck so it filled it's purpose.

The 'Semi Trad' has the same size deck plus seating forward of the deck for family/friends etc. From the side it looks like a 'Trad' the flat panel side ending where the stern deck starts. This design does reduce the overall inside accommodation.

The 'Cruiser' is vastly different. The stern deck is long about 6 to many feet depending on user preference. It can be shaped like a 'Trad' (semi elliptical) or square, or any shape for that matter I suppose. Square sterns don't handle as well as the rounded 'Trad' so I am told. The advantage of the 'Cruiser' is the large outside space, but at the expense of the inside space. If you are going to be a weekend boater this can double as a dinning room or party area.

However if it is your plan to live your whole life on board the space taken by the 'Cruiser' deck is wasted, unless you are into gardening.

There is another stern that is becoming popular the 'Modified Trad'. A few builders are producing these. In essence the deck is semi-circular and as such is wider than a 'Trad' enabling two people on the deck without being crowded. There is also built in seats/safety rails either side of the tiller.

I suppose what you get is what you want, determined by how you are going to use the boat. There are other boats. The barge is becoming popular. Whilst it is a 'narrow' boat it is not built the same way. Not to my taste. You can have a 'wide beam' (anything wider than a narrow boat (6' 10") but if you plan to visit the whole system this is not a good choice. Many locks are only 7' wide; hence the reason 'proper' narrow boats are only 6'10". It's all down to choice.

The front deck is again down to choice and how you intend to use it. The front bulkhead can butt up to the gas locker giving you maximum room inside the boat. Or can stop short and form a 'well' deck, the length of which is down to choice. The 'well' deck can be as long as you choose, can contain lockers that will double as seats. Often the 'well' deck is surmounted with a cratch and cover.

Another forward deck style is the 'Tug' deck. This is an area that has the specific purpose of carrying cargo, size is determined by what you want to carry, though why any one would want to waste that much space on a recreational boat is any ones guess.
I will be on my boat on my own most of the time. Occasionally there will be one or two visitors. So the choice for me will be the 'Modified Trad' with a well deck which will suit me perfectly.

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