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Elessina - Our Dream
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Why a Replica Dutch Barge? Motor or Sail? Comparisons to a Narrowboat? Live Aboard or Leisure
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Elessina - 60ft barge -Ian & Leigh's dream Build Fabrication of Elessina Elessina Latest build photos Elessina Master Bedroom Fit-out Elessina Master Bathroom Fit-out Elessina Electrics and Plumbing Cruising & External Photos Layout of Elessina Cad Drawing Scan
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Our 1st project narrowboat Isabella
Our own Dutch barge sailaway story – our dream
We first started looking at Barges around summer 2001.
Although both in full time employment, we started to find that we like to spend as much time as possible on our 35ft narrowboat on the
in Chelmer & Blackwater Canal Essex. So much so, that there was a strong desire to live on board permanently, but although great for weekends and long holidays, our narrowboat was not suitable for this, and we were not convinced that we could live on board any 'narrow' boat, so we started looking at broad beam boats. We like the practicalities of all steel boats (strong, long lasting, durable, forgiving in locks etc), and are drawn to the striking lines of traditional Dutch barges.
We initially thought the biggest draw back of a wide beam craft was the 'present' restriction of
cruising, and we would like to cruise the UK canal network. However, when analysing future UK waterways policies and plans, the biggest 'present' restriction, is the missing link between the North and South wide beam canal network, which if current plans continue may be rectified around 2020. Then with a 18m barge the UK inland cruising range (without coastal sailing) will be very significant, indeed not much different to that of a narrowboat unable to navigate lower tidal rivers (eg R.Thames between UK and the R.Medway). So, with the possibility to cross the Channel, to the Continental canals and rivers, we see that the general cruising scope of a wide beam will far exceed that of a narrowboat, with this in mind, our broad beam boat must therefore also be suitable for future use on the continent and London . Ireland
Having attended the 2002 DBA Ghent rally in
, met lots of like-minded people and their barges, it made us more convinced than ever that a 'Dutch' barge is for us. One interesting fact that emerged is that it took most people around 4 years between initial interest and finally buying their barge, even though most already owned some kind of boat beforehand. Belgium
The dilemma the Rally gave us was whether to buy old or new, motor or sail. There is something about the old Tjalk sailing barges. The more we looked at them, the more we liked them. The downside (we eventually found) is they are not so practical as a live aboard (generally restricted headroom, less living room space per metre of boat length and no wheelhouse), the air draft (even with mast down) is greater which restricts UK canal use further, and the upkeep / maintenance would be higher. There are also very few around for sale, so it would probably take a long time to find one that exactly met our requirements. We have yet to see a sailing barge with headroom over 6 feet, some only had 5'-6", our minimum requirement is 6'-2". ...... but a Tjalk would also be fun to sail (and piece of mind when crossing the channel that the engine is not the only means of propulsion). However we concluded that, for live aboard use, sail is not for us…. That decision took us over a year!!!
So, still on track, for a 'non sailing' Dutch Barge, but should we buy old or new?. We found, in general, that the old original barges look much better than new replica, they have nicer lines and rounded shape in the right places. Some new barges are not much more than wide narrowboats and look more like narrowboats than barges… not for us!. On the other hand, we found that the usable interior space within a new barge was generally greater than that of old barges. E.g a new 60ft barge sometimes had the equivalent interior space of an old 75ft barge. For us, the larger the interior space the better, and the smaller the overall barge length the better – at least for UK canal use – not so critical for continental use. Obviously cost is a considerable factor. Buying an original 20m Tjalk or Luxemotor would probably cost around £160k, and with superstructure mods, wheel house, maybe engine, generators, invertors, electrical controls, central heating, galley etc we could have found ourselves spending another £60k and a lot of DIY work..... would the boat be worth £220k?, and how many more years will a 100 year old boat last without major new steelwork?. On the other hand new fully fitted replica barges can cost around £200k, even £300k, so buying a new shell with engine for around £75k and spending £35k on fitting it out could offer good value, and should last at least 30 years, if not longer…. There are many differing views and estimates among barge owners, and comparisons are difficult, and all have compromises of some sort, but over the two or more years we have been researching we have concluded that a good Replica Dutch Barge best fits our requirements.
We visited just under a dozen
based Replica Dutch Barge fabricators, and found there to be a tremendous amount of difference between the best and most economical. Although the choice of builders is far less than that of narrowboats, making a decision on which one offers best value for money was much more difficult, and it was a process that took us around a year. We learned something from every single fabricator we visited, even though the nearest entailed a 200 mile journey. We predominantly looked at 'sailaway' hulls, complete with engine, steering, windows, external doors, wheelhouse, interior spray foam and exterior paint. The quotes we received varied between £47,000 and £85,000 for a 'sailaway' with engine, collapsible wheelhouse, windows, spray foam insulation and fully painted (2004, add approx 50% for 2010 prices) UK
Whilst our 'barge type' decision-making was on going, we started and completed the process of downsizing house to realize the funds to pay for the 'sailaway' shell. This downsizing was also the first step into smaller living accommodation. We have gone from a house size of around 1300 sq ft (120 m2) down to around 850 sq ft (80 m2) with no problems at all, indeed we have actually found that our smaller house is nicer / cosier. Our 60ft barge will have around 600 sq ft (55 m2) of internal living space, so our next 'downsizing' step will be less of a drop than the first.
All those fabricators we visited were able to build to RCD 'Category C' requirements (Inshore – up to force 6 and 2m waves), which in our opinion is the minimum requirement suitable for crossing the channel. A few could fabricate to Cat 'B' (Offshore – force 8, 4m wave height) but this added around £10,000 to the price. Some barges are standard Cat 'D', the same as narrowboats (Sheltered waters, force 4, 0.5m wave height).
We visited our chosen barge builder (Piper Boats) again, and placed an order for a 58ft sailaway, with Perkins 92hp motor, collapsible wheel house, double glazed windows, fabricated to RCD Cat 'C' etc. With a one-year waiting list for a build slot (most good barge fabricators have a one year waiting list, some have more than two) our barge increased in size to 60 feet before going into fabrication in January 2004, with delivery in May 2004 and an aimed completion date around 2006-7. Three years ago we barely knew what a barge was, and considered DBA (Dutch Barge Association) to be the German part of British Airways.
In placing our order with Piper Boats, we had many discussions on minor shell design improvements to the extent where the builder commissioned the original designer (Nick Branson) to undertake some changes to the CAD drawings, which in our combined opinion improved the barge looks achieving a more original and practical design. Our aim is to have a barge that looks as traditional as possible but utilises modern technology to provide a more robust, maintenance free environment (modern engine, washing / dryer machine, central heating, double glazed windows etc.).
We fitted out our narrowboat ourselves, to a standard we are very happy with, and decided to do the same again with our Dutch Barge. This time we allowed 3 years for her fit-out, over weekends and holidays (our narrowboat took 9 months), the extra time allowance being for the extra size and because the fit-out will be to a standard suitable for living on board, with full size kitchen including auto washer dryer, two bedrooms with on suite bathroom, 240v generator and diesel central heating, maybe air conditioning.
Although our layout stayed pretty much fixed…. it did not changed much during the build!!!. The required equipment was undergoing constant review. We finalised our heating requirements (Bubbles stove and separate diesel hot water heater to radiators), double glazed windows (Severn Yacht Marine) , 24v refrigeration (shoreline), Generator (Electrolux 3.5Kw coupled to main engine), Inverter / charger (Phoenix MultPlus 24v), fairly early on during the build, but were still undecided on some other equipment.
By far the greatest help we received came from DBA (Dutch Barge Association) members, their excellent 'Blue Flag' publication and their on-line e-mail based newsgroup. Indeed our thanks go to all DBA members who have assisted us in our undertaking without whose help we would still be struggling to find our way.
As you can see, before delivery, we had come a long way, and yet we had barely started!!! We are certainly no 'barge' experts, and do not proclaim to be, since we do not yet own one. But hopefully some of the information we have picked up along our 'journey' will be useful to others.
We moored Elessina on the River Medway, at Cuxton. This was only half an hour drive from our home, had good facilities, and the R Thames and South canal systems are within easy reach.... see moorings page for more details.
Original drawing design
The middle 'sketch' is the drawing I made and gave the boat builder / designer.
Bottom drawing is the finished CAD model. In our opinion the painted hull top gives impression of greater superstructure and less hull compared to original design (top). New Piper Barge (bottom) with rounder bow, enhanced stern and shallow chined hull with 5ft wide flat bottom.
The wheel house shown is a little 'boxy' our wheelhouse more resembles the original (top) drawings.
We now have drawings (shown above) of the hull from Nick Branson, via Simon Piper. The design is fuller in the bow at the waterline to increase the forward cabin floor area and has a more sea kindly run at the stern compared to the swim presently used. Above the waterline the sheer has been increased giving a more traditional Dutch Barge style.
The deck will be at the bottom of the red line, which is where the superstructure sits. Four foot wide flat bottom, shallow chined. We are very pleased with the design. Just what we were hoping for. Over the next couple of weeks the superstructure will be drawn.
Updated 28th October 2003 Design now complete (copy of drawing below). Primed and pre-cut steel on order.
Updated 26th December 2003 Pre cut steel delivered to Piper Boats December 23rd. Steel fabrication likely to be completed end February, engine, windows painting etc. likely finished end of April, ready for delivery April / May 2004.
Updated Saturday January 10th 2003. After sorting out pre-cut sheet steel pieces, work started Thursday 8th January. After just a couple of days work, the 'skeleton' frame begins to take place. It is even looking boat shape already!
From front (bow) looking towards the stern with temporary (grey) angle iron braces supporting the bow upright. Cut sheet front side plates are on the floor ready to be welded to frame. Side braces to gunnels / side walk in place.
Looking towards the stern from the front. You can see some side braces with the gunnels / side walkway (top left - 6ft from ground). The upper cabin superstructure will sit on this. The flat base plate (12mm) is tack welded in place, together with some of the chinned (angled) side plates (8 / 10mm). Look carefully and the engine support frame and prop shaft cut outs can be seen.
Updated January 25th. Two weeks after the above photos and the hull is really taking shape. Most of the internal welds are complete (not just tack welded any more) and to date all the pre cut panels fit very well. Very impressed with build quality lines and progress. Further work on the superstructure is dependant upon delivery of steel to Piper Boats (promised for Monday 26th).
Photo of bow looking towards stern.
Inside the hull looking towards the stern
View of stern, showing the nice curved / sheer lines
View of bow, Window apertures are not yet cut
Updated 29th February, 8 weeks after start of fabrication. Steel fabrication virtually complete with 1st coat of paint applied
View of bow, Window apertures are now cut, 1st coat of prime paint applied, bow thruster tube installed.
View of stern, rear cabin with port holes and rear escape hatch cutouts.
Updated 14th March. 10 weeks after start of fabrication. Steel fabrication now complete with a couple of coats of paint applied.
Elessina on left with a newly started 57ft x 10'-6" barge on the right
Interior of Elessina, with floor and roof lining plus batten and spray foam, with stove / fire place partitioning in the centre.
Updated 21st March 2004. 11 weeks after start of fabrication. We had a fabrication open day on Saturday 20th. Attended by around 40 visitors. A very busy and interesting day, at one time there were around 25 people on board, and she did not sink!!!!
Painting now complete to undercoat level and side windows and portholes now in place.
Engine was delivered and placed in position whilst we visited.
Updated 10th April 2004.
Work is now progressing on the special collapsible wheelhouse. The lowering of the front screen will be hydraulically assisted, the one piece roof will slide forward on the screen, resting on the cabin roof in front of the screen.
Now with a name - stern sign writing
Updated 25th April 2004.
Work is now progressing on the interior lining. Photo right shows main lounge area. Iroko / teak trims will be fitted around window frames and across roof.
Collapsible wheelhouse with sliding roof is progressing, but is taking longer than planned.
But the good news for is, Elessina (and Piper boats 'Ultimate' Class sailaways) have been given an RCD Cat 'B' conformity assessment by the official appointed notified body. We had only specified a RCD Cat 'C' barge, so getting a Cat 'B' barge is a bonus.... Not that we ever plan to be in any sea in anything like wind force 8 and 4m waves!!!!.....but it will be comforting to know that when the 'inevitable surprise' rough seas are encountered Elessina was built to withstand them.
Updated 3rd May 2004. Our 2nd open day was on Saturday 2nd May. It was equally as popular as the 1st one with around 40 visitors, with 5 pints of milk being consumed in making the tea and coffee!! It was nice to meet everyone and both Leigh and I enjoyed the day. Our thanks to all involved, especially Andrea who kindly supplied all the food and refreshments. We are now hoping for delivery mid June.
Now with a fully painted exterior.
Interior roof lining and fireplace now installed.
Updated 19th June 2004. After the open day, we asked Piper Boats to fit-out the rear cabin with 'narrowboat style' convertible dinette / double bed under the rear window and bathroom with shower, vanity basin and electric loo.
Rear Cabin bathroom with vanity unit under construction
Rear cabin looking forward from dinette into connecting passageway
Rear Cabin Convertible dinette (without cushions and cushion backs). Storage space under seats.
Iroko window frames now fitted around the double glazed Wifwerfen windows.
Engine and Bubbles stove run for 1st time.
Nearly ready 'to ship', chained to trailer, but problems with the hydraulic roof raising has forced a revised target delivery date of 12th July.
Updated 15th July
Craned in at Sheerness, and cruising on the river Medway
Updated 7th October
Galley units in place. Lots of wiring and electrical control cabinet installed
Updated 1st February 2005
The galley is taking shape, with hob, oven and worktops in place.
Bathroom and bedroom photos
Created 7th October 2002 - Last updated 28 December 2009