More Boat Projects

Plus the may maintenance jobs that result from having a boat

You will know from reading other sections of this site that the BCNS has been trying for some time to get a Day boat so as to preserve this type of craft. The various attempts have always resulted in a craft being found, preserved and/or restored by other groups who have found a use for the vessel.
So the exercise cannot be considered as a failure, but the fact remains that we ourselves have not succeeded in obtaining a day boat.
This caused the council to revisit this idea and it was decided that the preservation of such craft was being achieved by other groups and was best left to them. So it was that we changed tack and decided to go for a more practical boat more suited for the purpose we put boats too.
So in 2005 we attended the clean up at Ocker Hill with Phoenix experimentally pushing a small punt type boat that was held on to the front of Phoenix using lorry type ratchet straps. The boat in question had been left on the Tatbank by a contractor who had moved away and appeared to have forgotten the vessel, so we used it whilst ownership was being sorted out.
The experiment proved the worth of the extra load space, more rubbish was able to be collected. It also improved the safety of the volunteers by cutting down on the climbing over the rubbish, as a section of Phoenix's hold could be kept clear for the crew. Having proved the worth of such an arrangement we then began the search for a more suitable boat. We continued to use the punt and it featured in many an outing but a number of design features on this craft made hard work of unloading.
The hold extended under the gunwales and this caused rubbish to get trapped under the gunwales and made emptying by hand or mechanical bucket difficult.
The part of the boat pushed against by Phoenix was sharp and caused un necessary damage to Phoenix's bow and the craft on is own was very unstable.
The hull being square in plan caused the front corners of the hull if ever they caught anything like the wall of a lock or entrance to a bridge it did'nt bounce off but had a tendency to dig in before the weight of the boats ripped them free. A square front was fine but needed rounded corners.
The length of the boat did not maximize the full load potential ie The boat could be longer and fill a lock with the two boats.

Phoenix with 1st butty strapped to front

The Solution

So a design began to form and we considered if it would be better to build the boat to the design. Cost played a big part in the process, as at this time the cost of steel was rocketing, so that thought was put on hold.
We then identified a likely boat that appeared to met all the requirements of the design with just a small amount of modification needed.
In early 2004 an old work boat similar in design to Phoenix and about as long, had been brought up to Titford for the use by the then BW section based at the Pump house.
It had a cabin that was in poor condition so the BW crew knocked it off, just intending to use the boat on the top level for rubbish collection, it wasn't fitted with an engine, just an arrangement to fit an out board motor.
Well shortly after this BW re structured itself again and the staff based at Titford became more mobile and thus Titford became just one of many bases.
The boat was moored at the top of the Tatbank and appeared to lose it role in the scheme of things.

From the front: Abandoned, filled with water, but just what we wanted?

The boat stayed where it had been moored for a good year, filled with water, then its design features in summer 2005 hit us as being just what we required.
Measuring tapes quickly established that if the out board engine section of the boat could be cut off, retaining the rear bulkhead of the load area. The boat when strapped onto the front of Phoenix (38 ft) would make an overall length just under seventy foot (70 ft).
This made it perfect for the unit to move around the system with the minimum of lock operations whilst giving us the maximum load area.
The method of strapping the boat to the front would also mean that the boats could be easily unhooked. The butty could then be breasted up to Phoenix in a variety of ways to make a stable and safe working platform.

Rear deck to be cut off: Upstands at rear & side remains of cabin All of the deck to be removed up to the rear load bulkhead

The boat was looked at more closely, the rear bulkhead seem good and the load area which was full of water seemed sound as did the bottom on this level of inspection. The front of the boat has a lockable section which may be useful, although by removing this section would greatly increase the load area, time will tell. The bows of the boat can be easily sealed off from the rest of the boat giving good potential buoyancy, a hatch into this section could be made water tight. If neccessary the rear bulkhead could be extended and a rear buoyancy section built into the boat making it possible if required to take loads such as dredgings?.
The general structure of the boat when you stripped away the cosmetic look of the boat seemed sound so it was decided to approach BW.

Load area bulkhead: that would become stern of boat Front of boat and load area.

This just happened to be the time when BW announced it was about to purchase a new generation of work boats to met the requirements it thought neccessary for its staff.
Thus we approached BW HQ in Birmingham and not surprisingly at first they could not place the boat, but very soon we where in contact with local staff who knew the boat.
The identity of the boat was found having had a BW number of ZZ 80369 and being described as a dumb flat. It is thought that she was built at the now closed BW work shops at Goole? although this and a date of build has not to been verified. The boat was also found to have had a type/fleet number B61, the number having been either on her bows or cabin, all these number having removed from the boat.
The boat if obtained would need to be taken to Hawne Basin and pulled out of the water.
Our friends at Hawne where contacted and the plan was seen to be very possible so at this time we decided to take Phoenix down to Coombeswood and pull her out of the water and give her a well earned paint, just in case any of us didn't have anything too do just before Christmas.
Now it would make sense to pull both boats down to Hawne at the same time, So it was decided to approach BW and see if they would allow us to pump all the water out of the new (old)boat and then take her to Hawne for a closer inspection, prior to any exchange of ownership.
B.W agreed, so on Thursday 8th December 2005 the boat was dragged along the Tatbank and emptied of rubbish and pumped out.
It's amasing the amount of water such a boat can hold, the 240 volt pump took about one hour to complete the job

Floating rubbish: full of water Pumping with electric pump: took nearly one hour to empty

We then set off, destination Hawne basin, the two boats would just fit in the top lock, but when we emptied the lock the bottom gate would not open, the boats being to long.
Three so called boaters Jeff Barley, John Edmonds and Phil Clayton official press release read that we just tried to see if the two boats would go into a lock together without any modification. But really we cannot added up to 70 or rather failing to notice the bottom gate opens in wards, how long have we been boating on the BCN?
Anyway we started again, bow hauling the new boat down the locks after Phoenix. At Oldbury we set off for Brades and the staircase locks onto the main line into the Netherton tunnel, Dudley No 2 and Hawne Basin.
Leaving the boats next to the slip ready for Phoenix to be pulled out of the water on Friday 9th December.
The new boat was now in the right place for a further inspection to finalise the plans we have for her when the paperwork re ownership is finalised

Phil Clayton bow hauling butty down crow Pair of boats top lock Brades Towing

The practicalities of the job were discussed with Tony Friar at the basin who builds the odd boat, and seemed to be very possible.
As to who was going to do most of the work, well being semi retired, having a boat at Hawne and as most of this was my idea anyway I Jeff Barley stepped forward (Must stop doing that). Tony Friar stated he would donate some of his time and expertise to the project and others stated they would look in from time to time.
It was then thought that the boat could be made to fit onto both our 'Phoenix' and 'Hawne': Coombeswood Canal Trusts Boat based at the basin.
Hawne operates mainly on the Dudley No 2 Canal, where there are no locks, so the fact she is a bit longer than Phoenix would not matter or limit her use of the boat. So a joint venture was floated if you will forgive the pun.
The design would remain the same for both boats, but with some sort of bumper or pads being added to the back of the boat, so that both boats would not need special fenders.
On Friday 9th December 2005 Phoenix was pulled out of the water for her bi-annual make over, and provisional dates in January pencilled in for the butty.

Hawne(Longer than Pheonix), Pheonix and butty together at Hawne Pheonix pulled out for her make over: wear and tear evident

Now anyone looking at this who gets the impression that only a small group of people, have all the fun of working on these projects and that it is a closed shop: please think again and feel free to come and join us on Pheonix we would be grateful for more active members.
Over the weekend of the 10th/11th December Pheonix was wire brushed down and re blacked, a new anode fitted, and the cabin roof paint that had become somewhat rusty and scuffy over the years due to all sorts of items being thrown on to it, was stripped and taken back to the metal.
The general condition of the hull under the water line is good but some quite deep pitting has been found on the angled front plate that is usually below the water. No Anode is fitted to the front section of the hull as there is no place to put one without it being knocked off easily. We will have to monitor this plate to see if it gets any worse and explore the possiblity of putting an anode in this area of the hull. And just in case a suitable plate of metal has already been sourced, captured and stored should we need to re-plate this section

Sitting on trolloy, cleaned and repainted Lower section of front plate found to be pitted

Christmas 2005 came and went and on Friday 30th December 2005 the slip at Hawne pulled yet one more boat the butty, out of the water.
The metal plates had been removed but the rain and snow over the holiday had yet again filled her full of water. Once out of the water a quick inspection on a very cold, windy and wet day that cut short our endeavour's to work on her, did confirm that her hull was sound.
Her unusual design became apparent with plenty of fins or keels attached to both bow and stern, probably added to give her better straight line performance having being powered by an out board motor.

Butty on slip: Bow of has a fin or keel Stern has twin keels either side of Outboard section Close up of same area Most of the silt out: drying prior to anti rust.

The Work Too Shorten the boat

The logical place to shorten the hull would have been where the twin keels start as measured from the stern, however it would have made the lenght of the two boats well over 70ft.
So the front bulkhead of the outboard motor box appeared the next best place. This bulkhead did not go right across the boat the two pontoons either side of the engine box along with the space in front of the box to the rear bulkhead of the load area making a U shaped compartment. When shorten it would require two plates of metal to be welded across the ends of the shorten pontoons to make the assembly water tight.
Cutting her here would form a floatation section at the stern of the boat as we had become concerned that the first thought of just cutting her at the rear load bulkhead would have made her stern heavy when loaded. A crude deck had been welded onto this section with holes in it, this would require replacing or at least tidying up.
Having looked at the hull out of the water and deciding on the course of action, work stopped, the job was costed so all the facts could be put before the council for full consideration. The fact that BW had not yet confirmed our ownership in writing, coupled with the slot on the slipway being required the following week by another boat was enough excuse for a rest..
The interior sections of the load area had been treated and blacked so if she filled with rain water she would be protected. The upper deck sections would be cleaned up and blacked when she was back in the water, weather permitting.
On Friday 5th January 2006 the boat was put back into the water to await a future slot on the slip when all the shortening work would be started along with the blacking of the outer sections of the hull.

U spaced section around engine box to be shorten: so new back in line with bollards that would be re positioned Lower load area blacked ready for re launch after assessment inspection

Back in the water and an hour on an angled grinder loosened all of the welds on the rough deck plating just forward of the engine box. Once removed the bulkhead of the pontoons could be seen clearly, the carefully cut holes in the bulkhead would require plating to make the shorten boat watertight.
The general condition when revealed of the interior hold formed by the two bulkheads was rusty but sound.
With the lid to the engine box removed the sound construction of the vessel in the engine area was seen, pity we have to cut this section off after all the work that must have gone into the building of her.
So work continued to rust proof this area, and thoughts turned to the re decking of this area. The trianglur ends would be re plated, and a raised square box section frame formed in the center with a lid to both make the deck water tight and strenghten the two bulkheads.

Rough rear deck plate removed: to reveal strange shaped deck fitting Holes in pontoon bulkhead revealed: will require plating Lid to engine box removed to reveal motor mountings Rear load area bulkhead and bottom in this area appears sound

Work had continued to wire disc the interior surfaces of the load area and then black the same.
The Council met and formally approved the idea, so we started to sharpen the cutting tools.
The decks and gunwales were similarly treated and blacked, the hull suddenly began to look like a really practical piece of kit. The floatation section at the stern was rust proofed and then blacked inside, metal being cut to form a hatch and new deck in this area.
A telephone call from BW stated that the invoice and papers making the boat ours was on the way, so we made plans to use the cutting tools.
Friday 27th January 2006 came and again the boat was pulled out of the water on the Hawne trolley, and no sooner had the wheels to the trolley stopped when the cutting torch wheeled by Tony Friar began to shorten the hull. Firstly the rudder assembly was cut off, then the centre section of the stern giving access to between the pontoons

All decks blacked:waiting to be slipped again and shortened Rudder cut off Centre section of stern removed Between pontoons to cut inner pontoon plate

With the centre removed Tony was able to cut through the inner section of the 1st pontoon and then cut across the deck to the top rubbing strake. He then disappeared into the pontoon blowing a hole towards the bottom of the outer hull.
Then from the outside a chalk line was drawn from the top cut to the blow hole, then the hull was cut from the outside.
As soon as the bottom rubbing strake was cut the wieght of the pontoon bent the bottom plate, enough for the plate to be cut from the inside.
All the time as Tony cut off bits that were able to be carried they were carted away, and when not doing this or taking a photograph, Jeff Barley pressure washed the front section of the hull ready for blacking.

Inside pontoon to fix bottom blow hole: deck cut Chalk line drawn from top to blow hole:then cut Only bottom plate still fixed: cut from inside

With the bottom plate cut the pontoon fell to the ground.
With the aid of chains, Tony's fork lift truck pull the section clear of the slip, lifted the pontoon and transported it to a skip brought in for the occasion.
After a break for coffee the second pontoon was attacked by cutting the inner engine box bulkhead.
In all of this action to cut the pontoons it was noted that the workmanship and quality of the steelwork and welding was of excellant quality. The tradesman who built the boat certainly put a lot of effort into the vessel, it was a pity it had to be shortened.

1st pontoon off Fork lift removed pontoon to skip Cutting inner section of 2nd pontoon Blow hole chalk then section cut.

Again the pontoon bent the bottom plate as the lower rubbing strake was cut, and again the bottom plate was finally cut from the inside.
The fork lift removed the section and it was carried off to the skip that was nearby on the car park at Coombeswood.
Whilst Tony used the cutting gear to cut to size the plates that would go over the two holes in the revealed bulkhead, Jeff cleaned off all of the paint and any rust from the area.
Again the newly revealed metal work was in first class condition and the boat should give years of service.

2nd pontoon just held by bottom plate cut from inside Pontoon removed to reveal inner bulkhead Bulkhead cleaned up awaiting metal plates

The two new plates both of 10 mill thickness were tacked onto the now back of the boat. The edges to the flame cut section on the now new corners were round with a disc cutter before Tony spent time running continous welds all around the new plates making the hull once again watertight.
Both of the bollards that had been on the cut off section had been saved, were tidied up ready to be replaced on the new deck.
A frame work of angled metal was constructed to form the supports for a lid to a hatchway for the new deck.
This frame will also reinforce the bulkhead the structure to be completed by the addition of two trianglur plates welded to the frame and deck making the area watertight.
The light started to go so the team called it a day, having completed the main part of the job in just six hours.

New plates welded on and made watertight Deck hatch frame tack welded into position

Saturday 28th January 2006 saw the bollards welded back on, and the triangular deck plates cut and welded into position. Brackets to attach rubber or similar push bumpers were welded to the stern of the boat along with reinforcing strips being attached to the stern corners.
The hull was then wire brushed down and the entire hull and new stern blacked. Holes where cut into the up-stands of the old cabin so that the lorry straps could be attached and the remains of the old cabin front still in the load area cut out to make a uniform surface in the load area.
Over the week leading up to Friday 3rd February 2006 the bumpers were fitted to the stern and the hull given yet more coats of black

New stern with bumpers: Blacked and ready to go Bow fitted with tyre fender

Finished, after months of planning and wondering, the boat became a reality in just two days, with all of the creative work done by Tony.
Boat put back into the water on Friday 3rd February 2006 to await a maiden trip back to the Pumphouse, should be able to make the Clean-up at Walsall in March.
Wooden floor boards cut and fitted and then treated, the metal steps that had been on the side, removed then re-positioned and attached to the stern bulkhead. A simple wooden lid was made to cover the hatch on the deck of the new stern

Floor put down: back in water and steps re-positioned Ready for the off: view of stern

At Coombeswood the boat was strapped to the front of Hawne, she fits well. Taken for a short trip up the Dudley No 2, winding in the wide section by the old steel works and back to Hawne. These two boats go together well, Hawne has lots of power and easily pushes the butty, the whole combination steers well is very stable when unloaded, hopefully the same will be true when loaded and on Phoenix.
On Thursday 9th February 2006 the new boat pushed by Hawne made its way up the Dudley No 2, through the Netherton Tunnel onto the New Main Line into the Gower Branch.

Hawne attached to butty at Hawne:Fits well Boats together from the side:About 73ft Long: OK on No 2 Canal

The crew from Coombeswood must have started early, have a boat that is very powerful and oh yes are speed merchants, as they reached Brades well before Phoenix. As we pulled up at the top lock we where met by the butty being bow hauled up the locks by Alf Danks.
After a few good humoured jibes as to where had we been, the crew of Hawne waved and turned her around and disappeared down the Gower at a fair rate of knots.
We then bow hauled the butty out of the top lock, attached Phoenix to her after backing into the lock and then set off towards Titford.
From the crew of Hawne they had had a good passage, Phoenix pushed the butty easily too, both boats went well, a few alterations will have to be made to the straps but nothing major.
As normal when passing through Oldbury we pasted shopping trolley's, pulled five out and christen the new boat with her first bit of rubbish.
Had a good trip up the locks, the lenght is just right, arrived at the Pump house and moored up on the Tatbank.

Strapped together for the first time: Top lock Brades Left Brades under power: Turned onto the Old line as if one boat Straight line handling good Moored on the Tatbank: Shows new load space

So here we have it a practical boat that has years of work built into to its design. Conversely we have also adapted a boat that today has little historical value to most poeple, but does come from an era of waterways history not that long ago, but which is long gone. So we have probably conserved a bit of modern history
I wonder if the boatmen who worked the day boats and who had a hard physical life ever thought that the steel boxs they used every day would one day become historical monuments to a way of life.
Our little Dumb Flat is not very sexy, but her design was different and by saving her from the scrap, adapting her for a new purpose and recording the event we have followed the tradition that is the history of many of the old boats about today.
Maybe we have started the seeds of Dumb Flat Restoration Society, if one doesn't already exist?
My thanks to all who got involved in this project, especially to Tony Frair who made most of the idea work, and to Coombeswood Canal Trust at Hawne for giving us the facalities to do the practical work. The whole set up at Hawne is unique, the people great, I cannot think of anywhere else on the system that the above project could have been achieved so quickly at the modest price it came in at.

The finished Unit on the Crow: A good piece of kit

First Work party

The 2006 season of clean-ups started on 18th February when armed with the new push butty we christen the new boat by taking her along the Old Main line to the Engine Arm, winded and then stopped at every bridge hole on the way back to Titford. Out of Brass House and Spon Lane bridges we pulled numerous shopping trollies, two motor bikes, various push bikes finishing with security fence panels. Top all of this with the normal floating rubbish we collected and we had a couple of good boats loads, so much so that when we arrived back at the Pumphouse the thought of emptying the boat by hand did not appeal
Too tired we left the boats full to be emptied another day. Apart from this, every thing is ready and working well, bring on the BCN Clean-up in March 2006.

Phoenix and Butty: Engine Arm: Light floating rubbish On the Crow: Steerers new view Back at the Pumphouse: full of Heavy rubbish

After much thought and an article in Boundeary Post the new butty was named 'Crow', by the members. Being based on the Titford Canal and the local name for the locks being 'The Crow' our new butty is aptly named. So the Society know has two birds to help in the work of keeping the BCN clean and navigable, 'Phoenix' and 'Crow'.
Also her orginal number B61 has been welded onto her bows on each side to give her historical identity back so her history can be traced by any other owner in the future.

The Crow: On the Tatbank: 2008 Her orginal number welded to her bows

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