Some people think that owners of elderly steel barges are eccentric. And some think that you have to be mad to buy a wooden boat. But for a few intrepid would-be boaters, neither wooden boats nor elderly barges have quite that air of uniqueness that they desire. There’s nothing for it, then, but to design and adapt or build their own. Here are some of the results.
You don’t, of course, have to go quite this far …
The Lough Erne monster
… and you can start with a conventional barge and adapt it to your liking …
The Newforge, adapted since it worked in the Dowleys fleet, at Shannonbridge
… or build your own to get the maximum amount of interior space …
New-build barge in Athlone
… or build a new barge to an old design. This one used the design of the Grand Canal Company motor-barges:
Replica GCC motor-barge heads for Tullamore
You can even use your own radical design (which in this case has many clever features):
Striking design on the River Suck
Here (bottom left of the photo) is a non-striking design.
Non-striking design (Hazelhatch)
There’s nothing particularly odd about the design of the next one; no, it’s the launch method that is noteworthy.
The flying barge at Tullamore
I did know a chap who lived for a while in a caravan that was lowered into the hull of a barge. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, the barge was the one that (see above) has now been converted, under new ownership, into a sort of Spanish galleon. This next boat always reminds me of that, although it is not in fact a caravan: it’s a perfectly respectable houseboat, and one that can get about the lake: it’s seen here at Kilgarvan, some distance from its Dromineer base.
Houseboat at Kilgarvan on Lough Derg
I’ve always liked this tough-looking steel boat at Shannon Harbour, with rope decorations on its portholes, wooden rubbing strips and tiller steering from the flybridge.
Black boat at Shannon Harbour
But even the most conventional-looking shape can conceal an unconventional design. Here is the narrowboat I Frances at Banagher.
It looks fairly conventional … except for the keel, which most narrowboats lack. And the heavy protection over the windows.
And the mast, stowed on top. Which, of course, you would need if you were going to sail from Canada to Ireland in a boat that you could later use on the English narrow canals.
The interior is not exactly conventional.
Several bulkheads strengthen the hull
After touring Irish inland waterways, I Frances sailed (using a square sail) across the Irish Sea to Holyhead.
I Frances at Holyhead
The last I heard of I Frances was in Manchester. I don’t know whether it ever made it to Moscow ….
You don’t have to go that far to find interesting designs, though.
River Rambler at St Mullins on the Barrow
That reminds me of the multi-function workboat … er, perhaps I should rephrase that: “workcraft” might be more accurate … from the River Boyne, used by An Taisce and the IWAI Boyne Navigation Branch. Thanks to Seamus Costello for this photo of the craft on its regular recyclables-collection service:
Collecting recyclables on the Boyne
But Seamus has also kindly supplied a photo of the craft in its upmarket mode, with full ensuite facilities (thanks also to the IWAI webmaster for this):
En suite Boyne craft
Here’s another vessel from the Barrow. Dawn Star was designed by a New Zealand naval architect living at Slyguff. You may just be able to see the small white nylon roller on the starboard quarter: there were rollers at all four corners, so that the boat would not need fenders when rising or falling in locks. The boat also had a large mesh platform at the stern to provide easy access for clearing the outdrive(s) of weed.
Dawn Star at Leighlinbridge on the Barrow
Here’s a solution to the problem of providing access from the wheelhouse to the main part of the boat.
Interesting shape in Grand Canal Docks, Ringsend, Dublin
In this next case, my guess is that the problem to be solved was the lack of insulation inside the hull, if you’re planning to live on board for the winter. The solution seems to be to put the insulation on the outside. Do please correct me if I’ve got that wrong.
External insulation at Garrykennedy
I’m not entirely sure, but I think this is the same boat in its second winter:
Here’s a stealth boat from Garrykennedy:
This is what you can do if you can weld …
Immram at Dromaan on Lough Derg
… whereas skilled use of plywood gets you something like this:
Boat at Hazelhatch on the Grand Canal
Did this, I wonder, start as a ship’s lifeboat?
At Shannon Harbour
Bellflower, seen here at Shannon Harbour, is a contender for the award for Creative Fenestration (Porter’s Eve, if it’s still around, must also be in the running).
Bellflower at Shannon Harbour
But if you have no skills whatsoever, and anything you produce is rubbish, there is still a solution. The next four photos are courtesy of Niall Galway.
Approaching a bridge …
… and leaving it
Coming up to a lock …
… under its recycling-conscious skipper