Some boats that are … different

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

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

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

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

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

Striking design on the River Suck

Here (bottom left of the photo) is a non-striking design.

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

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

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.

I Frances

I Frances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

External insulation at Garrykennedy

I’m not entirely sure, but I think this is the same boat in its second winter:

External insulation at Garrykennedy again

Here’s a stealth boat from Garrykennedy:

Stealth boat at Garrykennedy

And I suppose I should include Lazy Annie from Lowtown, already on the Wooden boats at Lowtown page and currently for sale on See also Trindle on the Lowtown page.

Lazy Annie 1

Lazy Annie 2

This is what you can do if you can weld …

Immram at Dromaan on Lough Derg

Immram at Dromaan on Lough Derg

… whereas skilled use of plywood gets you something like this:

Boat at Hazelhatch on the Grand Canal

Boat at Hazelhatch on the Grand Canal

Did this, I wonder, start as a ship’s lifeboat?

At Shannon Harbour

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

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 ...

Approaching a bridge …

... and leaving it

… and leaving it

Coming up to a lock ...

Coming up to a lock …

... under its recycling-conscious skipper

… under its recycling-conscious skipper

10 responses to “Some boats that are … different

  1. geraldine wilson

    I have been really amused at the ingenuity shown in the above photo’s.
    It just goes to show:- if it floats, it must be a boat.

  2. We need more of that ingenuity!


  3. Pingback: Minor updates « Irish waterways history

  4. A ships lifeboat?? At Shannon harbour
    This looks like a Great Lakes fishing vessel from Canada
    This design can be found in almost every fishing harbour on the great lakes

  5. Pingback: Irish Waterways Ideas |

  6. The Flying Barge (Aoife Rose above) Launch method worked a treat we launched her in Tullamore early on a Sunday morning after a hard winters work converting her from a dumb Barge we bought fro £1stg sunk in a lake in England.
    Damien Buckley. (Builder Former Owner)

  7. Oh how I wish I could find a builders plan of the 45M, Cheers Erland

  8. Is it still possible to find old dumb barge hulls for a conversion project – for use on the Shannon/Lough Derg? What size? What app. cost?

  9. I don’t know of any myself, but it’s not really my field. You might try bjg

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