Design Solutions



Stowage for at least one, but ideally two motorcycles


Motorcycle stowage is essential if we are to maximise our options for travelling when we are away from our normal mooring.  Having examined the possibilities for stowing one or more motorcycles elsewhere within the boat we have decided to stow them in an ‘extended’ well deck at the bow.  The cratch covering will ensure that the traditional lines of the boat are maintained as well as provide some weather protection for the bikes.  Most well decks are around 3’-0” to 4’-6” long, but we need a minimum of 7’-0”.  The boat builder has agreed that this will be OK and that the load distribution with the bikes at around 190kg each should not be an issue, providing this load distribution has been accounted for in the strength of the well deck structure and the initial ballasting of the boat.


We have explored the possibilities for incorporating some kind of folding boom and mechanical or hydraulic winch arrangement for lifting the bikes on and off, thinking that this might be easier than rolling them on and off (RO-RO).  However, having weighed up the pro’s and con’s for both methods, we have opted for RO-RO approach.  To this end, we have specified a removable gunwale section on each side of the bow and a loading ramp which can be stowed on the roof when not in use.  We have also specified several anchor points for the straps we intend to use for stabilising the bikes when they are in the well deck.


Although difficult, we believe that it is still possible to use the saloon doors at the bow end when the bikes are in the well deck.  It will of course be necessary to carefully select suitable locations for loading and unloading – we must ensure that the operation is safe and we must avoid upsetting British Waterways and the like.   Manoeuvring the bikes when they are on the well deck is not without its difficulties [it is this aspect that might cause us to limit ourselves to stowing only one bike].  We have explored the possibilities for incorporating some kind of ‘turntable’ in the well deck in the belief that this could be of some assistance, but thus far we have failed to come up with an elegant solution.



Maximum living space and storage space whilst avoiding clutter


This has been a difficult one.  It has been necessary to make a few compromises, but we feel that we have achieved the right balance in the end.   We started with a 72’-0” long boat, this being the maximum length that could be accommodated on most, but not all of the navigable waterways in the UK, thinking that this is the best we could do and that we will just have to make the most of it.  However, it did not take long for us to realise that the cost of a boat this size with the high standard of fit-out we envisaged was almost certainly going to exceed our budget ‘big-time’, which was then of the order of about £70k -£75k.


So, the length was reduced; this being one of the major cost drivers and we became much more critical of the standard of fit-out we really needed, doing our best to classify everything as a ‘must have’ or a ‘nice to have’ and we went on from there.  We tried to work with a 60’-0” long semi-traditional style boat, but this was too short for our needs and we gradually extended the length to 65’-0”, opting for a traditional style because this would give us the maximum amount of internal space to work with.  We have experimented with all manner of layouts, including having the bedroom at the bow, ‘walk-in’ v ‘walk-through’ bathroom and toilet arrangements, etc.   This is where using the Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel applications on the computer came into their own, allowing us to quickly reposition and resize the features we were working on at the time.


The saloon remained at the bow.  Having the galley next in line gives the impression that the saloon area is bigger than it really is, providing you do not have high-level cupboards that extend the full length of the galley.  We have maximised the storage space in the saloon and the galley areas, whilst trying to achieve this ‘open’ feel for both rooms.  The saloon has two comfortable armchairs positioned so that we can watch the TV or listen to some music, etc. whilst being toasted by the diesel stove.  The diesel stove has been positioned on the port side of the boat, the theory being that whilst travelling (on the centre or to the right of the waterway) there will be fewer occasions when chimney removal will be required for clearing all but the lowest bridges and tunnels.  The cooker has automatic gas cut-off in the event that burner flames are extinguished.  We have deliberately located the galley side door on the opposite side to the cooker so as to reduce the risk of strong draughts extinguishing the burner flames in the first place.  We have also avoided having cupboards located directly above the cooker so as to reduce the fire risk.


We wanted some separation between the bathroom / toilet area and the galley, which is why the ‘day room’ is next in line.  Originally, this day room was intended to serve several purposes, i.e. an office workspace with a folding desk, a small lounge or ‘escape place’, an eating area using a small folding table and a sleeping area if the desk and table are folded away and the single seat positioned on the end of the two-seater unit.  However, we gradually came around to the idea that we were trying to achieve too much in this room and that there was high risk of compromising all of the intended functions.  In light of this, we decided upon a more traditional office layout, but with a seat and desk arrangement that would still allow one or other of us to watch a computer based TV in comfort.  The side door in this room has been positioned on the opposite side to the desk arrangement so as to reduce the risk of a soaking or the computer being nicked when the doors are open without the window insert fitted.


The bathroom is a ‘walk-through’, but the toilet area has been partitioned so as to provide more privacy for the user. This also allows others to walk through the boat whilst the toilet is in use and it helps to keep nasty niffs in the toilet area long enough for them to disperse via the toilet porthole or vent.   There is a wash basin, full height shower cubicle and storage cupboard for towels and linen, etc.  The portholes and roof hatch in this area have frosted glass, as does the shower.


The main bedroom is next in line, so we have an en-suite.  We have opted for a cross-over bed arrangement.  This provides us with a full-width bed and, with us both being less than 6’-0” tall, our feet will not be bashing the side wall when we are trying to sleep on it.  The taller ones out there might want to think about this very carefully.  We have ample storage space in the full height wardrobes (or so we keep telling ourselves) and the high-level cupboards over the bed.  Our aim is to provide some more storage space under the bed, but we are holding back on this until we have fixed the location for the hot water calorifier – we want to put this in the stern somewhere, but we are not sure where exactly.


We wanted some separation between the main bedroom and the stern to cut down on draughts, which is why the utility room is next in line.  It makes sense to have this room here anyway, because it can also be used as a ‘wet area’ when entering and leaving the boat and it will allow ease of working under cover when the engine and auxiliary electrical equipment etc. must be accessed for maintenance, etc. We have incorporated several storage cupboards and a work surface in here.


All of this has resulted in our budget having increased substantially – we have no option but to pay the market rate for the standard and quality of the boat we want.  After all, we will be living on BELLE for the foreseeable future – skimping now will mean that we will probably end up spending some more money for upgrades or even another boat at some later date.



Adequate access / egress during normal use and in emergencies


We have achieved what we feel to be a satisfactory compromise between access / egress during both normal use and in emergencies, e.g. fire and flood, etc. and security from intruders.  We have incorporated doors at the bow and stern, doors on each side and three Houdini hatches in the roof.  Had we incorporated rectangular hopper windows, then these too could have been used for access / egress in emergencies.  However, we have opted for 15” diameter portholes in the interest of security from intruders.  To be totally honest, we feel that portholes look better than rectangular hopper windows anyway.  The bow and stern doors and the starboard side door are fitted with steps to facilitate ease of use.  Whilst there are no steps fitted to the port side door and the Houdini hatches, they can all be used for emergency egress by either standing on the galley work surfaces or by standing on the shelving in the bathroom storage cupboard. 



Maximum width hatch at the stern - to facilitate two standees


The hatch space is dimensioned sufficient for two standees for comfort during cruising – this will allow a full tiller swing without one standee having to go below deck or shuffle along one or other of the gunwales.  It should be noted that this reduces the space available for the storage and equipment cupboards nearest the hatch area, but we are willing to live with this.



Stern seating for two


Simple slat seats have been provided on the stern deck on each side of the tiller.  Whereas this seating can be used when cruising in more or less a straight line, it cannot be used when full tiller swing is required, hence the need for a hatch with space for two standees.  We are using a folding tiller design – this will also help out to some extent.



Maximum security for doors, hatches and windows


We would love to dispense with the need for locking.  In an ideal world this would be possible, but we doubt that this less than ideal world we live in will undergo such a radical change in our lifetime!  Inevitably, we must reach a compromise between having a sufficient deterrent for the average intruder and opportunist thief and hindering our own access and egress.  To this end, we have specified Yale type locks for the bow and stern doors, with bolting from the inside for the side doors.  The bow doors are timber construction, so we have included a lockable crossbar arrangement, whereas all other doors are steel construction, so the locks and bolts should be sufficient.  All portholes and the Houdini hatches are locked from the inside.  The 15” diameter portholes should keep out all but the most determined dwarf and Fagins’ employees.  However, the Houdini hatches clearly must be big enough for us to get through; otherwise there is no point in having them other than to serve as additional windows.  The engine bay hatch cannot be lifted unless the stern doors have been opened.


Defeating the locks and bolts in an emergency would be possible from the outside with a beefy crowbar – that’s OK.


State-of-art intruder alarm and fire alarm systems will be fitted. 



Good thermal insulation and weatherproofing


All portholes and the Houdini hatches are double-glazed and they employ elastomeric sealing systems.  We have opted for fabric ‘buttons’ for the portholes instead of curtains for use in the evenings mainly as an aid to privacy, but these will also add some insulation.  We have not specified any form of covering or inserts for the Houdini hatches – we will see how we get on with condensation, etc. and we will retro-fit screens or covers if we encounter any problems.  The hull is spray foam lined throughout [right down to the floor level].  All external doors are recessed into their frames and they have weather strips.  Our safety and to some extent our comfort depends on having an adequate fresh air flow through the boat, but this will be provided by the vents located in all of the doors and the roof specifically for this purpose.


A cratch and cover are fitted to the bow.  All removable sections of the decks sit on channel shaped supports constructed so that any rainwater and spillages in those areas will be drained overboard.  The bow deck is diamond tread plate and the stern deck, gunwales and roof have an anti-slip painted finish.  The boat is painted externally and all timbers are either varnished or lacquered using products recommended by the boat builder – the hull base is coated internally with waxoil before the ballast is loaded and the floor is laid.  Where practicable, we will be using anodised aluminium [or some other suitable surface treatment] and brass and stainless steel fittings.


We do not feel the need to go any further at this stage, e.g. by fitting removable covers to the stern or the stern hatch and side doors, etc.  We have chosen a light colour for the roof - this should reflect a good deal of the radiated heat from the sun in the summer – we cannot be sure that the reflected sunlight will not be a problem when cruising, but we are willing to give it a go.



Office workspace


There is a desk in the day room of sufficient size to accommodate a mainframe computer monitor with an open laptop computer and keyboard / mouse alongside.  Printing and scanning devices will also be situated on top of the desk.  There is a cupboard and several drawers located under the desk - the mainframe computer itself is housed in this cupboard.  There are two other cupboards; one above the desk and one in the corner near the galley bulkhead.  We already have a comfortable single seat unit that will recline to some extent – our plan is to use this in the office.   



High levels of natural and artificial lighting for the interior


We could have had rectangular hopper windows throughout, or in selected locations, e.g. the saloon and galley area, as this would have let in more natural light, but we decided that security and our preference for the appearance of portholes will take priority.  We have opted for portholes throughout – this means that we have to pay more attention to maintaining a light coloured interior and taking any other opportunities we can for letting in as much natural light as possible.   The interior is fitted out in light Ash which will help – this is as about as light as we would wish to go with the timber, otherwise there is a risk that it might all look a bit anaemic.  We have specified window inserts for the side door apertures and we have the three Houdini hatches in the roof.  We have been in other boats with a similar configuration and they seemed OK to us.


Flush fitting ceiling lights have been specified for all rooms and some extra down-lighters for the bedroom.  We will assess the galley and utility room when the cupboards have been fitted with a view to having some more down-lighters fitted under the cupboards in these rooms if really necessary.   If we need any additional lighting then there is no harm adding the odd table lamp or two.



Avoiding the ‘railway carriage’ effect [long, straight corridors]


We have a thing against ‘long straight corridors’ the likes of which you find on some railway coaches.  We like the idea of having to go round a few corners to break things up a bit - we are not in any great rush to get from one end of the boat to the other for most of the time, unlike most of those that travel from A to B in trains.  So, we have incorporated some twists and turns through the galley, day room and bathroom, albeit that this might have [arguably] lost us a little bit of usable space.



Accommodation for occasional guests


It should be noted that BELLE is intended to be a comfortable live-aboard for the two of us.


Reclining chairs in the saloon would be nice.  We have tried to find a chair design that is comfortable when used as an ordinary chair, but one that will fold down flat for occasional guests to sleep on.  Size is critical because; (a) the chairs must fit through the saloon bow doors and (b) they must not to consume all of the space available in the saloon once we have got them in there!  A tall order – the only chairs we have seen that would meet all of the aforementioned criteria left a lot to be desired in the workmanship department.  We have also struggled to find suitable chairs made from leather, this being another one of our preferences.  We have looked at quite a few hybrid armchair / office chair designs that reclined to some extent, but they turned out to be very pricey when in leather and strong enough to withstand the rigours of daily use. 


We have opted for a couple of comfortable leather armchairs that are deep enough to allow you to nod off in some comfort, indeed they could be pushed together for one guest to sleep on, with another guest on a blow-up (bed!) on the floor alongside.  If really necessary, then we could accommodate two guests on the well deck in the summer months with the cratch cover on!



Adequate on-board electrical, gas, diesel and water supplies


Our electrical power is derived from either the engine mounted generators or a shore line when available.  We have opted for an engine with three separate generators; one used for charging the starter batteries, one for charging the domestic batteries and the ‘big-un’ (3.5kW) for when we want the extra ‘oomph’ for the washer / dryer and microwave oven (if used), etc.   This makes for a simpler control arrangement.  Mains power is also supplied from the domestic batteries via a 2.5 kW pure sine-wave inverter – this also incorporates a charger that can be used for charging the batteries from a shore line if required.  We have mains sockets in all rooms.  The lighting and fixed auxiliary equipment is 12 volts dc.  We did consider having a separate self-contained engine-driven generator unit as well, but decided that the peace of mind provided by having a second completely independent power source was not worth the price we would have to pay for one (circa £10k), nor the space required.


We have a few ideas about incorporating solar and wind powered equipment to provide us with a usable amount of electrical energy, but these ideas need developing a bit.  First thoughts are that there is plenty of space on the roof, so why not put it to good use for solar panelling.  Solar panels are still quite expensive though.


The only gas appliance on-board is the main cooker in the galley.  This is supplied from two 13kg gas cylinders located in a bow locker out of harms way.  We believe that this will be sufficient – we could use the diesel powered stove to do some simple cooking if we forget to exchange the cylinders because the model we have selected has an integral hot plate.  We did consider going ‘all electric’ by installing an electric cooker, but this would have demanded an even ‘beefier’ mains electricity supply and we felt that it was not worth the extra costs involved.


We have two diesel tanks which, if all goes well, will both be filled with the cheaper ‘red diesel’.  However, our tank and piping arrangement will allow us to run totally separate diesel fuel supplies for the engine and the on-board heating equipment.  This means that if the rules change and we are no longer allowed to run the engine on red diesel, we can use DERV instead and keep the red diesel for the heating equipment, or indeed use some other fuel for the heating equipment if it works out more cost-effective that way.


Our fresh water storage is under the bow deck, i.e. a stainless steel tank with a capacity of 680 litres (150 gallons) – water is drawn from this tank by an automatically operated pump and supplied under pressure to all of the cold taps, shower mixer and the calorifier.  The calorifier has a capacity of 42 litres (9 gallons) and, if we win the installation battle, it will be located in the stern somewhere – if not, then it will probably end up under the head end of the bed.  The water in the calorifier is heated by the action of passing hot water from the diesel boiler and/or the engine cooling system through a coiled pipe arrangement inside the calorifier (conduction process) – we also have an electric immersion heater in the calorifier for use when we are connected to a shore electrical supply.  Hot water from the calorifier is supplied to all of the hot taps and the shower mixer.  The tank capacities are those recommended by the boat builder and they appear to be consistent with many other boats we have come across.  So, all we need to do is remember to keep filling the water tank!



Adequate dry and wet waste retention


In other words, the bog and the trash can.  Our wet waste is pumped by the macerator pump located in the toilet unit via large bore pipework to a retention tank located under the utility room floor.  The capacity of this tank is approximately 340 litres (75 gallons) – this is the biggest capacity tank we can get into the under-floor space available.  The tank will span the full width of the boat so as to avoid causing a list to one side or the other as it fills up.  We have considered having a cassette toilet, but having spent some time in a caravan using one, we are sorry, but this type of toilet is not for us.  We will just have to make sure that we are disciplined enough to have regular pump-outs.


Our dry waste facility is minimal, i.e. a small waste bin in the galley.  Our only options are to buy things with less packaging and try to re-use any packaging we do take on-board and eat out where we can afford to do so.  We must face the facts, whether on BELLE or anywhere else for that matter, i.e. the human race is gradually ‘burying itself’ in waste and crap, much of it totally unnecessary – we make our own contribution to this situation but at least we are having a go at cutting down.  



Creature comforts [e.g. TV, radio, DVD, telephone, etc. ]


There is a flat screen TV and DVB decoder and a separate CD/DVD/radio unit integrated into the saloon storage cupboard areas with links to a roof mounted aerial.


The mainframe computer and laptop computer in the day room can both be used as a TV, radio, CD and DVD player, both also being linked to the TV aerial and equipped with their own DVB decoders.  Furthermore, both computers can be used to make VOI telephone calls and data communications (Internet and email) when Wi-Fi or a suitable broadband land-line is also available.  At all other times, voice and data communications will be via the 3G and/or GPRS mobile phone network.



Washer / dryer installation


Whilst we are prepared to accept the lack of a tumble dryer in life, we are reluctant to accept the lack of a washing machine – perishing the thought of having to make regular trips to the nearest launderette [wherever that might be on the cut?].  We considered incorporating separate washing machine and tumble dryer units in the belief that this would be the best approach.  However, we could not get them both in without sacrificing precious space for something else.  So, we have opted for the next best thing; a combined washer / dryer unit.  We have located this in the utility room – the waste water from this unit is pumped directly into the canal by the integral pump.  We hope that we will not live to regret this decision.



Adequate room heating and water heating and ventilation


Central heating will be from a 5kW diesel fired boiler unit located in the engine bay – this will supply all of the conventional radiators as well heat the calorifier that in turn supplies the hot water for the wash basin, galley sink and shower.  We have located a conventional radiator in all rooms except the utility room.  We felt that, as the stern hatch / doors might be open for a lot of the time, there was little point to locating a radiator in here.  We can add a radiator in here if we find that it becomes a problem.  The radiator in the bathroom doubles as a heated towel rail.  The calorifier also includes an immersion heater for use if we are hooked up to an electrical shore supply – the calorifier can also be heated using the engine cooling system.   We have included a 5kW diesel fired stove in the saloon area.  So, all in all, we feel that we will not have any problems keeping ourselves warm and washed.


All rooms are ventilated using mushroom vents in the roof.  Fresh air will flow through the boat via the stern door and bow door vents and the vents in all of the intermediate doors.  If we require any extra ventilation, then we can open any or all of the portholes and/or Houdini hatches and/or side doors.  We have not included any form of forced extraction for the cooker in the belief that this will not be necessary – we will add this later if fume accumulation turns out to be a problem.



Own space when required [e.g. for watching different TV channels, reading, etc.]


The day room can be used as a separate space, it being equipped with its own seating and separate entertainment equipment.



Comfortable bed


The main bed unit has a sprung mattress – it is full width and long enough for us.



Adequate work surfaces and appliances in galley


There are work surfaces on both sides of the galley – both the integrated drainer and the cooker top can also be used as work surfaces if required.  There is a four burner cooker with separate oven and grill with pan storage.  We are not sure yet if we really need a microwave oven – there is enough space on one or other of the work surfaces if it turns out that we do.  Hot water for tea, coffee, etc. will be from a kettle heated using one of the cooker burners or the hot plate incorporated into the diesel stove in the saloon.



Adequate power and manoeuvrability


There is not really much more we can do to assure ourselves that all will be OK in this department – we will just have to see how things turn out.  We are accepting the boat builders recommendation that the Beta 43hp engine will be up to the job for a ‘65 footer’, both for canal and river work.  We are given to believe that the Graham Reeves hull design swims well.  Our own experiences, albeit that we only have a weekend’s worth on a 50 footer on both the canal and river, confirm to us that a bow thruster is a highly desirable bit of kit in some circumstances.  So, OK you could manage without one, but why struggle if you can afford to include one?  We can, so we have.



Maintenance friendly layout


The exterior has smooth lines and all areas above the waterline are readily accessible and the paint finish will hopefully only require occasional cleaning and touching-up, etc.  The interior is wood throughout with either a varnished or lacquered finish, so it is very durable and can easily be cleaned.  We have avoided fitted carpets for the floor, thinking that they will be ditched in no time at all and we have gone for varnished tongue and grooved floor-boarding with a few odd carpets scattered here and there.   Inevitably, even having specified fitting sacrificial anodes and us promising faithfully to avoid grounding and bashing locks and other boats, etc., the hull below the waterline will require a re-blacking every couple of years.


The vast majority of the mechanical and electrical equipment requiring regular maintenance is located in the engine bay or one of the two main equipment cupboards in the utility room.  Most of the items in the engine bay [e.g. batteries, bow thruster hydraulic pump unit, main transmission coupling and propeller shaft / stern tube and the diesel fired central heating unit, etc.] can be easily accessed by just lifting the stern deck panel.  On the down side, accessing the engine itself, the gearbox and the engine driven generators will require removal of the acoustic panels that effectively ‘cocoon’ them, but this is the price you pay for having a very quiet engine.  The only other items requiring regular maintenance are located out of necessity nearer to their place of work, i.e. the bow thruster, fresh water tank and pump at the bow, shower pump alongside the shower and gas regulator / cylinders in the gas locker at the bow.  Both the bow thruster and the main propeller can be accessed via weed hatches.  The toilet has an integral macerator pump unit – waste is pumped via large bore piping to the waste tank under the utility room floor.  The diesel stove in the saloon is gravity fed from the tank.  The waste water from the sink unit in the galley and the wash basin in the bathroom are gravity drained into the canal, thus obviating the need for another pump unit.


The bilge is fitted with both a manual and automatic pump arrangement to enable draining of any accumulated water and/or oil spillages.  Even having specified drainage channels for the removable sections of the deck and doing our utmost for ensuring a watertight hull and an effective and well maintained stern tube, etc., there is still a risk of water finding its way into this section of the boat.  We have also included a small inspection hatch in the floor on the opposite side of the engine bay bulkhead so that we can check for water accumulation in this area.  In theory, with this being the lowest part of the hull, all water under the floor area should readily drain back to this point.


We shall be keeping a close eye on the installation of all items of equipment and the associated piping and wiring, etc. to make sure that it is tip-top and we know where everything is and we know all of the pipe / wire routes used and that we can get at all fittings, etc. afterwards, be it for carrying out repairs or maybe adding another wire or something.


So, we feel that we have covered most of the maintenance access issues.  We are striving for the incorporation of good quality equipment with a high level of reliability and reasonable aftermarket back-up.  However, if it can fail, then you can be sure that it will fail at some time or other, so make sure you can get at it to repair or replace it without having to remove lots of other things first.  Can you get a replacement fridge, cooker or washing machine into place if the originals fail and they were installed before bulkheads and door frames went up on either side?   Having said all of this, you will probably find us hanging upside down by our bootstraps in the engine bay at some time or other trying to recover that elusive vital component that has fallen into the darkest, wettest and most inaccessible part of the bilge!



Adequate auxiliary equipment


No doubt we will discover that we have not thought of everything when we get to the ‘step on-board and actually use the boat we have been planning for the last two years’ stage, but our inclusion of the following items in addition to those items we have specified from the boat builder, plus those items you would normally have around the house and your person anyway will cover most eventualities:


§       Life jackets

§       First aid kit – one of the more comprehensive ones

§       Mains / 12v.dc inspection lamp and portable lanterns / torches

§       Comprehensive tool kit

§       Engine care [belts, lubricants, filter cartridges, anti-freeze, etc.]

§       Axe, crowbar and lump hammer [undesirable element take note!]

§       Saw suitable for attending to propeller fouls, etc. and spare blades

§       Hose and miscellaneous fittings

§       Small selection of wire and sundries and plumbing fittings, seals and washers, etc.

§       Powerful permanent magnet on a long piece of rope


                      ……………….. to be continued…………


Wow factor!


You tell us!


Copyright © 2005 - 2006 C J Wells