Friday, 17 May 2019

A pause in changed circumstances

I’ve just posted over on the other blog about the bombshell diagnosis of a tumour on my pancreas. We’ll still be proceeding with OMDB (or Sheila will at least) but for now we’re not doing any further planning. I’ll be publishing updates from the frontline of the battle on Living in Sanity Again.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

The bathroom

We’d not planned any major changes from the cross bathrooms we’ve had in Sanity and Sanity Again, but the thought of an incinerating toilet is intriguing. So first, the straightforward stuff – heated towel rail, standard washbasin, large shower enclosure, airing cupboard warmed by a bit of finrad in the engine coolant circuit at the bottom. Exactly where the entry/exit doors will be positioned we’ve yet to work out. Sometime in the next couple of months we need to sit down with a sheet of graph paper and sketch some layouts to discuss with Jam Attwood. 

The big question is the toilet. For us, both a composting toilet and a cassette are definitely out. Composters are an interesting idea for a country cottage or cabin in the woods, but we really don’t like the implications on a boat. It’s noticeable that some marinas are banning them because of the bags of partially “composted” (ie rotting) solids that end up in the rubbish skips. Cassettes are great for an occasional use boat, but not for extended cruising as far as we are concerned.

The new kid on the block is the incinerator toilet. These can be gas fired or electric. Used as designed, a gas fired one will work out quite expensive to run. It burns 100g of gas per incineration, so if you burn every time you use it, we reckon you would get through 13kg of propane, £35 at present prices, in less than a fortnight. There’s an interesting review in the May 2019 edition of Canal Boat of an Aqualine boat with such a loo. The owners plan on burning just two or three times per day, thus getting much more time out of the gas cylinder.

We are planning on a gas free boat this time as part of the low effort plan, but we’re going to explore the possibilities of the electric one (the original design) being powered from the lithium battery bank. The power draw is the same as a medium ring on the induction hob, but for 45 minutes. If it’s feasible, it has big possibilities. You need to buy the special paper liners for each use, but emptying the loo consists of removing an ash tray full of ash once a fortnight.

I’ll be reporting back on this after Crick. If it doesn’t look feasible, we’ll go pump out again, a tried and tested technology we’re very familiar with.

Next time, the bedroom.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

The Galley

This is where I’m really going to feel the effect of a much shorter boat. Sanity Again has an award winning galley, unusually long with a great example of the Braidbar Welsh dresser on one side, no less than four drawers wide with cupboards under. The other side has a Samsung Staron worktop, double sink and cooker and fridge. 

In OMDB, we need to fit in a washing machine, but won’t have a gas cooker. Instead, there’ll be an induction hob and I’m seriously contemplating going for a microwave/oven/grill combi. Apart from the month we’re not allowed to stay in the lodge from mid-January to mid-February, we won’t be living on board in the winter, so the cooking requirements will be much simpler, more salads, fewer soups and stews. In addition, one of my main reasons for using  the oven on SA is because it’s so hard to do a really slow simmer over a propane flame. I’m hoping the induction hob will go lower than that.

Obviously, storage is going to be the main challenge, but once more the fact that we are no longer full time liveaboards will help. I still want a dresser – it won’t feel like a Braidbar without one – but we’re a bit undecided about the other worktop. Possibly Staron or similar again, but maybe quartz? Certainly not granite, far too much effort to maintain. It’ll be a single sink with drainer unless the worktop is thick enough to rout drainage channels.

The one thing that seriously dissatisfies me with the current set up is the fridge. It’s a perfectly respectable Shoreline, but just too small. I wanted a slightly larger one but when we were building SA, Peter Mason persuaded me to go smaller so that it would fit under the worktop. This time, I’m determined to have a taller one with more than a shoebox sized frozen food compartment. It’s one of the things to check out over the next couple of years. On Sanity, we had a socking great Zanussi fridge freezer with side by side compartments. I could freeze enough meat for a month but it was sooo power hungry that, even with a TravelPower AC generator, we had to run the engine for four hours every day to keep the batteries charged. Of course, the lithium batteries change all that, too, but there still won’t be room for such a big beast.

Next time, the bathroom.

Monday, 4 February 2019

The saloon

There’s a lot of thinking to be done about the saloon. Losing 20’ from our present 70 means more than just eliminating two compartments. Including bulkheads, dropping the dinette gains us about 6’ 4” and a similar amount for the study bedroom. That leaves a bit over 7’ to find. The shorter bow and well deck will account for a bit, maybe two feet, and another two from the engine room if we put the washing machine in the galley. The bathroom is already pretty short, so the saloon and galley between them are going to have to lose around three feet. 

Sanity Again has a very long saloon, but we can’t give up much more than another couple of feet, I suspect. Note that all this is still very rough thinking – we’re a long way off drawing detailed plans. 

First off, a word about the linings. We really like what we have on SA, which is panelling on the walls and t&g on the ceiling (or deck head if you’re being technical). We’re thinking of Karndean type vinyl wood flooring and maybe plain white painted panels instead of the t&g. The oiled oak floor and the t&g between them reduce the headroom a bit, it has to be said. Mainly free-standing furniture again, but with a hinged table to one side with a couple of folding dining chairs to provide eating space. I don’t think we’ll need much in the way of bookshelving. We mostly read ebooks these days and watch films copied across onto the laptop from our DVD collection in the lodge.

Instead of a Squirrel solid fuel stove, we want a drip feed diesel, either the Lockgate Refleks or the Kabola. We may go for a back boiler on that, heating a couple of rads and the calorifier, thereby removing the need for a Webasto. On the other hand, that leaves us dependent on the stove for boat heating when not on a landline. On the other other hand, both the Refleks and the Kabola have an enviable reputation for reliability...

Monday, 7 January 2019

The pointy end

The bow will have to be fairly basic, no fancy josher shape this time. With a much shorter boat, the fairly bluff standard Tyler bow should work perfectly well. It means less space in the well deck, but that can’t be helped. Being gas free means that there will be storage in the forepeak, probably with a triangular lid to maximise access. We want a transverse locker again, with the same arrangement as we have on Sanity Again. That is, the deep locker for a bow thruster will be there, but without the bow thruster tube. We haven’t missed one on a 70’ boat so certainly don’t need one on 50. What we get is a good chunk of long term storage, suitable for things like the anchor and chain when not on a river, and the emergency Porta Potti.

As usual, there’ll be a stainless steel water tank under the well deck, with the filler coming up through the gunwale rather than down on the deck getting trodden on.

We’ll still want a cratch with hardwood glazed deck board and a simple cover, just a single zip and no see through panels. Not needing to heave gas cylinders in and out of the bow locker means we probably won’t need doors in the deck board.

That’s about it for the bow. Going back to the last post, we’ve pretty well decided against chromed brightwork, so it’s either stainless steel or painted.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Starting to think it through

I thought it was time to take a break from a frenetic few weeks to think about our thinking about OMDB. Sheila’s come up with yet another suggestion for what the letters stand for: Our Marvellous Dream Boat 😆. It feels like a long time to 2021, but we know that it will creep up on us and then suddenly Jam will be wanting plans and decisions. Incidentally, apparently since we booked our build slot, another two existing Owners have followed in our footsteps, but we’re still the only friends/customers to order a third one.

Some of the basic stuff we have no doubts about. We wouldn’t dream of getting the shell from anyone but Tim Tyler, for example. As to length, 50’ will still have room for the basics and for us to live in comfort on her during extended summer cruising and for the month we have to be out of the lodge in the winter. The saloon will also be the dining area, and much of the stuff in the study bedroom will move up into the lodge. We’ve been doing a lot of weeding of the filing, getting rid of loads of paper we were keeping for no good reason.

As I will keep stressing, the aim this time round is minimum maintenance and minimum effort working the boat. Hence gas free and a diesel stove rather than a multifuel. As full time liveaboards, redundancy of heat sources was the name of the game, but for extended leisure cruising that’s now less important than having to lug bags of coal and cylinders of gas around. In addition, there’s no doubt that burning solid fuel makes more dust and muck than a drip fed diesel stove, so less cleaning to do as well.

When you are on the boat full time, keeping the fire going isn’t difficult, but leaving Sanity Again unoccupied in the cold months means using oil filled radiators to keep the frost out and so having to leave the shoreline on full time. A diesel stove can be left ticking over on minimum with occasional visits to check up on it. Full winterising isn’t feasible for us – just last weekend we were using the boat as overflow accommodation for a family event.

Thinking about the outside, no brass this time. Chrome or stainless steel for the brightwork, then. Sheila was wondering the other day if we could paint the porthole rims to match the breaklines in the livery, probably cream again.

That’s enough for just now, I’ll get onto the bow next time.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

A third Braidbar?

We’ve just booked the late Feb/early March 2021 build slot for our third Braidbar. This blog will cover the planning of the boat as we work on it and then record the build, week by week. But first off, why go to the trouble and expense of yet another boat?

There are three main reasons for doing this. Firstly, tradition demands it. Every time Braidbar changes hands, we let the new folk settle in then order a boat. So, no pressure, James and Donna 😆.

Secondly, Sanity Again is going to need a repaint shortly, so it’s time we changed boats. 🤣

And in the last and chief place, we’re gonna need a smaller boat. It’s beginning to dawn on us that we’re not as young as we were and hauling 70’ and 23 tonnes about is getting to be a bit much.

So the plan is for number 3 to be a shorty, 50’ if we can do it. Electric drive, either hybrid or direct + genny depending on what’s around in nearly three years time, LiFePo4 batteries, gas free, whatever else James dreams up, we’re getting quite excited.

After we’d moved onto Sanity Again, I was chatting to Peter about ideas for our next boat and Sheila said we’d have another one “over my dead body”. Peter’s response was “that can be arranged...”. Turns out I’ve not had to be that drastic, but number 3 will be called OMDB in recognition of that exchange.

Here’s what we’ve put together so far as a design brief for OMDB. I must emphasise this is very much just our thinking at the moment and some of it will undoubtedly be changed over the next two years. But the guiding principles will remain: a minimum maintenance boat representing the best Braidbar can do. So she’ll be a stunner, come what may!


  • Triangular hatch

Well deck

  • Transverse locker
  • Cratch
  • Large water tank under
  • Tank filler through gunwale


  • Free standing furniture
  • no shelving needed, 
  • table hinged to wall, 
  • Reflex bubble stove


  • Electric oven, induction hob
  • Compact washing machine
  • Fridge
  • Extra length
  • Houdini
  • Triflow tap with basic filter

Cross bathroom 

  • Large shower
  • Pump out or even an incinerating toilet
  • Shower fan and light switched separately 


  • Inline bed
  • Inline wardrobe
  • Houdini over space at foot of bed

Engine room

  • Hybrid or electric drive
  • Hospital silencer
  • LiFePo4 batteries
  • Webasto


  • Tyler standard shell, 50’ with maybe 1’ discretion
  • Panelled walls, oak framed ash
  • Panelled ceiling, white painted
  • Portholes throughout
  • Chrome brightwork
  • Glazed sidehatch in saloon with CabinCare type flyscreen (possibly CabinCare blind)
  • CabinCare flyscreens and blinds on Houdinis 
  • Vinyl wood floor Karndean/Amtico/Project
Over the next few weeks, I’ll work through this, section by section, discussing our thinking behind each choice.