Steam revival

Run­ning your own steam launch is a pas­time that’s alive and well, as Mike Tay­lor dis­cov­ers

Practical Boat Owner - - Contents -

The age of steam power in boats is still alive and kick­ing

It may not be main­stream boat­ing, but in­ter­est in steam driven craft re­mains strong with launches afloat on lakes, rivers and es­tu­ar­ies the length and breadth of the na­tion. And they’re not all an­tiques: many have been built new in the last 40 years.

Ves­sels tend to be sim­ple open boats of tim­ber, GRP and even steel con­struc­tion with round-bilge and hard-chine hull forms. For con­ve­nience and for ease of trans­port­ing and launch­ing, few are more than 30ft long. To­day’s steam boats of­ten in­clude fash­ioned tim­ber sec­tions, var­nished and pol­ished, with brass fit­tings to cre­ate pe­riod charm. Steam launches with elegant counter sterns and brightly coloured canopies draw crowds as they pass along the Thames and other rivers and wa­ter­ways.

En­gines are of­ten ma­chined and as­sem­bled by the owner, some­times built from raw cast­ings us­ing a pro­fu­sion of sup­pli­ers for other nec­es­sary parts. Al­ter­na­tively, a com­plete en­gine can be sourced to in­stall in the hull. Boil­ers, too, can be bought ready as­sem­bled. Then comes the plumbing in of steam and feed-wa­ter sys­tems as well as fit­ting out of the craft with steer­ing, pro­pel­ler shaft and all the nec­es­sary deck items.

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