The Steam Boat As­so­ci­a­tion

Practical Boat Owner - - Boats -

The Steam Boat As­so­ci­a­tion of Great Bri­tain (SBA) was formed in 1971 to pro­mote the en­joy­ment of steam­boats and steam boat­ing, and to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of steam­boat own­ers.

To­day, the SBA has around 1,000 mem­bers lo­cated in more than 20 coun­tries through­out the world, who own over 400 work­ing steam pow­ered craft of var­i­ous sizes and types.

The as­so­ci­a­tion’s 96-page quar­terly jour­nal The Fun­nel keeps mem­bers up to date on ev­ery­thing from prod­ucts to events, boat builds, tips, meet­ings held around the UK and else­where, and much more.

They run sem­i­nars and can help with boiler de­sign ac­cred­i­ta­tion and test­ing to en­sure that things are done prop­erly in ac­cor­dance with best con­tem­po­rary prac­tice.

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“It’s pos­si­ble to buy a steam launch for as lit­tle as £6,000,” says Rev­erend Mark Ru­dall, Editor of The Fun­nel, the Steam Boat As­so­ci­a­tion’s quar­terly jour­nal.

“It’s es­sen­tial to give the boat a thor­ough check over to en­sure that hull is in good con­di­tion, the en­gine is sound and the boiler has cur­rent cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or is likely to pass rig­or­ous scru­tiny by a new in­spec­tor who might not have seen it be­fore.”

Boiler ba­sics

The SBA has its own trad­ing arm that pro­vides pro­fes­sional boiler in­spec­tion ser­vices. As steam pres­sure can amount to some 17 Bar boiler safety has to be taken very se­ri­ously.

“As a rule of thumb, boats and boil­ers have fairly fi­nite lives, but en­gines can go on al­most in­def­i­nitely if main­tained prop­erly,” says Ru­dall.

“Boil­ers cor­rode if not well treated. Ir­reg­u­lar hobby use with in­ter­mit­tent heat­ing and cool­ing of the me­tal is less kind than the con­tin­u­ous use boil­ers re­ceived when in com­mer­cial ser­vice.”

For those who want to con­struct their own boat and power unit there are com­pa­nies who pro­duce plans for suit­able hulls and steam en­gines; among the more pop­u­lar are Stuart Turner en­gines, their 5A sin­gle cylin­der en­gine and their 6A com­pound unit be­ing good ex­am­ples.

To the unini­ti­ated a boiler can ap­pear to be a dan­ger­ous smok­ing caul­dron to be treated with great care, even sus­pi­cion. How­ever, mod­ern ma­te­ri­als and pro­duc­tion meth­ods have made boiler tech­nol­ogy a much safer science.

Steam­boat boil­ers can be di­vided roughly into two cat­e­gories: fire-tube and wa­ter-tube. Fire-tube de­signs can be both hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal con­fig­u­ra­tion whereby heat is trans­mit­ted to the wa­ter and steam space via tubes car­ry­ing the hot ex­haust gasses to the fun­nel.

Wa­ter-tube de­signs tend to be lighter and carry less wa­ter. They also come in many forms. Steam is gen­er­ated from wa­ter car­ried in tubes and drums strate­gi­cally placed over the heat. Some­times, the ex­haust steam is piped back into feed-wa­ter for re­use in the boiler. Steam launch en­gines that con­dense in

this way run al­most silently while ‘non con­densed’ en­gines are called ‘puffers’ be­cause of the soft ‘puff-puff’ of the ex­haust beat up the fun­nel.

All boil­ers carry gauges to mon­i­tor the wa­ter level in­side and the steam pres­sure avail­able. Feed wa­ter for the boiler is fed by en­gine-driven pumps and/or in­jec­tors. Again, sim­i­lar to steam lo­co­mo­tives.

De­spite its greater weight the fire tube boiler has one ma­jor ben­e­fit: its rel­a­tively large quan­tity of wa­ter re­quires less at­ten­tion and main­tains pres­sure de­spite vari­a­tions in the heat source mak­ing for greater re­lax­ation on the part of the per­son con­trol­ling the boat’s en­gine.

Con­versely, pip­ing con­fig­u­ra­tions in wa­ter tube boil­ers are usu­ally ar­ranged to en­cour­age rapid circulation of the liq­uid, which in turn dis­trib­utes the heat source evenly and al­lows for more rapid heat trans­fer for a given sur­face area.

Steam launches are pop­u­lar around the world – this one’s at the Aus­tralian Wooden Boat Fes­ti­val in Tas­ma­nia

Steam boat en­thu­si­asts get to­gether reg­u­larly

The Steam Boat As­so­ci­a­tion’s The Fun­nel magazine cov­ers al things steam

Ian Buck­nall and crew aboard Melissa, at 14ft one of the most com­pact gems of the Steam Boat As­so­ci­a­tion fleet

Melissa’s ‘en­gine room’ a neat fire tube boiler pow­er­ing a Stuart Turner 5A en­gine

TOP A neat, con­tem­po­rary high pres­sure twin-cylin­der steam launch power plant ABOVE Melissa’s highly pol­ished cone-topped whis­tle

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