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TOPIC: The Best Configuration for European Waterways

The Best Configuration for European Waterways 09 Sep 2017 20:50 #94955

Hi Paul
We spent three winters living on a narrowboat on the Weaver, so have similar experiences.
Our barge is UK built (A one off, not a "Replica" of anything, designed from concept as live aboard). We came to France nine years ago.

I just spent 1/2 hour typing much the same as you said, Pressed the submit button and it disapeared into the either!

Indeed the 10 - 11 winter here in central France was a tester.
Two occupied boats had internal freezing, I thawed them out. The night temperature was -18 for a couple of weeks, the ice was 12 inches thick (the water here is 4 metres and 40 metres wide so not a puddle). We did not let the internal temperature drop below 22 except at night, then had a "set back" of 12 C. A couple of drop down vents ajar, + more ventilation than that required by the Boat Safety Scheme, so comfortable all the time.
A wood burner (and oil fed central heating boiler - timer and thermostat controlled is my choice), toast toes, lovely.
You do not say what your maximum budget is, but there are some nice boats out there that to my mind are reasonably priced.
More by PM if you like to contact me.

Paul Hayes

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 09 Sep 2017 20:28 #94954

Thanks for the extra info and good luck finding your new home. I'm sure she's waiting out there for you somewhere.

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 09 Sep 2017 19:17 #94951

  • Paul Smith
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Shaun Cullen wrote:
How tough do you want to be? Can you put up with an ambient temp inside your boat of 16C and then put on a heater? Or do you need a constant UK department store-like 25C and no airflow? If the latter then the bargees' advice given is good. If the former then there is a plethora of hiking and mountaineering cold weather clothing and bedding which will allow you to dress and sleep very comfortably in sub-zero temperatures. We have never spent a EU winter on our cruiser the closest being mid-October to mid-November 2015 where the lowest inside air temperature went to -3C as I seem to remember. We were fine despite not having aforementioned arctic gear and just a diesel heater (Erberspracher) and a really cheap fan heater.


I don't feel the need to be 'tough' at all these days Shaun, but I do want to be comfortable. Having lived on a steel boat, a 62' narrowboat for six years, including the very cold winter of 2010/11, and having worked at in inland waterways marina for a similar length of time, I know how unpleasant life on an uninsulated steel boat can be, and how much damage the cold can do to a boat which isn't well protected.

The temperature on our current boat has already dropped to eleven degrees on one night recently, and that's in September. Eleven degrees is too cool for me. Fortunately, we have a good Webasto central heating system on board, which works pretty well to take the mooring chill off. Running the Webasto in the winter would be foolish. The boat's steel isn't insulated, and the cockpit, the central third of the boat, has a canvas roof. The heat would disappear from the boat as fast as the Webasto could produce it.

And then there's the water tank.

It's an integral steel tank in the bow with a half inch gravity fed pipe running from the tank to the galley tap. The pipe would freeze very quickly in normal winter temperatures.

Condensation would also be a huge problem too. On my narrowboat, most of the cabin was both well insulated and well ventilated, so I didn't have condensation problems at all. The exposed hull in the engine room wasn't insulated. I had so much condensation running down the hull into the bilge that I needed to vacuum the bilge dry once a week.

I am also not one to bow down to peer pressure. I stopped doing that when I left school forty years ago. I AM a great believer of following advice though, especially from those who have already done what I plan to do. If people who have barges are able to live on them comfortably in the winter without condensation issues, and people who have cruisers are only able to use them for three seasons, then I will seriously consider investing in a well specified barge if I can find one to suit my somewhat limited budget.

Surely this makes sense?

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 09 Sep 2017 18:19 #94948

He also said " enjoying our last four weeks on the waterways before we put our little Super Favorite Dutch cruiser to bed" - I was merely suggesting that before they sell they might like to try a winter on their existing boat to see whether a winter on a Dutch cruiser was feasible. But I do not know the Super Favorite (make?) so maybe too small even to consider? Or maybe not.

And I agree the Pedro dimentionally may not be ideal but "for the majority of French waterways"?

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 09 Sep 2017 16:57 #94946

> Challenge to you: Invest in some cold weather thermal clothing and bedding, a decent heater or two, a serious beenie and pair of gloves and give one winter a try.

But the OP said:

"1. We are seriously considering a Pedro Bora 41."

So he doesn't own the Pedro - he was asking others' views on such a boat. I (as a cruiser owner myself) think he has been given generally good advice and that he should probably look elsewhere. My boat is well insulated with double glazed windows but I'd never suggest it's lived on over the winter for the reasons I gave.

If he already owned the boat and had been using it in early spring and late autumn, he'd be well aware of it's likely comfort levels in the dead of winter! Another aspect that hasn't been mentioned is the fact that any non-winterised boat must be very well insulated in all the places where there's water present, otherwise it's likely to sink! Cruisers (there's a clue in the name!) are generally not designed for winter use, so they would require 24/7 heating (even in the engine room) to prevent freezing pipes in a cold winter.

Peter

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 09 Sep 2017 16:04 #94945

Interesting topic Paul and bear in mind that this Association is primarily concerned with the promotion and preservation of Dutch barges so Dutch cruiser help is a bit limited.

How tough do you want to be? Can you put up with an ambient temp inside your boat of 16C and then put on a heater? Or do you need a constant UK department store-like 25C and no airflow? If the latter then the bargees' advice given is good. If the former then there is a plethora of hiking and mountaineering cold weather clothing and bedding which will allow you to dress and sleep very comfortably in sub-zero temperatures. We have never spent a EU winter on our cruiser the closest being mid-October to mid-November 2015 where the lowest inside air temperature went to -3C as I seem to remember. We were fine despite not having aforementioned arctic gear and just a diesel heater (Erberspracher) and a really cheap fan heater.

We are twin screwed and draw 1.15m with an airdraft with bimini up of 3.4m (mast down) and have just done the Nivernais. Despite some gravel scraping from Decize to the summit my nerves were far more stressed than our hull we have had zero prop damage. Airdraft was a problem and for most of the 'uphill (south to north)' run we were bimini down and just needed that extra 100mm. Post-summit we were nearly caught once just before where we are at Mailly le Chateau with a low bridge at the check lock but no problem otherwise. Your Pedro (nice make btw) will have a problem with a minimum airdraft of more than 3.3m. Five (maybe) moorings have been an issue with us having to have the stern about 1m away from the side but that has not made boarding any more difficult than normal and the maneuverability of two engines and a bowthruster is wonderful. That is five moorings in four years.

Challenge to you: Invest in some cold weather thermal clothing and bedding, a decent heater or two, a serious beenie and pair of gloves and give one winter a try. It might work for you and will certainly be cheaper and less stressful that going through the process of buying a new boat. Or a barge if you succumb to peer pressure - your wallet, your decision! :-)

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 07 Sep 2017 16:07 #94919

There's a select few here who have experience of both Tim ... ;)

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Cheers 'n' Beers

Nigel Crompton
Meander in Belgium

The Best Configuration for European Waterways 07 Sep 2017 16:03 #94918

Most of us don't know anything about cruisers!

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Tim & Jo Hackett plus moggie
Maria of Zaandam

Dutch Barges are only built in the Netherlands. Anywhere else is something else.

Our rivets are real not fake!

The Best Configuration for European Waterways 07 Sep 2017 13:22 #94911

  • Jan Pieterse
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Peter

I know about all the negatives of the Webasto/Erberspracher.
When I laid out the system I had one side of the barge 'cleanly' available for 3 radiators. The other side I was suggesting to add 2 radiators, behind the bed head board and behind a sofa, because of the heat circulation that would not be optimal, BUT it would beat the 'kick-space ' solution. ( I was going to install computer 24V fans under it ) Kabola has a 'box' with a heat exchanger ( like in a car) with a fan propelling the hot air. The fan speed is controlled by the difference in 'room temperature' and 'radiator' temperature . It has its own control, for the fan speed and the thermostat. I only was able to test it is summer/spring a bit, during install, so the highest temp difference I could set was 10 C, and the fans were not noticeable. So it does not have the extra dry air of an Eberspracher. ( it does have the same dry air as a radiator). The reason why I added the 4 KW unit, is because I did not felt comfortable with just 3KW in radiators. According to the installer the radiators should be enough. Now I can also lower the circulating water/antifreeze mixture because I have more distributing sources. ( sorry for the long post, just trying to explain the logic/reason)

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 07 Sep 2017 12:02 #94910

Jan

I'm not exactly sure how your Kabola works but my heater is solely hot air circulated through the boat via 3" ducts by a substantial fan. It's the Eberspacher / Webasto type.

The fan is noisy, the boiler isn't dead quiet but my main reason for suggesting this type of heater is unsuitable for winter use is the fact that there's no simple way of adding a timer and I'd not trust leaving it on when I'm away from the boat or asleep. The thermostat is very primitive and, as it's part of the on-off switch, is likely to be located in the switch cupboard, so even less useful to control temperature.

Hot air heaters are notorious for drying out the air and for creating inevitable drafts, which makes living with them somewhat uncomfortable. This is OK in cool summer evenings when it's on at a low setting for short periods but less so in long cold winter nights.

If you system is mainly hot water radiators with a quick-response boost from a blower behind a finned heat exchanger, with proper controls, it's probably ideal.

Peter

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 07 Sep 2017 02:17 #94908

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Peter

You mention hot air heating systems. Ww just installed a Kabola with 3 ( 1 KW) radiators and an additional 4 KW hot air heat exchanger. The heat exchanger does give hot air, but is whisper quiet. ( unless the temperature difference is more than 10 degrees)
I was very worried about the noise also since I read about al the 'sleepless night' stories because of the noise. But the little we have used it this Kabola 'hot air/heat exchanger ' has been great

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 06 Sep 2017 08:49 #94889

  • Paul Smith
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Paul Hayes wrote: Hi Paul


The life afloat is wonderful, don't let a few setbacks put you off. Even after 14 years, I an still knocked over when I look through the window and see a kingfisher sitting on a mooring line........................
Best
Paul Hayes


I'm fully aware of the joys of living afloat Paul. I lived a life of bliss on the English waterway network for seven years. The European waterway network is relatively new to me though, which is why I value the advice from you good folk.

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 06 Sep 2017 08:43 #94888

Hi Paul

Yes it is a bit hit and miss on older conversions (some), but barges that have been built / converted for "Live Aboard" are generally pretty well insulated.
New build (last 20 years or so) or old, that is your choice, different styles, shapes etc. as long as it is well engineered.
See the recent thread "List of things for a live aboard" - Cherry pick from it, and make you own conclusions. All the contributors are talking from years of experience.
A holiday boat can become uncomfortable after a few months.
The life afloat is wonderful, don't let a few setbacks put you off. Even after 14 years, I an still knocked over when I look through the window and see a kingfisher sitting on a mooring line........................
Best
Paul Hayes

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 05 Sep 2017 20:59 #94878

Not to change your mind. I looked at a boat, El Rey matter of fact, that had twin motors/screws. My thinking was that with 2 rudders one could avoid using the canal-side screw when pulling away. A rudder behind the screw should give adequate directional stability in spite of the offset power trying to steer the boat, with the advantage of pivoting the boat. Just something to get used to, which every boat has. Like no bow thruster. EVERY boat has its issues. The insulation thing is the kicker for you however.

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 05 Sep 2017 20:23 #94877

> ... and the Pedro isn't suitable for canal cruising because of the twin screws and both the water and air draught

I would suggest those features are more disadvantages rather than no-nos. Lots of Pedros are to be seen in France, although my guess is that most will be single screw and they make good summer boats with only a few canals outside their reach - as many members boats are too - including mine!

Barges come in all shapes and sizes, so perhaps your first decision should be the approximate length you need to live in reasonable comfort. Big boats have certain disadvantages, so are often seen at prices less than one would expect. Perhaps you should decide also on how much work you want to do yourself (which will probably cost twice what you expect and take twice as long) or to go for one ready to go. The latter should probably be bought from someone who has been using it to live on. Then it should have reasonable creature comforts but you must ask the hundred and one questions before even travelling to view. Sellers and brokers want to sell so they should be happy answering questions, providing technical details and photos, etc.

You could employ the services of a "finder", but for free you can get yourself on several brokers books with specific requirements and wait for replies. I presume you've already trawled the DBA Classified ads.

Peter

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 05 Sep 2017 19:23 #94875

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OK. So the Dutch cruiser isn't suitable for the winter, and the Pedro isn't suitable for canal cruising because of the twin screws and both the water and air draught. Back to the drawing board and back to wringing every last penny out of our bank accounts to put towards a barge, Dutch or otherwise.

Are there any types or styles of barge we should look for? Are barges generally insulated, or is winter suitability a bit hit and miss there too?

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 05 Sep 2017 15:18 #94872

Hi Mark
Your boat has the best thing - lots of laughs on board - remembered with fondness.
Paul Haayes

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 05 Sep 2017 14:39 #94870

Paul
We have an old steel dutch cruiser and it is definately not a winter boat and we do not use it such. It does have some insulation in the roof (glass fibre) and above the water line but not around the windows. The windows are alloy frames and cause alot of condensation.
It has a draft of 1.2 Meters and this does cause problems on the smaller canals althoiugh it has never stopped us. I think if you are going to liveaboard you need a purpose built or converted boat/barge.

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 05 Sep 2017 14:07 #94866

When I watched a couple of cruisers being built in NL, the insulation in the superstructure and roof was a 1 cm layer of grey foam material stuck to the steel with the interior wood trim stuck on top. Not sure that anything went in the hull tween waterline and superstructure.

Colin Stone
KEI
www.luxe-motor-kei.co.uk

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The Best Configuration for European Waterways 05 Sep 2017 13:48 #94864

Generally speaking motor cruisers are not really suitable for living on through the winter. They are designed and built for seasonal cruising. Newish ones usually have pretty good insulation and double glazing, but you also need a proper heating system. Cruisers are usually fitted with hot hair systems which are inefficient, noisy, difficult to use time switches with and far from comfortable as the air dries out and is continually moving around. A domestic (or marine at extra cost) central heating boiler if much better and it will provide hot water too. You can install motor valves so cabins are heated for shorter times than the saloon and time controllers / thermostats are standard practice.

Under-floor heating saves space as no radiators, but will affect headroom and / or air draft. It's much less controllable than radiators as it takes so long for the air in the room to heat up compared with radiators, so one tends to have it on for the 24/7. I have it at home but choose not to use it except in bathrooms where bare feet on cold floors is uncomfortable. I use alternative heating elsewhere and save a lot in my fuel bill.

Twin engines should be avoided if possible - you want a single central prop directly ahead of your rudder so that you don't catch rocks when mooring on river banks and steering is much more precise. You'll save fuel and servicing too of course.

3.5 m air draft is always claimed by Dutch builders as OK for France and yes, you can travel from north to south with that height. Venture onto secondary canals such as Bourgogne, Nivernais and maybe Midi and you'll wish you'd gone for a maximum of 3.2 m. Your draft at 1.2 m is quite big even for a motor cruiser. My present 15 m boat and my previous 20 m one have drafts of 1.1 m. The Nivernais sometimes needs less than that.

I'm not sure your budget but some barges can be found at very reasonable prices. Provided they have good insulation, suitable windows and proper all-year heating, you may find one with lower draft and air draft than the Pedro - and with more internal space. Go for as big a beam as you can. Everywhere can be reached with 4.8 m beam except Brittany - and the town basin in Gorinchem, which inexplicably has a recently installed 4.4 m wide lock! And the new canal south of Ter Apel has 4.8 m locks.

Good luck with your search.

Peter

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