Narrowboat Sprayfoam insulation and DIY fitting out

The 60ft narrowboat shell, custom built by ALEXANDER BOATBUILDERS of Stourport, had been launched in October. By the following May, all of the noggins, cut from sheets of 9mm plywood had been fitted to the internal steel angle, using self tapping screws into drilled holes. We had fitted out a 40ft shell some years before, but this task had now taken substantially longer than planned due to the sheer number of internal girders and anchor points which needed to be drilled. With the hatches, windows and doorways sealed with clear plastic, and all of the timber noggins faced with brown sealing tape, the day for the sprayfoam insulation arrived, and the boat was positioned as close to a roadway as possible. I was advised to keep distant from the extreme vapours produced by the chemical spray, and so I lazed on the towpath, used the video camera for the first time in months, and bought fish and chips in Stonehouse. The protective overalls and mask – complete with pumped air supply and rotatable plastic bag (to retain vision in case of overspray) looked like something from a science fiction film. By late afternoon the insulation was complete, and needed very little trimming. That evening we spent an hour or so removing the brown tape from the face of the noggins, and swept the floor. Two weeks later, Severn Plywoods delivered the plywood to Fretherne bridge enabling me to load, with the great assistance of Mike Ayland, direct from lorry to boat. The timber comprised 9mm oak faced ply for the end bulkheads and lining below gunwales, 25mm oak faced blockboard for internal bulkheads, a sheet of hardboard to use as template when cutting bulkheads, together with 18mm and 24mm ply for constructing a raised floor inside the rear hatch. By the time of the Saul Junction boat rally the boat was lined with plywood below the gunwales, and my family were able to stay on board for the rally – albeit using a camping stove, plastic washing bowl and airbeds. In good weather this makes great boating. We knew it was important to resist the urge to go cruising and concentrate on the fit out, so it was just a few weeks later when we collected the T&G Ash planking for the roof lining and cabin sides from Nicks Timber in Gloucester who had machined it to order. This is a quality company who give practical advice. They also supplied the Oak used for door frame linings and for the panelled folding doors to the shower/toilet compartment. These doors were cut and assembled on the towpath. I used routed oak frames held together with biscuit joints, and “back to back” 9mm oak faced ply as the panels. Because of the hardness of the Ash, individual holes had to be drilled for every panel pin. It was nearly six months later before the roof lining was complete, and the following summer when the diagonal planking was completed on the cabin walls. I avoid using the words “boat completed” because there are still small tasks to tackle. “Mystic Lady” is well insulated and sleeps five in comfort with a 13ft lounge just as we planned. The hull swims and handles well, with responsive and easy steering, whilst the Beta 42HP engine and the Aquadrive coupling perform superbly – and certainly exceed our expectations. We managed to incorporate recycled materials such as 30mm Ash from an old bar top from a pub in Oxford, Oak recovered from a pew purchased from Lonsdale Road Methodist Church (Gloucester), and some cast metal (with brass numbers) coathooks from a primary school in Gloucester. These make excellent supports for a shank of rope. Brass threshold strips were cut from what had been a brass rule (imperial) fitted to an old lathe which had been scrapped from a factory in Stroud (Erinoid) In the fitting out process I wore out two routers a belt sander and a very nice rechargeable...