Friday, 26 December 2014

The Ones That Got Away - Number 3 ("Planet")

(Posted by Alan)

The "Grand Union" "Stars" are usually reckoned to make a balanced conversion.
Well this post relates to the third converted working boat we might have considered in our quest - strictly it is not the third one viewed, but although we took a quick look at some others we equally quickly discounted them.

"Planet" on the other hand looked more interesting.  "Planet" is another "Grand Union" boat, but unlike our "Sickle" (and indeed "Rufford") is a Harland And Wolff built type, rather than a W. J. Yarwood and sons built example.  "Planet" is what is known as a "Small Woolwich" boat of the "Star Class", and would originally have been of composite construction, with steel or iron sides, but a planked wooden bottom.  Most such boats have since had their bottoms replaced in steel, and this was the case with "Planet".

National engine and Brunton gearbox - but hand start only!
"Planet" met our "two cylinder" engine requirement, having a National, (the original type for the boat), although slightly worryingly this was hand start only, and these engines can apparently sometimes be hard to hand start.  Unusually the engine room had been converted to a "walk through" arrangement, although the mechanicals were far less guarded than in "Ajax", and some work would have been required before the dog could safely be in there on its own.

Comfortable and useable, but currently a bit more cluttered than some.
Internally the accommodation in the converted hold was not too bad, although different from others we have seen, with the layout reversed, to actually place the master bedroom at the front end of the cabin.  The fit out was well done, but we felt needed a fair amount of TLC to bring it back to its former self.  It was useable as it stood, though.

The problem areas were not in the main accommodation.  Externally we already knew the boat had tired paintwork, because we regularly used to see it in our area.  This again we could live with, although would represent a lot of work that really needed doing quite soon.

It's not just bad gunwales - it has rotted the steel engine room behind.
However the big issue was the back cabin, constructed in wood, sheathed over in various materials, but now in poor condition.  Also the wooden gunwales at the foot of this cabin, (and indeed past the engine room), had failed completely, and the sellers acknowledged that much water was leaking through to inside, effectively rendering the cabin uninhabitable as it stood.  Further investigation revealed the rivetted engine room to also be in very variable condition, to the extend it was at points perforated at gunwale level, and the roof having major areas of corrosion that had forced rivetted parts apart.

Engine room roof has seen better days, but can probably be fixed.
Other boats we had seen had needed work, but it had much of it been work we felt we could do ourselves.  I'm not a steelworker, and it was very evident that whoever bought "Planet" would need access to one, and if possible one that could repair and salvage as much as possible of the riveted engine room, but also build a back cabin skin in steel that was as sympathetic a replica as possible of the wooden cabin that would have been correct for such a boat in its working days.

Some helpful conversations were had both with a surveyor, and with one of the experts in this kind of steelwork, and, so far as they could without actually seeing the boat, they helped with some idea of costs of the remedial work.

The sheathed wooden back cabin was actually far worst than it appears here.
Conversations with the vendor convinced us that there was at the time too big a gulf between what they might be prepared to accept, and what we could reasonably justify, given just how much we would need to spend on "Planet" as soon as possible after purchase.

Ultimately the advertised price got dropped substantially, so we contacted the vendor again, but by then they had someone strongly interested.  The boat seemed to change hands very shortly after that, and I believe still for more money than we would probably have wanted to spend.  A shame in many ways, because it had the potential to be a truly stunning boat, and arguably the "Star class" boats with their lower hull sides make a more balanced conversion than the much chunkier deep holded "Town class" boats like "Rufford".  I await with interest finding out who now has "Planet", (we still haven't worked that out), and seeing just how extensive any restoration work ends up as being.

With this one at least the seller behaved completely honorably, and I am also grateful to the experts who took time out to give us advice about the likely work involved.

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