The Steamboat Association
of Great Britain

to foster and encourage steam boating and the building, development, preservation and restoration of steam boats and steam machinery

to stimulate public interest
in steam boats
and steam boating

to promote high standards
of workmanship,
safety and seamanship

News

Topical notes about the SBA and the world of steamboats

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  • 05 Feb 2017 13:12 | Anonymous

    Registration and Refreshment bookings are now open on the website.

    Please follow this link to the event page.

    Full AGM documentation is available to members on this page, which will be updated over the next few weeks.

    I look forward to welcoming as many members and their partners as possible in Birmingham on April 1st.

    Roger Heise - Chairman

  • 24 Jan 2017 14:27 | Anonymous

    The SBA AGM and Social Event will be held on Saturday April 1st at the Think Tank, Millennium Point in Birmingham.

    The programme for the day, with the AGM Agenda and a booking form for refreshment and meals will be published this month.  You can access the information on the website here.


    The Social Event is an excellent occasion to meet up with fellow steamboats and members.  We offer good company and the inimitable SBA auction; you will also contribute to the good governance of the Association by participating in the AGM.

  • 24 Jan 2017 14:25 | Anonymous

    Rally and Event dates for 2017 are being firmed up.  Please look at the events pages and make a note in your diaries!

  • 06 Sep 2016 21:53 | Anonymous

    Our thanks to Ian Davies for flying the drone an taking these aerial videos during Windermere Week in August 2016.  The videos make Windermere look really inviting - but then, the drone could fly only on the good-weather days!  Enjoy - Roger Heise


    Copy and paste this link to your browser

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGwrZFBlVTU&list=PLEKFiIzvqG_yi2d29_05qk6G3DSRDJhVi


    or click here to open in a new browser window.

  • 30 Aug 2016 22:53 | Anonymous

    Have a look at this flickr album of ( mainly ) steam boats on Windermere from the 2016 SBA Windermere Week - and some from from earlier years.  Thanks to Robert Beale for compiling the album.

    Roger Heise


    https://www.flickr.com/photos/robertbeale/albums/72157673006102236

  • 23 Aug 2016 09:30 | Anonymous



    Further to our notice of the death on 15th August of SBA Elder Statesman, Peter Hollins MBE, we are now in a position to advise that his funeral will be on THURSDAY 8th September.


    A family Committal at Portchester Crematorium will be followed by a Memorial Celebration of Peter's life and achievements at Boathouse no 4 at Portsmouth Dockyard, where family and friends from the various areas of his life are invited to gather at 2.00pm for 2.30, with refreshments to follow.


    You are most welcome and if you would like to attend it would be helpful if you could drop a note to either Tim or Christopher Hollins (t.hollins@btopenworld.com or chollins@btinternet.com) who will be happy to answer questions and can also advise on parking and any special dietary requirements.  


    NB: For those who might wish to make a donation in memory of Peter, cheques payable to The Royal Naval Museum would be most welcome, marked S.P.199 on the reverse: these can be sent to Co-operative Funeralcare 147 Stoke Rd, Gosport PO12 1SE.                                                                                                          Mark Rudall



  • 20 Aug 2016 11:54 | Anonymous

    Medway Queen will be open to visitors on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September from 10am to 4pm as part of the national "Heritage Open Days Weekend".


    Plus the usual attractions:
    Visitor Centre presenting the Medway Queen story
    Ship open to the public
    ​Refreshments served on board, NAAFI style.
    Gift and book shop
    Sale of second hand transport related books
    "Save a Soldier" sponsorship scheme

    Films in the lower forward saloon

  • 12 Mar 2016 09:05 | Kingsley Robinson (Administrator)

    As Chantilly’s adventures at John & Françoise Tilley's hands terminated with her sale in 2015 (to France of course!) they have elected to compile their Funnel reports of her travels, hopefully as encouragement for those contemplating similar cruises or simply to while away the odd coffee break.


    Each article will be republished online throughout 2016 or you can download the full document here (10Mb).


    John & Françoise write:

    This event, as was boldly advertised in FUNNEL, was an international meeting of old or interesting power boats, which had clear requirements of venerability for the motor boats, but welcomed any steamboat made of anything!

    So, with such a warm invitation, we took Chantilly, joining Iola built by the late Richard Hayne, very attractive fitted out open F21, as the ‘G.B’ contingent and met up with Oxbird from Bordeaux Maritime Museum, Lord Byron F21 from Lake Geneva, Sarina also from Geneva, a simple, practical, and obviously satisfying paddler, built around a lake Geneva fishing skiff, another very pretty boat Scylla of Messina and Asphodel, the only resident Lac du Bourget steamer, the biggest boat , proud and purposeful, belonging to the late André Coudurier, the event organiser. An international gathering, but all ‘ex pat’ English boats! I should also mention albeit briefly, the 20 or so splendid old wooden power boats brought from all over Europe, who added at least noise and spray to this colourful gathering!




    The first phase of this meeting was based on the port of Aix-les-Bains and was arranged also as a visitor attraction, for which the town provided generous sponsorship by way of hotel accommodation, meals, coal, and endless speeches, and receptions which was a great excuse to sample the excellent Savoyard wine.

    Day one was ‘Viewing of boats on trailers’ and launching, a crowded public spectacle and a good excuse to go walking the beautiful Jura foothills surrounding the town, to avoid it.




    Day two had boating activities on the Lake, the first a manoeuvrability test around buoys, I missed whilst fighting steam raising gremlins. The second ‘regularity trials’ I also missed by steaming, with Richard and Robert, to a distant lakeside restaurant for lunch. Iola however did eventually enter the event, apparently aimed at maintaining a regular speed around a buoyed course, and concluded the
    activities by picking up a buoy line in her prop in a big way and being towed to the hoist to be fetched out and disentangled!

    The third day took us in convoy to the head of the Lake, where the Canal de Savières links it to the Rhône, pausing as we passed the strikingly majestic Abbey de Hautecombe. We moored in the delightful canal side village of Chanaz where a picnic for all 100 or so boaters and hangers-on was arranged outside a genuine working water mill, which was fully restored a year or so ago and was producing oil from walnuts and hazelnuts. We were invited simply because Edouard the mill owner liked things old and mechanical.

    That evening brought, with speeches welcomes and drinks, prize giving! Everyone was a winner of something, but particularly of note was Lord Byron as the most manoeuvrable boat of the event, and Iola as having the “best engine” with a superb Mallinson Twin.



    The second phase of the event, and perhaps more to my taste, was a three day cruise on the Rhône, taking in a mysterious ‘boat lift’ over barrages.

    On Monday, we were due to steam up the Lake again, in a party of six boats, to join the Rhône at Chanaz, but sadly a hooley blew up over night, and the Lake was impassable for small steamboats.

    After 20 or so early morning committee meetings, we all set off across the Lake in Lakshme an old Lake Geneva motor boat, which at 11m was fast and weatherly. Then to be taken by car to a little mountain town Culoz that was honouring one of its past residents the brothers: Henri (1848-1915)and Léon Serpollet (1859-1907) with an exhibition of notes and photographs of his wondrous turn of century inventions with steam powered cars, bicycles and other devices. This also occasioned speeches, welcomes and drinks.

    As the weather had not abated, I elected to return to Aix, fetch out Chantilly, re-launch on the Rhône and join up with the rest of the party in Lakshme at our evening stop.

    The Rhône at this point runs at the foot of the Jura Mountain range and varies from wide, shallow and fast flowing thro’ rolling green valleys to over 40m deep in majestic gorges. Apart from a few fishing punts, there are virtually no boats, and very few landings.

    At a number of places, the river has been left to follow its course, and huge navigable canals feed hydro-electric stations, giving a 30-50 foot barrage. No locks exist, but navigation past these dams is possible by use of a ‘portique’. This is a three wheeled self powered machine which rumbles down a wide slipway to pick up the boats-up to 5 tins-in slings, winch itself back up the slipway, casts off then trundle down the road at walking race, past the power station to re-launch in the outfall.

    ‘portique’

    One purpose of our organised passage on the river was to hopefully overwhelm the navigation and establish a case for installing locks to re-open the river to navigation but with a flotilla now only numbering two boats, the portique seemed to cope admirably. Nevertheless, like conquistadors we were greeted by hoards at the few towns en route, and subject to more speeches, welcomes and drinks. Where no town existed, the locals set up a mobile reception centre, and dispensed welcomes and drinks from the river side on folding tables-fortunately no speeches this time!

    On the Rhône!

    After 3 days of travel on this wild, remote and beautiful river known in places as the ‘Blue Valley’, we 10 or so adventurers formed quite a strong band, and many was the merry picnic lunch (no speeches, much wine) and late night revelry at the Auberge du Gland. This inn, apart from being the site of my initiation into the delights of frog legs,the only item on the menu, a ploy, I’m certain, by André to challenge the English ‘sang froid’- I beat him at his game however, by being the first, for seconds! The Auberge has a mountain stream running in the garden and the innkeeper has installed a couple of turbines in his garden shed, and produces 1000KW (yes KW, not watts, I saw the instruments) for sale to the national grid. He also drinks like a fish and drives like a Frenchman not a happy combination when chauffeuring us back to our boat late at night!

    Crêpes Chantilly!

    We parted from the group at Chanaz, as they had to leave, and we spent a couple of days exploring the Lake and its environs. The only place in the vicinity where the ‘bière pression’ was served, was the Abbey de Hautecombe, the provisions however were to be found on the opposite shore, 3 miles to buy bread and back for another beer filled in a pleasant half day’s steaming!

    A splendid event, in gorgeous surroundings, made inevitably all more fascinating by being adopted by colourful locals.

    We made the journey in one long day, and travel apart, had to spend very little. Our thanks to our friend André Coudurier, an unflappable, generous “Bon Vivant”, who managed such a cosmopolitan bunch to the total enjoyment of all.


  • 21 Feb 2016 09:32 | Kingsley Robinson (Administrator)

    As Chantilly’s adventures at John & Françoise Tilley's hands terminated with her sale in 2015 (to France of course!) they have elected to compile their Funnel reports of her travels, hopefully as encouragement for those contemplating similar cruises or simply to while away the odd coffee break.


    Each article will be republished online throughout 2016 or you can download the full document here (10Mb).


    John & Françoise write:

    After waiting some half hour the top gates of the three lock flight at Marseillette opened and out ‘popped’, under apparently random pilotage, a handful of hire cruisers.

    Having drawn the fire in anticipation of imminent action, we were hailed by the lock-keeper who asked us to wait a while longer as a ‘Péniche’- which has priority-was approaching shortly. “Whilst wishing to oblige” quote Françoise in impeccable French, “we have unfortunately too much steam and there is some danger of explosion” upon which the safety valve blew, and the highly impressed, and now motivated lock-keeper raised his brolly in defence of such eventuality, and immediately locked us through in record time. After hundreds of years of waterway lore, the ‘péniche’ had been ousted as primeur by a steamboat!




    Quick to capitalise on this advantage, we re-established our ‘priorité’ at succeeding locks by judicious use of the blower, to encourage the safety valve to emphasise the urgency of our transit.

    We were at the beginning of Chantilly’s adventure ’93 on the Canal du Midi. This canal, rightfully described as ‘Le Canal des Deux Mers’, links the Atlantic at Bordeaux to the Mediterranean at Sète and was built in the 1600’s by one Paul Riquet, a self-taught engineer whose most unlikely beginnings were as a tax collector! (Has BW now gone the other way?)He crowned his most remarkable achievement by ‘expiring’ some few months before it was opened and hence remembered more for his initial success than some of the subsequent operating difficulties. It is probably the most interesting and varied of the French waterways and has the added attraction of touching the Mediterranean with the (presumed) attendant splendid weather.

    The difficulties are that it is a long way from Blighty, needing two full days’ travel each way; as a water feeder for the Provence vineyards and agriculture, it is sometimes allowed to run dry in summer, and it can be very hot and rather expensive down there.

    As we had some time available in early spring, it seemed to overcome some of the possible difficulties and offered an exciting start to the steaming season.

    Our starting place was chosen as Carcassonne which, apart from having a beautiful ancient city, is about half way along the ‘Midi’ proper and would give us a comfortable two weeks’ cruising to reach the ultimate terminus at Beaucaire on the Rhône. Contact was made with the Captain du port who on earlier telephone calls was unsure whether he had a suitable slipway or not. Arriving late evening we discovered that slipway they had not, but did sport a muddy groove in the canal bank!. Unwilling to drive further, and against local advice, I did indeed launch from this spot-mainly because once committed down the slope no way could I drive out again with Chantilly still on the trailer!




    Impressed by this display of English foolhardiness, the captain gave every further assistance, including stowing the car and trailer in his yard for a couple of weeks.

    Although it was spring, the weather was not all that one might expect of the south of France-in fact it rained ‘chats et chiens’ for about a week, causing considerable flooding of the locality. Apart from turgidly, the canal proper was not affected, but we heard that where the canal crossed the River Hérault at Agde, the canal was closed. Just before AgdeThe tiny ‘Libron’ also crosses the canal: normally a ditch it becomes a raging torrent in spate and a Napoleonic ‘flood lock’ is brought into play to allow it to cross the canal at its higher level. To our dismay this was closed as we approached Agde and I feared unreasonable delays, but a conversation with the ‘army’ of lock-keepers that had been sent to operate this amazing device gave us hope-again ahead of an impending peniche-of being ‘locked through’. It was a unique opportunity to witness and assist with its very rare operation.




    Just before the locks the Libron bifurcates into two streams and rejoins just after. When needs press, the stream is allowed to pass across the canal through channels formed by sets of sliding gates, suspended on rails above, forming two sealed channels with a space of some 200m of canal between.

    To pass through when in operation, first one of the two streams is dammed off with sluice gates, the sliding gates opened, with ‘inch bars’on the rails above, boats pass into the lock space and the gates are inched shut behind. The same is repeated with the front channel to allow the boats out.




    The amount of clanking, grunting and expletives employed in this event have to be seen and translated to be believed!



    This ‘wonder’ was matched for eye popping only by the inclined plane at Beziers. A staircase of nine locks has, not unlike Foxton near home, an inclined plane or water chute alongside. Unlike the Foxton plane, this has a smooth-sided channel running from the lower point to the top level, with a great ‘machine’ which runs up it on rubber tyres, straddling the channel. Boats pass under the machine at the lower end, it lowers a great paddle into the channel behind the boats and then grinds its way uphill, pushing a wedge of water (1000 tons I calculate) ahead, discharging water, boats and, I suspect, a few fish, into the top level. Sadly, like Foxton, it wasn’t working so we had to take the ‘conventional’ locks down.



    The only reported account of its operation is an occasion when it was descending with three or four boats, the brakes failed, the emergency brake failed, the operator, deigning not to be associated with the impending disaster, leapt off.




    The device reached 25km/hr; the innocent boater thought it a wonderfully speedy alternative to locks until it hit the bottom pound. The boats did not suffer much, but the surrounding area did with the ensuing huge wave!

    After a couple of pleasant days spent holed up in Agde, we eventually were allowed to cross the still angry Hérault and entered the Étang de Thau, a sea lake 15 miles x 3 miles wide, crammed with oyster baskets and fishermen in 200hp punts. Although not above a force 4, the trip was quite adventurous enough in a 21 ft river boat and it took days to remove the salt stains from the brass work.


    Mèze before the Étang de Thau


    Stopping at a couple of lakeside fishing villages, we reached Sète- the official terminus of the Canal du Midi. From there we entered the Canal de Sète et Rhône, not without an enforced overnight stop alongside the rather inhospitable railway wharf due to the wind upping to a 6 and the waves being considerably higher than our spirits in the early evening.

    This last leg enters the Camargue, and although whilst true legend white horses and flamingos abound, the only black bull I saw was on my plate in a local Auberge!

    The canal passes within half a mile of the Mediterranean coast and a number of fishing towns in this area have their own cut from the harbour to the canal.

    One such town, Palavas-Les-Flots, advertised at its entrance a sadly all too rare a commodity on this waterways-showers!




    On all of our previous French waterways cruises we had found excellent waterside facilities by way of showers and toilets at many locks- but not so, on the Midi. Although we did manage to somehow meet our daily needs, it did require some ingenuity, and required that one showered and toileted at any hour of day or night, when the opportunity arose.



    We found ourselves lathering up in such places as a football stadium, un-let hire boats, ‘Douches à la Chantilly’, and occasionally, to our delight, in a marina.

    So this opportunity had to be taken. When we entered the town’s new marina, we were immediately ‘adopted’ by the Captain of the port, François, who gave us the prime berth-right outside the loo’s and offered us the freedom of the port. Within minutes, a small crowd of his boaty friends had gathered around, including a local reporter for the ‘Midi Libre’ who was also a member of the local old boats club.

    After giving a few trips around the harbour, and steaming briefly out into the Med, we were invited as guests of honour to a specially convened dinner by the old boats club, ‘Les Vieux Grémants’.

    On the Med!

    A convivial evening of good food, plentiful wine and probably misunderstood anecdotes followed, by which time the Commodore declared that they would be delighted to entertain any SBA or TVSC members similarly-but please would we not all come at once!

    Steaming continued well into the night with Chantilly taking the last of the party back to the marina at around 1am.

    Next morning, before breakfast was finished, visitors arrived once more, this time bringing gifts of wine, food, books, etc. More trips followed and we eventually left many new friends, a little sadly, amidst multiple whistle blasts and promises to return.

    It seemed like only a few shovels of coal before our journeying was completed at Beaucaire, then en train to Carcassonne to fetch the car and trailer for our return home.

    Our trip took us some 300 km with about 50 locks, we consumed 200 kg of coal (after coaling difficulties on our previous trips we took it all with us!) which computed to around 20 kg for each steaming day of 10-12 hours. We had no real mechanical problems, and to illustrate that we missed nothing, we arrived back home with only 5 kg of coal and five francs!


  • 07 Feb 2016 09:19 | Kingsley Robinson (Administrator)

    As Chantilly’s adventures at John & Françoise Tilley's hands terminated with her sale in 2015 (to France of course!) they have elected to compile their Funnel reports of her travels, hopefully as encouragement for those contemplating similar cruises or simply to while away the odd coffee break.


    Each article will be republished online throughout 2016 or you can download the full document here (10Mb).


    John writes:

    Although Chantilly has steamed a number of the better known waterways in France, there is still a lifetimes cruising left around the edges.

    The pin this year stuck in la Charente, navigable from Angoulême inland to Rochefort in the estuary-and then into the Bay of Biscay.

    As a plus the River Boutonne was stated to be navigable from the estuary for 30 km inland. This gave a projected cruise of about 200 km and 40 locks- comfortable for the 8 steaming days available.

    We reached Angoulême 20 hours from home, overnighting on board Chantilly in one of the comfortable ‘aires’ found on the autoroutes. Slight set back one, was that, although advertised in the carte fluvial as having a slipway, and full services, Angoulêmes didn’t agree and offered only a meagre slipway, rocky banks and a weedy river. Advised to try downstream at Chateauneuf, we found a splendid starting point with lock side facilities, including a restaurant private car park and a railway station opposite.


    Angoulême


    The line, which followed the river for its length, was to be a boon for ultimate car recovery, but a bit of interruption to nocturnal repose.

    Our first steam was upstream towards Angoulême, to cover the bit missed. The Charente, as many French waterways, is only really used by English operated hire fleets, so 4 boats a day was crowded! It has a noticeable current, and for the upper half more than noticeable weeds. Our previous training for weed avoidance on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal was not wasted! The water is astonishingly clear; and the weeds can be seen growing from the bottom in 10 or more feet of water, so careful navigation, and coasting with engine in mid gear thro’ the un-navigable patches reduced attacking the prop with the boat hook, to a minimum. This clear water gave a magical view of underwater life and no doubt gave the many fish a choice as to which worm to nibble.




    On the surface, we had a plethora of game birds, and coipu. These friendly fellows were happy to bask in the shallows with the ducks and took no heed of us. Kingfishers a plenty, sadly absent from our waterways this year, were so populous that they often hunted in pairs. Add to this the many often crumbling, mills and chateaux, gave an aura of wild, uncharted waters. The locks are occurring every 5 or 10 km and are large 30 m x 7 m with usually 1m drop, and all bar one are hand operated, self service although occasionally, one would meet a lock manned by enterprising youths to whom one tossed serious money in exchanged for respite from the 150 turns of each of the 4 paddles. We found the usual surfeit of gourmet cuisine, and some delightfully fruity Charentais wine, which despite the untold cubic ‘metres’ distilled into Cognac, still flows a plenty. Our journey downstream, at a very easy pace with the favourable current, took us to St Simon, now a quiet hamlet but until the early 1900’s, a major boat building centre of the 100 ton square rigged sailing barges, the Gabare.




    Sadly for the town, when boat building died, with the onset of steel barges, the termites imported with the African timber, didn’t, and many of the buildings are now suffering serious roof droop from the still thriving beasties.

    On next to Jarnac, a major hire base where we discovered slight set back two- the Boutonne was navigable, but only by canoe, and the lower tidal reaches to Rochefort were most unattractive to small boats, as one needed to travel the 30 km on a falling tide and wait in the mud till high tide, before the sea lock would open into the harbour. This effectively eliminated 3 days of our intended route. This fact turned out to be a boon, allowing us to explore the freshwater Charente in more detail, and spend time with a number of the many steam boat afficiados we met.


    Jarnac


    Like Antoine, who spent a morning showing us his fascinating family Cognac distillery, and then joining us in Jarnac for a steam and bank side produce sampling, and meeting his best friend Pierre who was building a model of a steam boat- and Jean-Claude near Cognac who has made, in 20,000 hours over 14 years, a collection of the most intricate working steam models, marine plants, loco’s, road vehicles, including Cugnot’s carriage (1769), stationary engines and a few revolutionary devices of his own design- all to scale and from old plans making everything in house, including the steering chain links for a ¾” scale traction engine.




    Then there was Philippe in St Savinien at the end of our navigation, who with his Swedish wife Eva, runs a Swedish restaurant, and imports old ‘Peterson’ wooden motor boats from Sweden and, restores them.

    All of them, fired by thumbing thro’ our copy of the Index, and a data sheet on Chantilly prepared before in French, are now hell bent on constructing a steam boat.

    The cruise continued on thro’ Taillebourg, where the chateau overlooking the river was used for B&B by such notables as Richard the Lion Heart…on to Cognac, with its splendid new harbour, a well kept interesting old town, bristling with distilleries all housed in imposing chateaux. Then through Port d’Envaux, once an important port, now a quaint waterside village but still with splendid hostelries, on to St Savinien.




    Unable to continue by water, we entrained and visited our goal, Rochefort by rail. Here, the ‘temps’ ceased to be ‘beau’, and we had torrential downpours that found Chantilly’s canopy a little less than watertight (but a 60 KW boiler soon dries damp bedding). We then had a long days steam, 55 km and 2 locks back to Cognac, spent our last day steaming around with new found friends and, witnessed the hilarious local sport of water jousting, where the technique seems to be to upset and deflect the oarsmen before the jousters meet. Amongst the many attractions of Cognac was a most effective slipway, and a TGV station from where I was whisked, a breakneck speed back to Chateauneuf to collect car and trailer.




    Then end of our steaming, but not quite the end of our adventures, as at our overnight stop off at Chateau-sur-Loire, ‘F’ espied an ad for 3 old Vélo Solex mopeds ‘like Grandad had’, so after a phone call, we deviated early Sunday morning 50 km to Ponce where we met the family and accompanied by Dad in his night attire, we whistle along the county lanes testing their 20 cc capabilities to the full, did a deal for a 30 year old model in splendid original condition, popped it under Chantilly’s canopy, and returned with a really useful souvenir. A leisurely trip on an unspoilt waterway. 170 km and 30 locks of steaming- and we brought back some of the 150 kg of coal we started with; which sadly meant less need for the usual wine ‘ballast’ on the return trip!


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