Category Archives: The Power Plant

Building the Engine and Boiler
Below are posts related to the building of Arthur Leak’s marine compound steam engine as originally described in Model Engineer magazine and more recently provided via Camden Books (drawings, manual and castings). It will also include the construction of a oil-fired Yarrow watertube boiler, to designs from John King from the SBA (see links on right of home page)

This is the engine that will power SY-Befur, it is expected to produce 10-14HP. These post cover all the construction from Camden’s castings and the addition of pump and alternator assemblies for our particular installation.

Going at it hammer and tongs!

Well, we have been working very hard to try to get Befur ready for the water, and this picture of me taking a break from boat building (on a blacksmith’s course seemed to epitomise what life is like….). – thank you Becca for the course, provided as a Christmas present, at a real Elizabethan forge!

Jobs completed


Part of the engine/boiler plumbing

Most of the last few weeks have been devoted to undertaking all the plumbing for the engine and boiler, and some final electrical work to provide remote controls for the burner and alternator.

All the live-steam plumbing is in steel with screwed BSP connections. The exhaust work is in copper (all silver soldered joints to withstand the heat) and the cold water feeds and bypasses are in copper (end-feed soldered and compression fittings).

This work seems to take forever, and in some cases (like the pipes for the gauges (not shown in photo) needed making several (4) times to get them just right (well “acceptable” anyway).


Relocated to Egil’s Hut, for final testing, and then we will have to put her in the water!

Louise masked up the boat for the painting of the “boot line” (cream stripe at water level) and the black anti fouling. This latter job took us 5 man-hours of pretty smelly work, but it makes a big difference.

Moving her

The last bit of the process was moving her from Mike and Di’s barn, where she has been living for the last two years, to home. This is ready for final testing under steam tomorrow – finger’s crossed!!

Showing off her nice new prop and paintwork – thank you Louise!

The moving wasn’t easy as the length and limited ground clearance of the trailer means you can’t just push her into place with the landrover. So, a combination of Quad Bike, Landy and winching finally got her into her temporary home – and then the weather obliged with a minor thunderstorm, so when we get inside tomorrow we will know how waterproof Louise’s fine cover really is!


It really seems as though we are not going to be able to put off that “seeing if she floats” moment much longer!!!



Late- yes, Embarrassed – some, Nearly There – maybe

I noticed that I had not written anything since the end of March, and I guess (unconsciously) this was because I had intended to have Befur ready for the water on the first of April, and that clearly wasn’t happening – and addressing that fact in print was a bridge too far!

However, we have been far from idle, and I actually do think we should be there for the first week of June (fingers-crossed). So here is a quick review of progress in April and May.

Checking the Solar Panels

As you may recall Befur uses solar panels to maintain it’s batteries and drive ancillaries that have to be on all the time – Bilge Pump, Airhead ventilation fan etc. So we dragged her out into the sunshine to make sure all this worked – and clicked a few photos.

(The Propeller Saga: John Maltby (friend, boiler inspector and ex merchant navy Chief Engineer) stopped by one day, and as he walked past the back of the boat casually said “Malcolm, that prop is the wrong hand”. I tried arguing, but finally realised that he was right! So a panicked phone call to Fal Propellers in Aberdeenshire ensued. They happily agreed to take back the old one in part-ex and modified one they had in stock to provide a replacement – what a great company – thank you Lorna and Mark).

Deck Fittings and a Samson Post

The next job was attaching all the deck fittings – we opted for two fairleads on the fore-deck and cleats on the stern and midships. These were fitted with large (4mm and 6mm) stainless screws epoxied into the deck clamp.

However, the reason for opting for fairleads on the foredeck was that it seems that we might well be on a swinging mooring, and so relying on cleats to moor Befur seemed unwise. So we installed a “Samson-post” to provide a secure point for mooring.

This post is made from a single ~2M length 75mm square Iroko epoxied into the fore-deck, bolted to one of the deck-beams and pegged and epoxied into the keelson (bottom of the hull). This makes a very sturdy locating point for a mooring strop running over the (also installed) bow-roller – which will also hold one of the anchors ready for deployment.

At the same time we fitted the forward navigation lights (this involved making a small mast for the stem light (and VHF antenna), as it has to be a metre above the port and starboard lights.

In addition we fixed two handrails to the cabin roof, to make access to the fore-deck safer. We arranged these to pass outboard of the part of the cabin roof that will finally  be removed to allow the mast-step to pass into the cabin, when we fit the sailing rig – and at the same time managed to pick up some of the cabin roof beams to make sure the rails were secure enough to withstand a panicked grab!

The last job was to fit the escape hatch (we chose a Vetus PLA45L one at almost £200, but it’s an important item) and checked we could get through it in the kitchen (hula-hoop-style). It was a bit tight, but we figured a decent fire on board would provide the necessary incentive to make it through!

Fresh Water, Bilge Pumps & Heads

We plumbed in the sink, which involved fitting a fwd water tank, cleaning & nickle-plating an antique filler, and installing a seacock for the waste (actually a skin fitting and ball-valve, as the seacocks I had acquired at an SBA auction were too small).

Another similar skin-fitting assembly was installed to take the outfall from the bilge pumps. We opted for a Whale SuperSub 650 automatic bilge pump (and associated wiring), which will be left on when we are away, to provide some security, and a hand-operated 25GPM pump. We have fitted two strum boxes with a diverting valve to let us clear either side of the keelson, and wound up drilling a bunch more limber holes as a quick test demonstrated that the ones we installed as we made the hull were too small (or probably full of epoxy from the cladding process.

Sample of the hull which shows two adjacent strips fitting tightly with the glass cladding and paint.,

A good thing about installing the skin fittings was that you get a “core sample” from the hull and for the first time get to see/check what we built about two and a half years ago! Fortunately it proved that we had not sanded away too much of the hull as we finished and clad it (it’s still about 20mm thick) and also showed that the joints between two of the strips were nice and tight! (two different colours of red-cedar strip on show)

Fire Extinguishers and Fuel Lines

We opted for one powder (2Kg)  and one foam extinguisher (2 Litre). While my original plan was to install the foam one outside (as the biggest risk is a fuel leak), I  realised that putting the powder one in the cabin was probably a bad plan!!!

We also installed the fuel-line from the tank to the burner, with an in-line filter and fuel cut-off valve. At the same time we installed the wiring for the fuel gauge and stern-light, all tucked quite neatly under the port deck clamp.

Inverter woes

Both 1500 watt – but as you can see the “pure sine” one is a lot bigger!

At this point I decided to make sure the electrics all worked – they all did, except the inverter which just would not light the burner. It’s really a mystery, which many people put down to me choosing a “modified sine-wave inverter”.

These are meant to power “dumb” things quite well, but I guess the electronics in the flame-failure device were just too smart. So I had to buy a replacement “pure sine-wave” one at about 3 times the price and 4 times the size!!!

A complete triumph – for Louise!

The next job was to make a cover for the boat – something we had both fretted about for a good while. But emboldened by her success with the piped cushions Lou ordered 10 metres of waterproof “canvas” and produced a perfect result!

We had arranged to use a ratchet strap between the cabin roof and rear deck (passing over the funnel) as a type of “ridge pole” and used about 25 lift-the-dot fasteners to hold the cover taught. We had cut a very rough template from an old (cheap) tarpaulin, and with apparent ease (and her 30-year old Brother sewing machine) Lou produced the result below – one very impressed and pleased Malcolm!

So – bringing the blog up to date

As I have written this post, I have started to realise why we weren’t ready on the 1st April – there was a LOT to do.

I really think we are coming to a close now, today I made the tiller for the rudder (just needs final fettling and some varnish), and attached a boarding ladder to the transom (it’s starting to look like a cross between cross-channel ferry and gin palace), tomorrow John is stopping by to provide another head as we finally decide how to route all the steam and feed-water plumbing, and then we might have no more excuses not to launch it… Oh wait a minute, there is the anti-fouling…..

Here are some pictures of the “engine room” to tide you over to next time!

More Electrics, “Decks” and Woodwork

Having craned the engine and boiler into the hull we have now settled the position of the key components and can start to deal with some of the remaining fitting out tasks.

We are still aiming for an April Launch, but in true project planning style we had not said which day in April, so we have a few days left. The following items have been addressed so far:

Electrical Installation

Continue reading

Engine Meets Hull

Just a note to commemorate another milestone. Yesterday we (neighbour Mike and I) lifted the engine into the boat! Hurrah!

We had spent a deal of time debating how best to do this, with the hydraulic bucket on the tractor being the initial option – but in the end we both felt a bit “windy” about working under the engine held up by an ageing tractor, and instead opted for the “trusty” Chinese chain-hoist strapped to an RSJ in the roof of Mike’s barn. We then picked the engine up, and manoeuvred the boat under the engine. To make it more interesting, we really don’t know how heavy it is – but the two of us could not lift it by hand to get it to the engine crane to put on a trailer for the trip to the barn (200yd push in light snow!)

The decision as to installation was to epoxy four M10 studs into the engine bearers and then use nuts on the studs to secure the engine bed down. Continue reading

Three Months and Counting!

We are feeling like the end (of the first phase) of “project Befur” is in sight – we have set a goal of having her on the water in April – the remaining 90 days appear to be passing at some speed.

This time I wanted to document the final work to get the engine and boiler ready for installation in the boat, the electrical system and Louise’s work on fitting out. Continue reading

A final video: Everything running on the bench

First Fix the Bugs!

Following on from the Boiler test, and a quick trial we identified just over 20 items that needed some attention. So a week later, with all these items fixed (from leaking valves to painting and plating valve gear components), we are ready to try again. Continue reading