Can you remove wooden bulkheads in a fibreglass boat?

Discussion in 'Fiberglass and Composite Boat Building' started by Carlyle, Feb 5, 2021.

  1. Carlyle
    Joined: Feb 2021
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    Carlyle Junior Member

    I'm sorry as this is probably a very easy question if you know boats but unfortunately we do not.

    We're considering buying a canal boat to cruise the canals of Europe but it is cramped to live on so we'd like to remove a couple of the bulkheads to create a decent sized bedroom. I have attached what we're proposing in before and after pics and would be grateful if someone could let me know if something like this is possible without damaging the structural integrity of the boat?

    Many thanks,
    Carlyle
    sedan-1170-plan (1).jpg sedan-1170-plan.jpg
     
  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Welcome to the Forum Carlyle.

    Would it be possible to post a photo or two of the boat, or mention what type / class she is?

    I very much doubt that the bulkhead forming the forward starboard cabin as shown in the first drawing is structural, so it should be possible to remove it - it is probably more of a partition than a bulkhead as such.
    And it looks like there will still be a transverse hull frame in way of the starboard fwd hanging locker in the fore cabin.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2021
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  3. TANSL
    Joined: Sep 2011
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    TANSL Senior Member

    I agree with the opinion of bajansailor. Also check that the transverse beam of the deck is sufficiently supported and fixed at its ends.
     
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  4. Aaron Darby
    Joined: Feb 2021
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    Aaron Darby Junior Member

    I’m not is experienced with boats as most on here but have built a lot of “things” and have some engineering training. Have to agree with BajanSailor, doesn’t look structural but it’s not an engineers blueprint (is that a good term
    For boats?). Pictures would help verify this and an on site visual inspection by an engineer would be your safest bet.
     
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  5. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    You need to either have the original builder/designer's opinion, or have someone experience inspect the boat. That drawing does not have enough information about the structure for you to get a valid answer.
     
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  6. bajansailor
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    As Gonzo says, Carlyle needs to provide some more information before anybody can offer a definite yes re his proposed design changes.
    For a start some photos would be useful.
     
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  7. tpenfield
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    tpenfield Senior Member

    If you are wicked smart, then you could probably figure something out. If not then . . . .
     
  8. wet feet
    Joined: Nov 2004
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    wet feet Senior Member

    Removing bulkheads is possible but messy.Then you need to replace the strength that has been lost or accept the risk as you cruise.You might be able to recoup some strength by adding foam stringers and ribs with some glass over them.Keep in mind that you may get nudged in locks and some of the wider rivers see noticeable waves.
     
  9. Carlyle
    Joined: Feb 2021
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    Carlyle Junior Member

    Thank you all for your advice so far. The boat we're looking at is a Nicols Sedan 1170 and I have attached a photo of it here as well as a photo of the bedroom we're trying to remove to make the one in the bow bigger that shows the type of walls we want to take out on the left and back. And a 3d photo of the floorplan with the walls circled in red. 01-bateau-nicols-sedan-1170-10-places.jpg 171314_BoatPic_Cabin3.jpg 09-vue-3d-nicols-sedan-1170.jpg
     
  10. bajansailor
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Carlyle, that boat looks ideal for the French waterways.
    I had to google it -
    Nicols Sedan 1170 | Self-Drive Canal Hire Boat https://www.french-waterways.com/boats/nicols-sedan-1170/

    But she is a hire cruiser, and they want to cram as many bunks in as possible, hence I can see why you want to get rid of the forward starboard cabin - 6 berths plus the saloon is more than enough bunk space really (unless you have a large family, or enjoy having lots of people to come and visit).
    And I can see that your visitors will be queueing up to go cruising with you in such nice surroundings. :)

    I do think that what is involved for removal is more of a partition rather than a bulkhead - note that it is only on the starboard side, so the port side must be faring quite happily without support like this.
    And if necessary, you can always reinforce the aft side of the locker shown to effectively create a deep frame.

    Are you planning on doing the conversion work yourselves, or would you get a boatyard in France to do the work?
    If the latter, have you got any approx estimates as to what a re-fit like this might cost?

    Here is a video by Boatshed of one that was for sale - it shows the coffin cabins very well (they even admit that the port side cabin is a coffin).
     
  11. Carlyle
    Joined: Feb 2021
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    Carlyle Junior Member

    Hi Bajansailor,

    Thanks for such a quick response. We definitely wouldn't be doing the majority of work ourselves as we know we aren't experienced enough. We may do some of the easier bits like painting, sanding and fitting cupboards etc. So unfortunately, due to that, we're not sure how much it would be. We're thinking of cruising the canals for up to 6 months of the year (or staying on the boat at a Marina for some of that time) and then winter storing the boat. There is just my husband and I and we don't have a lot of family or friends (most of whom are in Australia) so we would likely remove one of the other beds also and just keep one spare and use the other space for a washer/dryer and more storage, and may look to include a proper shower cubicle if we can fit it in.
     
  12. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    The only issue I see with the plan is the foredeck is probably being supported to some degree by the partition. That is, the foredeck can be made weaker as a result of the partition splitting the span.

    Without knowing the deck construction details; the best we can do is guess.

    Most likely the deck is a bit weak. And a lot depends on your plan for the deck. If you intend to walk or sun on it; then some testing will be required after the partition is removed. In the worst case; I would say you may need to add a beam to the top. Now it may not be much a beam, but some potential exists for a laminated timber to sort of replace the wall.

    The only real way to know is remove the partition and see what happens with incremental loads place on the foredeck. If the loading at say 20kg makes the deck sag; you'll want to timber it. If you intend to walk on the foredeck then test to 100kg,
    albeit slowly.

    The boat is really nice and worth the efforts I'd say.
     
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  13. Carlyle
    Joined: Feb 2021
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    Carlyle Junior Member

    Hi Fallguy,

    Thank you for your advice. We'll make sure to speak to the boatyard we get to do the work about how much support the deck may need. It may be a beam, or perhaps a poster type bed with the vertical uprights that would support the roof. It is good to know that it is likely to be possible in one way or another.
     
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  14. wet feet
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    wet feet Senior Member

    You could add a laminated wooden beam,but wouldn't it be simpler to use a foam section and glass over it?It gets even better if you can scheme some kind of support post from any of the furniture to the beam and gives a handhold too .Ok-a handhold might not be absolutely essential,but it looks salty.
     
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  15. bajansailor
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    I just saw this post on the YBW Forum in England about the trials and tribulations that British folk are going to have now (as a consequence of Brexit) when it comes down to how long they can stay with their boats in Europe.

    Long term live-aboard cruising on European waterways cannot be over for us Brits https://forums.ybw.com/index.php?threads/long-term-live-aboard-cruising-on-european-waterways-cannot-be-over-for-us-brits.559581/

    Carlyle, have you researched this matter, regarding how long Aussies can cruise the waterways for?
    I think a lot will depend on where your boat is flagged - if you buy her in France, I presume that she would be registered there, but would you be able to keep that registration while under foreign ownership?
     
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