What could be done with an enclosed lifeboat?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by AskingAboutLifeboat, Dec 25, 2019.

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  1. AskingAboutLifeboat
    Joined: Dec 2019
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    Location: Canada

    AskingAboutLifeboat New Member

    Hi there!

    First time posting here, but been lurking for quite a while. I've recently been wondering about the idea of some sort of conversion of an enclosed lifeboat (probably a relatively large one, 70-150 passenger-rating range), as seen below (not necessarily the exact model pictured). My interest in this mostly comes down to the fact that they seem an ideal candidate as a safe, inexpensive, and mass-produced (though granted, certainly not stylistically beautiful) platform for conversion into something able to do more than just keep its passengers alive until they can get off it.

    lifeboat.jpeg

    If it sounds like I don't have a particularly fleshed-out idea of what exactly I'm "looking for", that's because I don't really. I'm more interested in what might be possible with one of these than I am trying to get advice on any specific project involving one. I've seen some interesting conversions of them (including the quite recent Stødig, at Stødig http://arctic-lifeboat.com/), but I'm not looking to directly replicate anything I've seen. That said, I have a few questions about such a conversion, which I imagine the people here will be much more able to answer than the research I've done so far.

    Firstly, is there anything about the nature of these things use (where they're expected to survive in basically any conditions, exactly one time) that would make it difficult to use one longer-term? Is a lifeboat's engine, or any other system (I suppose there's not too much to break on them) supposed to handle more than short periodic tests, potentially followed by one longer use if the boat is deployed in an emergency? I know they generally just use small marine diesels, but there may be something I'm not thinking of here.

    How capable could one of these be? Clearly, as lifeboats, they're supposed to survive deployment at sea, potentially in conditions able to do enough damage to whatever ship they're mounted on as to warrant their use, and everything I've heard about them seems to indicate they'd likely survive just about anything. They're obviously self-righting and inherently buoyant, and it sounds as though their hulls have to be built quite strongly to meet SOLAS standards. However, I've also heard doubts as to how well they can actually be controlled in rough seas, as well as some saying that they capsize easily and rely heavily on their ability to self-right. I also imagine their limited "stock" fuel capacity and lack of redundant propulsion would make any serious long-range use infeasible without some serious retrofit work. How far could you realistically take one of these without doing too much to the mechanical side of it? How far could you realistically take one of these with a good bit of work done to it?

    Lastly, does anyone have any idea of typical specifications for one of these, beyond what appears on manufacturer sites? I've generally seen speed specified as "greater than or equal to 6 knots in calm conditions", which is what they have to do to meet the standard. That sounds about right as a hull speed at their size, but if anyone has a better idea of top and cruise speeds, fuel consumption (which it sounds like might be pretty okay?), or anything else, I'd be very interested.

    Thanks!
     
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  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    A former lifeboat could be converted into a very nice houseboat?
    I saw a photo of a bunch of rather forlorn looking lifeboats at a ship breakers yard in Alang Beach, India - I would guess that the breakers are open to offers from anybody who might want to purchase a lifeboat - however they are on the other side of the world from you, and shipping costs could rapidly erode any possible savings in purchase price.
    If your heart is set on a lifeboat, then you might perhaps be better off acquiring one that is not fully enclosed - many of the cruise ship lifeboats have canvas tarpaulins that roll down to keep the weather out - one of these might be more 'user friendly' re conversion (?).
    They float very high out of the water when they do not have any passengers on board, but this then gives you a lot of cargo capacity (and weight available for conversion) to bring her down to her load waterline.
    They should be much better behaved and easier to manoeuver generally when loaded.
    They usually have relatively small diesel engines in them - some are air cooled, others have a cooling system so that they can be started before they are sent away from the mother ship. The aim and object of these engines is to do just that - they are not really intended to then go on a long passage. Fuel consumption should be pretty frugal at 6 knots - maybe a gallon an hour for a 40 hp motor? So 6 mpg?
    But this would be in calm conditions - they would not be very happy trying to punch into a 20 knot headwind (and the associated sea).
    It should be possible to fit a larger motor if desired, but you would need to be strict with yourself as to how far you go on this conversion - it is very easy to get carried away with refit costs skyrocketing.
     
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  3. Squidly-Diddly
    Joined: Sep 2007
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    Location: SF bay

    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    write script for a disaster/adventure/survival movie about a diverse and eclectic group of castaways from a cruise ship sinking (and maybe survivors of the related incident that get picked up).

    Standard movie stuff: it turns out not everyone is who they say they were, lives changed forever, etc.

    You already got the only prop needed. Just shoot past the breakers and have camera pointed out to sea.
     
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  4. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell Ahhhhh...

    AskingAboutLifeboat,

    Welcome to the forum.

    I have driven many, many different types of boats in my marine career, including one of these lifeboats.
    Have you priced one?
    Then drive one and compare it to a few other boats for sale and I think if you still want one, then buy one!
    Funny, I've never seen anyone cruising in one.

    Now buying and old lifeboat and fixing it up is a whole different matter.
     
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  5. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Coincidentally, I just saw this article mentioned in today's newsletter from Boat International -
    https://www.boatinternational.com/yachts/editorial-features/stodig-how-two-architects-transformed-a-ferry-lifeboat-into-a-home-with-hygge--42443
    Two young lads (along with their dog called Shackleton) bought a 100 passenger capacity lifeboat from the Scottish ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne for GBP 7,000 and converted her into an expedition vessel to voyage to the High Arctic.
    Way to go!
    And they appear to have done a fine job of the re-fit.

    Here is a copy of the final paragraph of the article -

    When the winter thaws, the pair plan to set off again, using the boat to reach some of the most remote skiing fields in the country. “There are some places you just can’t reach by road,” Simmonds says. In the summer, the pair are considering a longer trip to Finnmark, which sits in the north of Norway. Beyond that, the future remains unclear. “This is just another life cycle of the boat,” Simmonds says. “We might do another passage on the boat or sell it to someone else so that they can undertake adventures of their own.”
     
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  6. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    BlueBell Ahhhhh...

    I don't know, I kinda liked the exterior water sprinkler system myself.
    And what does one of those cost?
     
  7. JSL
    Joined: Nov 2012
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    JSL Senior Member

    one aspect: Consider visibility:
    You want to enjoy the scenery
    You want to enjoy safety - good visibility is critical for the Collision Regulations
     
  8. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    The visibility from inside the boat Stødig mentioned by the OP and in the Boat International article seems to be pretty good really.
    (I'm sorry but I didnt notice the OP's link to Stødig until just now).

    A vessel like this appears to be ideal for voyaging to high latitudes, but perhaps not so suitable for the tropics.
    Stødig reminds me a bit of David Scott Cowper's boat 'Polar Bound' -
    British sailor David Cowper navigates 'world's most difficult sea route' for first time since discovery in 1822 - Yachting World https://www.yachtingworld.com/extraordinary-boats/polar-bound-extraordinary-david-cowper-purpose-built-aluminium-vessel-94424
     
  9. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    The photo shows tiny windows. How can visibility be good? In the living area (saloon) there is almost none.
     
  10. AskingAboutLifeboat
    Joined: Dec 2019
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    AskingAboutLifeboat New Member

    The guys who built Stødig added large curved windows amidships, on both sides. Without any added windows, visibility does indeed seem to be quite poor, so I suspect adding something to improve it would be part of just about any sort of conversion work done on one.
     
  11. daniTS
    Joined: May 2020
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    Location: Victoria

    daniTS Junior Member

    I know this is an older thread, but we just picked one of these up from BC Ferries refit yard in Richmond, BC.

    There are 3 more if you are still considering the idea and depending where in Canada you are. We got it towed over to us because of Covid so I can’t answer anything about handling it, but like you have devoured everything from Stodig. Boating Europe is another interesting Instagram account. They’ve travelled from the UK to the Black Sea on their lifeboat through the rivers and canals (our ultimate destination in 3-5 years, we’ll get it shipped). Lifeboat to Home is also converting and posting on Instagram, but they don’t post a lot. Anyway, some other photos to have a look at :)

    As for the engine, ours came with a 36hp, 3cyl dry stack bukh engine, which are meant to be pretty indestructible. They are keel cooled (fresh water) with no raw water intake. It’s loud, but also has no engine mounts or insulation at this point. We are also strongly considering going fully electric in the future which would sort out the noise issue.

    The boat is 60 persons, 8.5m x 2.75m. We had ideally wanted closer to 10, but having seen this one I think it will work out just fine.

    For us (my husband is a machinist and I’m a designer) we really wanted a shell to build out as we wanted. We have a ranger 29 we’ve had for a few years of weekending on and love (will be sad to sell her!) but any boat we live on we would have been gutting anyway, so the idea of a big empty, beamy shell with good head room (my husband is 6’5”) is appealing.

    Curious if you ended up getting one or deciding to get one!
     
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  12. JSL
    Joined: Nov 2012
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    JSL Senior Member

    do you have some photos???
     
  13. daniTS
    Joined: May 2020
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    Location: Victoria

    daniTS Junior Member

    Heres a few...
     

    Attached Files:

  14. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    BlueBell Ahhhhh...

    Those must have come off one of the northern boats.

    How much if I may ask?
     

  15. daniTS
    Joined: May 2020
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    Location: Victoria

    daniTS Junior Member

    Yes, the Northern Adventure. I guess Transport Canada has banned the davit style lifeboats (at least in the context they were used on that ferry) because of risk of injury during deployment. We paid 5500 CAD plus tax.
     
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