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SLA Steamboat FAQs
 
There are some basic, Frequently Asked Questions which those of use active in hobby steamboating repeatedly hear. I've listed the MOST recurring ones below. Selecting the question will take you to the answer.
 
The answers are brief but, I hope, informative enough to cause the "newbie" to search further. For additional information, check out the LINKS page of this website.

     What is a hobby steamboat?
     How fast can I go?
     Aren't steamboats dangerous?
     Isn't it expensive?
     Don't they require a lot of maintenance?
     Isn't it difficult to find steam stuff?
     I don't have a lot of space. Aren't steamboats big?
     I want a wood boat but don't know much about wood-working. Where
          can I find a good hull?
     I don't know if I want to invest a lot of money or time. Where can I find
          out more?
     It sounds like a lot of fun, but will my wife enjoy it?
     I'm interested, but how does a steam engine operate?



AT 20 FEET ROSE IS A COMFORTABLE SIZE WHAT   IS   A   HOBBY STEAMBOAT? A lot of fun! It's a hobby family and friends can enjoy. Wherever there's a body of water on which you can float a boat ( and remember, over 3/4 of the world's surface is water ), you can operate a steam boat. And you don't need to split and carry wood. Depending on the design of the boiler, you can burn wood, coal, oil, or propane. We burn wood or oil on Artemis. Rose ( above ) burns propane. And if you're environmentally conscious, some of us are using bio-diesel!TOP
 
STEAM OUTBOARD--LITTLE TOOT HOW FAST CAN I GO? If you want to drive a boat the way most people drive a car - to go from point "A" to point "B" as fast as possible - then you don't want a steamboat! Most of us in hobby steamboating measure speed not in "miles per hour" but in "fun per mile". Traveling on the water in steamboat means the "quiet" of a sailboat without having to depend on the wind. You can sneak up on waterfowl and move among them and they don't mind! The owner of this boat and his wife do exactly that - sliding quietly over inland lakes, coming within touching distance of herons.TOP
 
SMALL CLASSIC MARINE ENGINE & BOILER - NOTE FIRE EXTINGUISHER AREN'T STEAMBOATS DANGEROUS?     NO! You're less likely to have a boiler explosion in a properly designed and maintained steamboat than an explosion from gasoline fumes in a powerboat. In the 30 years I've been active in the steamboating hobby I have not read or even heard about a boiler explosion on a hobby steamboat. There are laws in many areas about boiler licensing and, due to the boiler explosion of a steam traction engine in 2001, many of these laws have been strengthened or are being rigorously inforced. For those who "boat" on a "navigable waterway" of the US ( you can go from there to salt water without portaging ), you fall under the US Coast Guard by virtue of the Motor Boat Act of 1910 ( now codified in 46 USC ) - and the US Coast Guard does not require the inspection of boilers and machinery of steamboats under 40' in length ( measured at the deck ) or that do not carry passengers for hire. This Act exempts vessels falling under the Act from any state regulation. But the owner or operator of a hobby steamboat is still liable at law - so, if you can't build a "proper" boiler, buy one from a reputable manufacturer ( see my LINKS page ).TOP
 
A $300 STEAMBOAT--GENEVIEVE ISN'T IT EXPENSIVE? Unlike a lot of hobbies NO. You can spend as much or as little as you want. I know a teenager who, while he was in high school in 1997, put together a 15' steamboat for a total of $300 over a period of one year ( see photo right ). He wasn't a machinist or a skilled woodworker either. Yes, he had help from others in the hobby - but we all enjoy helping each other. He didn't have the most beautiful boat around, but he had more fun with it then any two other steamboaters put together. I also know of people who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a boat, hiring all the work done - their boats are works of art and beauty. And they, too, enjoy. Most of us fall somewhere in between.TOP
 
ALL FIBERGLASS EXTERIOR--EDITH MAY DON'T THEY REQUIRE A LOT OF MAINTENANCE? No more than any power boat requires, and less than many sailboats. After living 60+ years on and around the water, I have learned that there is NO SUCH THING as a maintenance free boat! Fiberglass requires just as much maintenance as a wood boat - washing, waxing, buffing, polishing chrome or stainless - and a steam power plant doesn't take any more maintenance than gas or diesel engine ( unless you're one of those people who changes the oil in your car every 100,000 miles whether it needs it or not ). I know of a 22' fiberglass hull cabin cruiser, the Edith May ( photo above ) with a totally automatic power plant; just "turn the switch on". She has a "head", galley, and can sleep two. The owners built it themselves ( when in their late 70's ) in a little over a year and it probably requires less maintenance than a comparable gas or diesel boat.TOP
 
SMALL ENGINE FROM PLANS BY HASBROUCK ISN'T IT DIFFICULT TO FIND STEAM STUFF? It's true that the days of finding small marine steam engines and accessories in the junk yards are gone. Most people who have old equipment are aware of the value - just like any antique collector. But there are a number of companies that manufacture new equipment. Most look like the old, but with modern metals, bearings, etc. Some sell it in kit form, as castings and you machine it. Some sell ready to run. And if you have access to a lathe, plans are available to build engine like the one to the right without castings ! Boilers, whistles, gauges are available in all shapes and sizes; off-the-shelf ready to steam. Or, if you're skilled ( or have a "friend" ) in welding, you can build your own. Most steamboat club newsletters have a classified section - and now there's eBay.com where, if you enter "steam" in the search box, you'll find - listed among the scale locomotives and steam irons - quite a few whistles, gauges, lubricators, an occasional marine engine, and recently a 22' steamboat with trailer.TOP
 
TIPPICANOE - A STEAM POWERED CANOE I DON'T HAVE A LOT OF SPACE. AREN'T STEAM BOATS BIG? If you've got room for a CANOE, you've got the space for a steamboat. Tippicanoe is a 16' Colman canoe with a steam powered outboard ( called Tyler ). Total weight is 140 lbs. Engine and boiler are easily removed so the canoe can be loaded on top of any vehicle and the power plant put in the trunk! Most steamboats are in the 16' to 24' range - easy to trailer so you can drive to where you want to have fun, put her in the water, and in twenty minutes from "lighting off" be enjoying a quiet, laid back time with three or four friends.
 
THE 56 FOOT STEEL HULL--BURMAH QUEEN For people who want more, and are near a large body of water, you can go as large as you want. The Burmah Queen is 56' long and has carried up to 45 people on short outings ( make sure you have an adequate number of life jackets aboard ). The owner lives onboard and enjoys the comforts of hot and cold running water, shower, and electric galley.
TOP
 
FIFTIES TYPE WOOD HULL--SOUTHPAW I WANT A WOOD BOAT BUT I DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT WOOD - WORKING. WHERE CAN I FIND A GOOD HULL? You can have a hull custom built in wood. There are a number of boatyards around that will do this work. Or you can buy a powerboat hull whose lines you like and install your steam plant. Southpaw ( seen to the left ) is exactly that - and there is plenty of seating for guests as well as a steering station for the owner. There are no "laws" about a hobby steamboat having to look traditional - the idea is to have FUN!
 
26 FOOT COAST GUARD SURFBOAT HULL--MOSQUITO There are also several suppliers of fibreglass hulls for steam boats. Mosquito (photo right) is a fiberglass replica of a 26' Coast Guard "surf rescue boat". Most of the companies will supply their hulls in several stages: right from the mold and you do it all; ready to install engine and boiler and you do all the trim work; or complete and ready to light the match. The prices vary according to size and amount of work.
 
STEAM OUTBOARD SPRITE Most of the firms produce a good product - if they didn't they wouldn't be in business long as most of us "steamboaters" talk to each other ( there are over 500 of us that I know of "online" ). Or you can build a steam outboard and mount it on a 14' aluminum hull! Sprite, at left, is a good example. The owner, Terry Williams, can get it "up on a plane" or throttle down to trolling speed.TOP
 
NWSS LOGO I DON'T KNOW IF I WANT TO INVEST A LOT OF MONEY OR TIME. WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE? We don't advertise a lot, but in just about every part of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and Europe there are organizations, clubs, and groups ( see my LINKS page ). Many publish newsletters or magazines - with calendars of activities and membership rosters included. The Northwest Steam Society has an excellent website and, if you go to their "projects" page and select "boats", you'll be able to view photos and complete descriptions of over 80 hobby steamboats. They also maintain an "online forum" and publish a small handbook, Guidelines to Operating Safety in our Hobby. I don't know of any steamboaters who are unwilling to share their knowledge ( and mistakes ) with others. And if you're going to be in the neighborhood, give advance notice and you'll probably get a ride.TOP
 
STEPHANIE HYLTON WORKING ON UNO IT SOUNDS LIKE FUN, BUT WILL MY WIFE ENJOY IT? I've never heard of a divorce that resulted from the steamboat hobby itself. I have known of a couple of cases where the ownership of the steamboat was more bitterly contested than custody of the children. Most wives of steamboaters have a lot of fun at our meets. And we're not sexist, several women own steamboats or can "bend a wrench" better than a lot of men.TOP
 
ANIMATED MARINE STEAM ENGINE I'M INTERESTED - BUT HOW DOES A STEAM ENGINE OPERATE? I've put together a basic description of how a marine steam power plant operates and it's located on this website - select the "PRIMER" button from the navigation bar to the left. It will get you started. And since you were able to find this web site, you know how to use the Internet, so go to my LINKS page to explore, and use other websites' links to go further. There's a LOT of information out there. Or if you just want to see other Hobby Steamboat pages, visit HOBBY STEAMBOATERS WEB RINGthe Hobby Steamboaters Web Ring by selecting their icon to the left. There you'll find over 35 websites of hobby steamboats - and no two are alike!TOP

COMMENTS  
While we are certainly interested in helping others in the hobby - please investigate the many other websites on the LINKS page before contacting us. If all else fails, you may use our COMMENTS form, accessed by selecting the "whistle" to the left.

 

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