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   The Steamboat Association of Great Britain

Hulls and Steam Launch Designs

A boat is a hole in the water down which one pours money...

Assuming that you do not wish to buy a new or second hand launch, but wish to build your own, the main ways of getting a steam launch hull are to buy one ready made or to build one from scratch. However that simple classification hides a fair degree of complexity.

As steam plant does not provide very much power per kilogram of weight, the modern vee bottom planing motor boat hulls, that are widely available, do not make very good steam launches. What is required is a displacement hull with a length to breadth ratio of around 4:1 or 5:1. This form is still found in sailing boats, but often such hulls may not be easily converted into steam launches. However, as the Steamboat Register shows, it can be done.

A better solution is to acquire a ready made hull that was designed for use as a motor boat with low powered machinery. Most often these can be found as being "suitable for electric power". Four examples are offered here, although others exist:
The Sylvie Launch - This is a design that has been commissioned by three SBA members, John King, Mike Bell and Richard Havard. The hull has a transom stern and is 18ft 7" overall, by 4ft 8" wide and should achieve an overall weight of 530kg with a careful fitting out. Full details are available from Mike Bell (See Members' Handbook).
The Nell Class Launch - This is a counter stern hull that is available for steam or electric propulsion.The hull is 19ft 5" long, by 5ft 9" wide. The suggested fit out weight is something over 1,000kg. Full details are available at
The Frolic 18 Class Launch - This is a very popular launch within the SBA. The hull has a counter stern and is 18ft long by 4ft 8" wide. Full details are available at
Elliott Bay Steam Launch Co.
produces ready made 23-foot RGF hulls to any stage of construction.  Lines & offsets are also available for the home-builder.
There is a wide range of designs available for home building using traditional methods, plywood or strip planking. Some suggestions to begin the search need to include:

Selway Fisher Designs in the UK- This organisation has a good catalogue of steam launch designs as well as being willing to customise them to better meet customer needs. For full details see:
The Reliable Steam Engine Co in the USA - If you fancy building Panatella, Will Hardy's classic design in Steam Boats and Modern Steam Launches, you can buy a proper set of plans from this firm. For details see:
The Traditional Boat Shop at Y Felinheli, North Wales - This business offers complete steam launches, hulls, components and a small range of plans. There are quite a lot of steam launches in the SBA from this source. Full details at:

The suggestions made here are for information only and do not constitute an endorsement by the SBA of any particular supplier or design. Caveat Emptor still applies!

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