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Back Cabin Stoves

"Code of practice for the installation of solid fuel fired heating and cooking appliances in recreational craft"  (BS 8511)

Extract from the HNBOC's submission:

The creation of safety standards for solid fuel stoves is a very sensible development provided that the standards are based on a reasonable understanding of the historic and practical uses for which most boat stoves are designed.

For around 200 years traditional English canal narrowboat has had a solid fuel stove mounted in a small boatman’s cabin at the back of the boat.   The layout of this cabin always conforms to a layout that evolved during the early history of these craft and forms an important part of the heritage value of these boats.   The stove rests on a raised hearth immediately to the left of the rear doors to the cabin as this position enables the boatman to keep warm during cold and inclement weather and ensures that the stove can be monitored from the steering position.

In the case of motor boats introduced during the early part of the last century, the cabins are very narrow (less than 2m internal width at the widest point) and taper towards the rear.  The hearth rests on the ‘swim’ of the motor boat which determines the minimum height of the top of the stove and thus the length of the flue up to the chimney.   The shape of canal bridges, locks and other navigation features determine the practical maximum height of the chimney above the cabin top.

As back cabin stoves are used for cooking as well as heating they usually have small fireboxes (less than 0.01 m3) to include space for an oven.  When properly installed and used they do not pose a serious safety risk.  The Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club has surveyed its membership and so far we have collected data on over 100 boats, none of which have had any problems with their back cabin stoves or any issues on this arising from the regular boat safety surveys (which are based on BSI standards).  To the best of our knowledge, fires resulting from back cabin stoves are extremely rare and in the very few cases that have occurred have been the result of poor installation or poor maintenance.

The draft standards described in this document, if implemented as they stand, would not allow the traditional back cabin stove arrangement and end a 200 year slice of history.  It would also make boating a much more unpleasant and uncomfortable experience.

Proposed change:   Redraft to recognise the practicalities of solid fuel stoves fitted in historic narrowboats.