Steamboat ICTUS is a replica Edwardian Steam launch. Although parts of the boat are over 75 years old, the main work was carried out in 1989 by Bay Class Yachts at their yard in Conyer, Kent. Formerly the yard was owned by Whites and launched many Thames barges. The hull is steel, and the superstructure varnished teak with lots of engraved glass. The name 'ICTUS' refers to the gentle beat in poetry and plainsong music.
The steam installation was carried out by Alex Ritchie working from the original drawings of the Lifu Steam Co of Switzerland. The resulting boiler and engine are identical to the original LIFU installations built at the turn of the last century. The boiler is fired on Paraffin using a vaporizing coil similar to a blow lamp. The boiler is a Yarrow design, with a steam drum , two mud drums and a nest of copper tubes between. Working pressure is 250 lbs pressure, which takes about 20 minutes to raise from cold. The engine is a Compound Condensing engine normally running at 300 rpm. Top revs is 550 rpm which will produce 7 plus miles per hour on deep water.
Steamboat Ictus is 55ft long and 7ft beam. draught approximately 2ft 9 ins and air draft just under 5ft. Her dimensions have enabled her to be cruised through the following points starting from Faversham, Thames, Weybridge, Guildford and Godalming, Reading, Devizes, Oxford, Lechlade, Inglesham, Braunston, Rugby, Great Heywood, Stoke on Trent, Caldon Canal, (Not Leek or Froghall Tunnels,) Braunston, Gayley Junction, Northampton, Peterborough, Tring, Bulls Bridge, Brentford, Little Venice, Hertford Union Canal, Lime House Dock.
Accomodation and equipment from the bows includes:-
The boat is very easy to operate. I have worked her singlehanded on the Thames and some of the narrow canals. All the other cruising has been just the two of us with occasional guests. She swims very sweetly with very litle disturbance to the water on canals and deep water even at a good speed. Although the skeg at the stern is deep the rest of the boat is relatively shallow so she very rarely runs aground, then usually only the skeg, which cuts through the obstruction without much trouble. One trick is to cut the engine if you feel the boat beginning to drag and she will slide away from the shallow area. The wheel steering position by the engine takes a little getting used to but is really as easy as steering any other boat.
The steam plant is simplicity itself. I usually light up before breakfast and the she is ready to go after breakfast, taking around 20 mins to get up pressure and warm the engine. While cruising an occasional pumping of the fuel is needed, and the occasional adjustment of a valve, but that is part of the fun of steamboating. While the steam pressure is maintained the engine will respond in exactly the same way as any other engine. The installation is relatively quiet, though you can hear the burner and various other interesting noises which tell you how things are going. When you stop for a lock etc it is absolutely silent which is lovely.