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WW has just carried an item about the sinking of a boat with a low "freeboard". We bought a 1993 built, 62', 6 berth Braunston semi trad steel 10/6/5 boat last year. In the cabin there is a notce about the maximum number of people on board but the number has faded away. I guess the freeboard is like the "plimsoll line", designed to stop overloading. Is there a rule of thumb for a 6 berth (apart from it being cramped with 6 people on board), so I can safely work out what the maximum people loading should be?
Many thanks

Asked by: Chris Marriott  | 9.47pm, Tuesday 25 May

WW says:

The freeboard is the distance between the water level around the boat and the lowest point at which that water could enter the boat. In many cases, that point is the lowest part of the side deck but, if you have a self draining front deck, it could be the drainage holes in the sides of the boat or the sill of the front doors.
The maximum number of people allowed on a private boat was only specified when the RCD regulations became mandatory in 2008. Could it be that your boat is an ex-hire boat? Either way, you would need a great number of people on a 62ft narrowboat before the boat became unsafe. If you are still concerned, you could ask a marine surveyor who is conversant with the RCD for his advice about your particular boat.

Graham Booth  | 9.59AM, Wednesday 26 May

Readers say:

Having seen a photo of the boat involved in the sinking incident, it looked like a barge hull onto which someone had built what looked like a two storey house. Thus a permanently moored houseboat, the massive superstructure pushing the hull well down into the water. The purchaser then held a party, with disastrous results. A conventional narrowboat bears virtually no relationship to a structure of this kind, so I'd suggest you have nothing to worry about. The only time the freeboard would be an issue is if you were planning to cross the Channel or take to the open sea!

Graham Pierce  | 4.15PM, Friday 28 May

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