I had to put together a quick synopsis of the project and outline of what I am doing. Thought it would be worth re-posting here: “The Beta III project came about initially as I was exploring ways to live in London with more light and a sense of space. I had toyed with the idea of living afloat for a while and then finally thought to go take a look at some boats for sale. While these were good, the layout wasn’t great and often the finish was to other people’s taste. This put me on the path of finding out whether boats still existed in a more unfinished state ready for me to put my own mark on. This is where I hit upon Beta III. I hot footed it down to Rye to take a look, convincing myself that at worst it would be a fun day by the sea. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the cab of a van in the middle of an ostrich farm, shaking hands to buy the boat.
I want to say it was love at first sight but the early pictures with the dodgy conservatory, horrid high sides and many many tetanus hazards would belie this. However, I could definitely see the potential, helped by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the previous owner. Once I had done the deal, the challenges began. How to move it down river? How to lift it out of the water? and how to deal with the slightly dodgy hull of a boat that is nearing ninety years old.My approach has been to do a tonne of research and to only get people on board to work on her who, for want of a less American phrase, “had the vision” and were as enthusiastic as I am. Fortunately there are quite a few of these knocking round East Sussex!
So far the project has taken me to the National Maritime Museum, the London Metropolitan Archives, and Wigan (shotblasting equipment, don’t ask). I have looked to gather as much information as possible about her history as a fire float, in service until the 1950s, and her subsequent life that included working giving tours of the Thames. I have looked to create a scrapbook of my findings on a blog (www.betaiiifireboat.com) which itself has proved quite fruitful. Through the blog I have been in touch with the family of a previous owner, and a former skipper, who used her to give tours of the Thames round Kingston.
The future for Beta III should now be a bit more secure. The intention of the project was never to restore her to being a fully fledged fire float – all of the fixtures and fittings are long gone and a fabulous example of this type of restoration already exists in the Massey Shaw. Instead my plans are to restore the hull and convert her to being a liveaboard. I believe that this can be done sensitively with reference to her previous shape and structure and to give her a new life and purpose. Hopefully I can do her justice.”