‘Wrinkled tin’ posts have explored the many uses of corrugated iron as a construction material but, until I saw the image below, I’d never thought about it being used to make a boat!
Given that all kinds of materials have been used to construct boats I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that corrugated iron was used too.
From the Victorian period, corrugated iron boats, often nicknamed tin boats, developed as prefabricated corrugated iron buildings were shipped to many parts of the world. Spare sheets of corrugated iron being transformed into canoes, rowing and sailing boats.
The idea was further developed by one Joseph Francis, a Bostonian, who realised that corrugated iron could potentially make strong, cheap boats. He was particularly interested in making lifeboats that would survive coming ashore in a storm.
The difficulty was that to create a boat-shape corrugated iron had to contradict one of it’s fundamental properties ie. that the corrugations made it rigid. Joseph Francis solved the problem by building a huge hydraulic press capable of force-bending corrugated sheets into boat shapes.The parts were then bolted together and caulked with water-resistant material such as pitch. Because assembly was as simple as putting Meccano together, they became very popular in pioneer areas.
Tin boats were shipped all over the world and existed alongside the corrugated iron bungalows, shops, pubs and churches that colonists built everywhere they went. Inevitably rust limited their life expectancy, and most have disappeared, though tin boats can still be found, often with plants growing in them, on farms all over the dryer parts of Australia in particular.
A slight digression here… Joseph Francis continued developing iron lifeboats, one remarkable invention being his life-car, which was carried on deck ready to be attached to a line shot by cannon from the shore in the event of the ship hitting the rocks.
Remarkably this Heath Robinson contraption actually worked, and the system saved more than 200 lives when the immigrant ship Ayshire was wrecked off New Jersey in January 1850.
In the UK too corrugated iron tin boats were popular, as the following image shows:
In fact, there’s a whole world of corrugated iron boats out there… as this youtube video shows (just click on the image to view…).
Alongside the quirky amateur efforts illustrated above, there are also tin boats created as a result of the imperative of subsistence living. People with few options, little money and a lack of local construction materials have created amazingly effective fishing boats…