Eco boat-glamping aboard historic sailing boat in Bristol Harbour

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Stay on board a beautiful oak-timber sailing vessel, moored in the heart of Bristol City. Pre-order a night aboard to fund conversion.

Svanskar is a beautiful former Swedish fishing vessel that was later converted to sailing. It is currently not being used for anything, just bobbing around in the harbour. Everyone wants to see her being used, properly maintained and enjoyed by people again. My vision is to convert the below deck into rustic 'glamping' style living that is warm and cosy in the winter and fresh and simple in the summer. Equipped with a tiled shower, proper toilet and comfortable king-sized beds with luxury mattresses. The style will be 'hygge' (a Danish word roughly translated to cosy) Think wood burning stoves, thick blankets, rough-hewn wood and white-linen bedding.

These images of other people's projects illustrate the feel...


When the conversion is complete in May 2017 the boat will accommodate up to 4 people in comfort (with potential for 2 additional guests on the slightly less comfortable fold-out beds in the wheel house). It will be let out on AirBnB and the money raised will be used to maintain the vessel which as a 79 year old oak timber boat is a significant cost involving the vessel being taken out the water every 3 years for hull repairs and repainting. The price for 4 people to stay aboard is going to be £250+ per night but you have the opportunity to buy nights on board at a vastly reduced rate by funding the project now. Buy a coupon and it is yours to give away as a gift or use for yourself. 



If people pledge enough to reach the goal then the next stage is gaining permission from Bristol City Council / Bristol Harbour to get a licence. Once granted, work starts immediately. 6 months of hard graft, sawing, screwing, molding and brushing. During this time the progress visits will be happening at the weekends. I will also be blogging progress for people to follow. Around May 2017 she should be ready to take her first guests. In the run up to this time I will be asking pledgers to start booking exact dates to redeem their rewards; this will be done through a mailing list and online calendar/booking system. 



Svanskar was built in a boat yard in Sweden in 1937 and launched in 1938. We do have records of her being used for fishing in Sweden throughout World War II which coincides with the period during which Danish Jews escaped Nazi occupied Denmark through neutral Sweden with the help of Swedish fishermen. So there is a possibility that Svanskar helped refugees flee death all those years ago. The Swedes are keen to track their maritime history and have an interest in the vessel's ongoing story. This project will make her financially self-sufficient and sustain her while we research evidence to piece together the full story. 



Eco Technology Montage

Environmental responsibility is important to me. Therefore all solutions on Svanskar will be eco-conscious. Solar panels to generate hot water, PV panels and mini-wind turbines to generate electricity, insulation throughout to minimise energy consumption. Re-purposed timber as building materials and responsibly-sourced solid fuel for the wood burners. Bicycles will be parked on deck for guests to use during their stay. When she is accommodating guests I will service the boat, travelling from my house in Bedminster by cargo bike, no polluting vehicles involved.  

(Full disclosure: Yes there is a 78 year old, 15 litre deisel engine sitting at the heart of the vessel. This will stay as it is an important part of its industrial history however it will only be running for about 60 minutes every 2 weeks and will run on bio-deisel) 


Sensitive Restoration

She has never been a house boat before. She was first a fishing vessel, then later a motorsailer. During my conversion of her to a houseboat the ability for her to sail again in future will be maintained. The masts, rigging and sails will remain and the motors will be serviced regularly. The hull is safe and sound enough for floating and motoring in the calm waters of the harbour for several years but in her current state she is not safe to take out to sea where she would be exposed to the forces of offshore wind and waves. Therefore when the conversion is complete in May 2017 she will stay in the harbour with guests living aboard generating money ready for scheduled works in Feb 2018 when I plan to take her out the water into dry-dock and replace several sections of the hull and planking making her sea-fairing once again. The bill for this will be significant but by that date there will be enough cash in the coffers to cover it. Think custom shaped sections of oak (the most expensive wood) being fitted by proffessional tradesmen in specialist facilities. This project is not some get-rich-quick scheme, this is self-sustaining ongoing heritage. 


How will the money be spent?

As locally as possible. Bristol is lucky enough to have many reclamation yards where extrordinary timber and exquisite domestic fittings can be found. Bristol is also home to ceramic artists who can supply uniquely decorated tiles for the shower. Local boat yards will be employed for the major hull work. Independent skilled professionals for engine maintenance, electics and plumbing. Mooring fees will be paid to Bristol City Council to pay for maintenance of the harbour. Firewood and biodiesel from specialist local suppliers. 


Who's behind this project?

I am Martin. I am a community-spirited man and have helped out with many local events, probably the most well known being the annual street art festival Upfest. I am local to Bristol, living in rented accommodation within walking distance of the harbour. I have a creative mind and skilled hand in many crafts including wood-work and plastic moulding having studied sculpture at University. I have been playing with eco technologies for years, gathering knowledge which I will apply to this project. I have worked as a web developer in Bristol for many years and have managed to save up a little pot of cash. I personally will be investing over £20,000 into this project.

I have a very clear vision for this project and have done careful research to estimate costs. I will be grafting hard, full-time for 6 months taking no wage to achieve the conversion. Much of the work will be carried out by myself, bringing in skilled labourers for the bits I can't do. I will be liasing with Bristol City Council, Harbour Master and local residents, all of whom need to be worked with to make this project run smoothly and without objection. I will be employing surveyors so that the vessel may obtain safety certificates and pass inspections by the fire & rescue. My motivation is a desire to do another physical project and save a beautiful historic vessel by making it sustainable and allowing many more people to enjoy it. 


Skilled people

I have also received offers of help from several friends who heard about this project and want to help. A bespoke furniture builder and an upholsterer have kindly offered a couple of days of their time. If you would like to offer time it would be greatly appreciated. Especially a tiler or mechanic with interest in old diesel engines. 


Risk Management

It would be unprofessional of me to not disclose that there is an element of risk and a possibility of plans having to be changed. In those circumstances I do have contingency plans. Svanskar will of course be insured against the absolute worst happenning such as fire or sinkage so its only decisions by local authorities that need to be considered.

The main risk is that Svanskar's current licence does not cover her for the use I am proposing and it is up to Bristol City Council / Bristol Harbour to decide whether or not to grant a licence. If they refuse Svanskar a licence to be used for short term lets then the whole project is dead in the water. In this case the money pledged will not be transferred from your cards. I do not have the income to maintain such a vessel for my own leisure and Svanskar will have to be sold. If a buyer with the funds to maintain her cannot be found she unfortunately will make one final journey to a dry-dock where she will be dismantled for scrap. A sad ending but a reality for any boat that does not enjoy the financial support required to counteract natural decay.


In summary

We all love Bristol harbour and we want to see it housing interesting and historic vessels. By pledging a stay on board Svanskar you are not only getting a unique experience for yourself but you are contributing to making that image of Bristol harbour sustainable. Please donate now by pledging one of the rewards. 


Thank you,



Photo credits: Bristol harbour at night was taken by Tim (Sauntimo) who kindly let me use his image. Check out his Instagram  

Share your time and skills...

Alternatively, if you are handy with tools and can work with materials such as plywood and epoxy you can donate days of labour to earn nights on board. Get in touch! (bodgers need not apply)

Help this project with time and skills

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Get these rewards

£10 – Help the project happen

1 person wants this

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If you can't afford to buy a night on board but you want to see Svanskar saved, just throw a tenner into the pot and have your name added to the list of funders

£20 – Sawdust and solutions

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Held on weekends during the conversion (Oct 2016 - May 2017). Come aboard, go below-deck and see the progress that you have funded. Get a unique glimpse of the work-in-progress as Martin's bright ideas become real-world creative solutions.

£100 – 1 night stay (Sun-Thur)

4 people want this

Get this reward

You get a coupon entitling up to 4 guests to stay on board Svanskar for 1 night redeemable between Sunday-Thursday. (Not redeemable on Sunday of Harbour Festival weekend)

£250 – Weekend 2 night stay (Fri + Sat)

4 people want this

Get this reward

You get a coupon entitling up to 4 guests to stay aboard Svanskar for 2 nights redeemable over a Friday and Saturday. (Not redeemable during Harbour Festival weekend)

£1,000 – Harbour Festival 2017 Accomodation

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Friday, Saturday and Sunday night accommodation on board during harbour festival 2017.

£1,000 – Harbour Festival 2018 Accomodation

Get this reward

Friday, Saturday and Sunday night accommodation on board during harbour festival 2018.

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