According to the Freeman Cruisers website it was in 1957 when John Freeman turned his hand to boat manufacturing and the first 22ft Freeman Cruiser emerged in 1957. This was so successful that by the time he retired some 6,000 boats had been built by the early 1980s.
Freeman cruisers on rivers, canals and estuaries and remain as popular as when they were built in the 1960’s and 70’s and there are still thousands in use including a good number of petrol-engined craft.
Of concern to BSS examiners are some features of some models of petrol-engined Freemans that have previously been linked with incidents of fire or explosion over the years. Some are historic and thus are likely to only affect craft not previously used on BSS implemented waterways.
1. When trying to keep cool leads to extreme heat – LPG fridges
In the early years some Freemans were fitted with Electrolux three-way caravan refrigerators, (AC/DC/LPG). Having the low-lying LPG pilot light running during or soon after refuelling saw several boat explosions when petrol vapours flowed down through the door and into the cabin space.
Most of these fridges have been replaced on the petrol boats with all electric appliances. Still keep an eye out for fridges and ensure the system meets the requirements at Check Items 8.2.1/2.
Some owners kept the old three-way fridges (for the sake of originality) but disconnected the gas supply. However occasionally, new owners either reconnect gas supplies to original fridges or in some cases, refit LPG-fuelled fridges into these ‘classic’ boats.
Be vigilant as an examiner to look for this, this before anything serious happens. And remember, this is one of the reasons why examiners have to ensure their appliance record keeping is thorough.
2. Replacement fuel hoses – Sheridan Marine
Sheridan Marine in Moulsford, Oxfordshire, specialise in supporting Freeman owners by supplying, and even manufacturing, spare parts for the fuel installation and Ford Watermota engines.
From time to time we are asked about the suitability of the petrol filler hoses supplied by Sheridan.
We can confirm that Sheridan have always been careful to select filler hose suitable for use with petrol and have supplied a manufacturers specification sheet which acts as an appropriate declaration in respect of examiners looking for evidence of compliance with BSS check 2.2.3.
The following information has a caveat, namely that the boats were individually handmade and can vary. Added to which, in the many years since manufacture, owners may have made alterations.
The current Sheridan-supplied 2¼" fuel filler hose has red writing down its length and comes with the certificate strapped to it, and Sheridan always encourage owners to keep the certificate for the next BSS examination. Note however that Sheridan have changed hose supplier at least once and so the hose and certificate may look different.
Sheridan Marine provide suitable fuel filler hose for all Freeman deck fillers and here’s a potted history because as you’ll see there was a period where the deck filling point spigot was a dissimilar size to the petrol tank filler spigot.
3. Deck Filler Spigots
In the early days, spigots to suit the 2¼" internal diameter at both the tank and deck filling point end were supplied, then around 1970 the deck filler pattern was changed using a 2" spigot at the deck filling point end and leaving the tank aperture 2¼",
Sheridan Marine used to source the manufacture of filler hoses with the two different end diameters in small numbers, but this has now become impracticable. Sheridan Marine now supply the standard 2¼" hose which fits the fuel tank with a newly manufactured 2¼" outside diameter deck filler. This is very similar in pattern to the original Freeman filling point, although the mounting holes do not line up and therefore a small plate needs to be constructed to enable a professional finish. Sheridan will soon be supplying such a plate in support of its customers.
From around 1976 the ‘new style’ Freemans usually had an aluminium deck filler with a 2¼" outside diameter spigot paired with a tank spigot which is also 2¼". The standard Sheridan 2¼" filler hose is usually suitable.
4. Freemans fuel tanks & the petrol feed connection
Carrying on the subject of fuel systems, the original cylindrical fuel tanks were not compliant with BSS check 2.8.2 requiring petrol feed line connections to be made to the top of the tank.
Pretty much all Freemans will have had their tanks modified to meet compliance but we recently came across one that had not.
A non-compliant bottom take-off
A compliant top take-off
Most tank fabricators will undertake the tank modification or offer up a replacement tank. Alternatively, Sheridan Marine known for its support of the Freeman marque and owners, has since the beginning of the BSS, offered a fuel tank modification to enable cylindrical tanks to reach BSS compliance.
The modification involves the blanking off the original tap fitting, fitting a top feed supply, fitting a bonding lug, amending, if necessary the vent and filler spigot and pressure testing certification.
BSS December 2016 -With thanks to the owners of the Freeman Cruisers and Sheridan Marine websites