Category Archives: Boatbuilders and restorers

Professional and amateur boat builders and restorers

BBA students launch Beg Meil dinghy – and an invitation

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It’s almost time for the summer student launch at the Boat  Building Academy at Lyme on the 10th June… So here’s an invitation, and a reminder of what the event’s about – a post about one of the boats BBA students dipped for the first time at the last student launch!

The final boat in the water at the BBA’s student launch event in December was a bright red 14ft glued-clinker Beg Meil dinghy built by Stuart McGowan and Graeme Furniss to plans by François Vivier.

Another student, Joe Wilkinson, also worked on the dinghy as well as all of the other boats built by the class.

Stuart has always had a passion for gaff-rigged boats; for a period he owned, sailed and raced a Cornish Shrimper and was a member of the Old Gaffers Association. He was particularly drawn to the Beg Meil design due to her rig, sailing abilities and half-decked, beamy layout.

The dinghy has been named Poppy after her red hull, the colour of which was chosen in memory of the classic red Porsche Stuart sold to pay for her build.

She has Douglas fir cockpit soles and spars, galvanised steel centre plate and copper coat antifoul below the water line.

Originally from Portsmouth, Stuart joined the Academy following a 40-year career in the water industry which took him all over the world. He joined the course to learn skills needed to complete repair work to wooden boats during his retirement.

Graeme worked as a child protection social worker before joining the Academy. A keen sailor, he wanted a new practical career working with his hands, and boat building seemed the perfect choice of craft for him to learn.

With time to fill before starting the 38 week course in March, starting in January he completed the first 8 weeks of the BBA’s 12-week woodworking skills’ course, during which he made a hatch cover for his 8 tonne double-ended carvel Hillyard.

Before attending the BBA’s 38-week course, Joe, from Staffordshire, was a qualified mechanic specialising in Land Rover repairs. He joined the course wanting a change, and is now working at Peak Oak Frames, an oak framing company near Sheffield, and has applied for an Edward Barnsley Workshop apprenticeship to further develop his woodworking skills.

Stuart will go on to work in yards and sailing clubs around the Solent and Graeme too will use his new woodworking and boat building skills in the marine industry.

The Beg Meil dinghy’s photographic build diary can be seen here.

Les Amis du Biche are trying to contact ex-Biche owner Graham ‘Dusty’ Miller

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Photo from the Wikimedia Commons

The folks of Les Amis du Biche, which has in recent years restored and relaunched the impressive old tunny fisherman, are working on a book project about her history – including her time in English ownership.

To that end, they are trying to contact ex-owner Graham ‘Dusty’ Miller, to learn things about the time during which he owned Biche. If you can help, buzz them an email at patrimoine@lebiche.com .

Read about Biche here.

BBA students build a traditional Thames skiff

Photos by Jenny Steer, Becky Josepth and Derek Thompson

The Boat Building Academy’s spring student launch at Lyme included this traditional clinker-built Thames skiff built by students Lawrence Shillingford and Brooke Ricketts.

Rosina May made a glamorous first public appearance, as she was decorated with gold balloons tied on by Lawrence’s friends.

Traditionally built in clinker mahogany on oak, 21ft Rosina May is based on a Hobb’s skiff as featured in the classic book Working Boats of Britain – Their Shape and Purpose by Eric McKee.

The design evolved from larger Thames Wherries which carried fare-paying passengers.

Lawrence spent a lot of his early years either on or beside the Thames. He now rows Cornish pilot gigs with Weymouth Gig Club. He wanted to combine rowing with a traditional Thames design, and says the skiff almost chose itself for the project.

Rosina May was modified to a single rowing position. It features moulded detailing typical of this type of boat and a decorative mahogany and oak sunburst design on the seat back and rudder.

Originally from Twickenham but now living in Bridport, Lawrence joined the course to learn new skills after a 30 year career in the London Fire Brigade.

From Maryland, Brooke worked for Inter-Rail Transport USA for 10 years before deciding to have a career change.

With a love of boats he started an apprenticeship at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, and wanting to develop his skills further he relocated to Dorset with his family to join the Academy.

Since graduating, Brooke has returned to the museum to complete his apprenticeship and Lawrence is starting a small boat building and restoration business in the Bridport area.

Lawrence says the journey through the course from knowing virtually nothing to having completed this project, learning from mistakes along the way, has given him the confidence to take on new solo projects.

See the Thames skiff’s build diary here.