Category Archives: Boatbuilders and restorers

Professional and amateur boat builders and restorers

John MacAulay, Hebridean boatbuilder with an interesting theory

Like many Brits I’ve been enjoying the BBC television series Coast, which is made up of interesting segments about various stretches of our coastline. It’s been good stuff most of the time, and has covered areas of our coast most people never get near, such as Spurn Point, and it has often been illuminating and informative.

If I was to make a complaint it would be that at times I have felt the influence of middle-class London youngsters laughing just a little too hard at people who live or holiday at Northern seaside resorts. Directed largely from London as it is, I suppose we should not be surprised that the BBC should be like this from time to time.

Watching this otherwise very enjoyable piece of television couple of weeks ago, I noticed a segment on the Hebridean boatbuilder John MacAulay, and was inspired to use Google to see what I could discover about him.

Here are the BBC’s notes from the programme:

Here’s what I found when I Googled for John Macaulay. First, here’s a picture of his yard:

Here’s a scrap of video from the film Am Baile in which he talks about boatbuilding and his ambition to pass his skills on to a younger generation:

The way that Google can broaden one’s perspective of people can be wonderful. Here’s a review of MacAulay’s book making the plausible argument that all those songs, stories and legends about seal people were based on real encounters with a kayak-using people who used to be seen along the Scottish coast:
Seal-folk and Ocean Paddlers: Sliochd Nan Ron

I’m reminded of all those Australian Aboriginal stories about giant creatures that seem to be supported by fossil evidence – or was it that the fossils were the source of the stories?

Anyway, in case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, here are some sites that may give some insight:

There are lots of these stories and ballads. Here’s one recorded by the Oxford book of ballads of 1910:

And here’s the Child Ballads version:


Herbert Krumm-Gartner at Classic Boats Ltd

Herbert Krumm-Gartner says he and his colleagues just love to build, restore, repair and sail wooden boats, and finds the experience of creating a one-off each day hard to beat. He couldn’t imagine restoring even a ‘classic’ fibreglass boat to its original lines and specifications, carefully removing layers of old chop strand matt to be replaced by new ones carefully fitted with that craftsman touch…

Herbert started his career in 1982 with an apprenticeship in boat building, beginning with a plan to become a boat builder and then to fulfill his dream of sailing around the world in his own yacht. Since then boat building has turned into a profession and, although sailing is still high on the agenda, the practical aspects of wooden boat building have become his priority.

Having apprenticed on the Bavarian Lakes near Munich in 1982 , he decided with his wife Romy to set up a classic boat building business in New Zealand. Initially he worked for John Gladden, a well respected boat-builder known for his quality workmanship and eye for detail, and then became one of the working partners of the Wooden Boat Workshop. Aspiring to build real boats and deal with classic boat enthusiasts, Herbert then stepped out on his own to run a working boatyard exhibit at the New Zealand Maritime Museum. The experience and craftsmanship gained over the years has culminated in the formation of Classic Boats Ltd, with the aim of getting people hooked on wooden boats.

The profile below is of a 26ft Pilot Sloop that Classic Boats are currently building. It was designed by American naval architect George Stadel in 1939, and plans are available fom Wooden Boat magazine. Construction is edge-glued carvel over laminated frames. The yacht will also feature teak cabin sides and a teak deck.

While you’re there, look out for photos of a 17ft whitehall Herbert built from John Gardner’s book Building Classic Small Craft, and for Classic Boats line in blocks in sizes ranging from 6mm to 16mm line. They are available in singles and doubles with or without beckets, with shells made from teak with stainless straps, aluminum sheaves and Tufnol bushings to minimise friction.

Once again, my thanks go to John Welsford for leading us to this site.

George Stadel pilot cutter

Newson’s officially opens its new building, MTB 102 rolls in

Newson’s new building had its official opening a few days ago. After a morning of rain and high winds, the weather broke and the ceremony performed by Lady Anne Wake-Walker took place in brilliant sunshine.

With the ribbon cut, MTB 102 was winched into the building before an appreciative crowd of on-lookers who were then given the chance to look around the new building and the boats.

For more on MTB 102, see this site: and check the Wikipedia for more on MTBs generally

On the subject of Newson’s, I was struck by a handsome varnish job on an Italian speedboat built in 1966 at the Bruno Abbate yard on Lake Como, Italy. The boat, which has undergone a total refurbishment, has a 144hp American-built Ford V8 Interceptor engine. See