Category Archives: Sailing dinghy

Anthony Mace fixes up an old Merlin Rocket

Anthony Mace runs a small Bristol-based business called Shipshape Boatbuilding & Woodwork from a workshop at Underfall Yard, Bristol, and also does mobile repairs and restoration work, and takes on bespoke commissions.

He set up in business around a year or so ago, after graduating from the Boatbuilding Academy at Lyme Regis in 2015, and prior to that worked as a designer and occasionally taught product design at the University of the West of England.

Anthony chose to retrain at the BBA after over a decade of sitting in front of the computer – he’d got into design because of a love of making things and decided it was time to get back in the workshop and work with his hands again.

I’ve had some interesting projects since I graduated including fixing a Maltese dysa, but I wanted to let you know about a recent project I’ve just finished:

‘The job was a restoration of a Merlin Rocket (no. 2480). I believe this boat was started sometime in the 70s (so the owner told me) and had never been completed. The owner had bought the boat as just a hull with some framing and the centreboard case, as well as a really interesting curved thwart.

‘I stripped the old varnish off, repaired the cracked transom (which had split) and buoyancy tank, before fitting new curved side and fore and aft deck framing in marine ply.

‘I also steamed and fitted a sapele cockpit combing, spinnaker chute and gunnels, as well as finished it in a mix of paint (outside), oil (to make maintenance of the hull interior more practical) and varnish (decks and combing).

‘The boat has now gone back to the south coast where the owner plans to rig it himself before getting it on the water this summer.

‘I’m always looking for similar projects and commissions.


‘All the best, Anthony Mace’

I’ve attached a couple of images of the boat before and after the work, but there are lots more of the work in progress on my Facebook page and Instagram.

Restoration of an early Merlin Rocket (no. 2480). This boat was started sometime in the 70's and had never been…

Posted by Shipshape Woodwork & Boatbuilding on Thursday, 26 January 2017



Robert Manry and his extraordinary tale of small boat-big ocean survival

Robert Manry’s amazing West-East Atlantic crossing in a heavily overloaded 13ft 6in boat and his subsequent fame was now so long ago, I feel pretty sure even most sailing types have probably forgotten about his remarkable achievement.

So hats off to Steve Wystrach and colleagues for his efforts to produce a crowd-funded film designed to remind the world and to commemorate the event.

Manry was a sub-editor in his working life, so looking at the project website I was tickled to be reminded that the lone sailor had taken a copy of Strunk’s The Elements of Style with him, presumably to keep him on the straight and narrow as he wrote his log. Or was it to keep him company?

I read and was fascinated by Manry’s book a couple of decades ago, after finding a second hand copy in a shop somewhere. If you’re inspired to read it there are various e-book editions available via the Robert Manry Project site.

My thanks to John Simpson for reminding me about this story.

BBA students build a glued clinker Christmas Wherry

Most of us, probably, have dreamed at some time of living by the sea and waking to the sound of waves on the shore. Thomasin Sage clearly has, and from December to February this year she was a live-in student at the Boat Building Academy on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis.

Before joining the 38-week boat building, maintenance and support course Thomasin spent a year living and working in Japan as part of her Japanese degree.

When her time as an undergraduate came to a close, she could no longer ignore the lure of boats, her need to work with wood and the sea and the day after graduating she went to the BBA for interview.

Thomasin said ‘It felt like coming home’. Her hope now is one day to open a boatyard and take traditional British boat building to Japan.

Thomasin chose to build a Christmas Wherry designed by Walter J Simmons of Maine, which is based on designs for Lincolnville wherries developed for the Atlantic salmon fishery in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

It has a flat keel so she can be beached easily and will stand upright when ashore, carries a 102sqft standing lugsail and can also be easily rowed.

The original plans were for a traditional clinker build but Thomasin opted for the lighter glued clinker method. Although easily sailed and rowed, the original design was not ideal for taking an outboard motor and Thomasin wanted the boat to be as versatile as possible, so overseen by Academy instructors Thomasin modified the design, reducing the steep angle (rake) of the transom so that it would take a motor.

During lofting, the Wherry’s lines were extended and slight alterations made to the rudder plan. The extra length should also make her slightly faster under sail.

Given the strong glued clinked build, further modifications could be made to reduce the weight and bulkiness of the gunwhale and inwhale, but when it came to the rowlock swellings the original chunkier measurements were used.

The boat’s bright finish shows the high level of aesthetic consideration that has gone into the detail and structural parts. The dark Khaya (West African mahogany) laminated frames have an elegant steamed oak thwart riser, with oak thwarts and black thwart knees and a walnut joggled transom. The spruce spar and spoon bladed oars were all also made on the course.

Assisting Thomasin on her student build of the Christmas Wherry were students Alfred Dalby from the UK and Stefanie Bielowski from Austria.

Alfie spent 10 years living in Costa Rica with his family, helping out with the family restaurant. He is an artist and is fascinated by the practical, craft element of boat building. He sees the course as the beginning of a lifelong relationship with boat building.

Stefanie was a project manager for an NGO in Vienna but, looking for a change, went on to sail and skipper cruising yachts around the world.

Thomasin is completing a trial period with a traditional boat yard on the Thames, Alfie is working at Lots Ait Boatyard, a London yard owned and run by BBA graduate John Watson, and  Stefanie began work at Spirit Yachts on the Monday after graduation.


The photographs are by Charlie Fawell, Emma Brice and Janine Cashin.