Category Archives: Techniques

Junk building – and their water-tight bulkheads

In 2009, China nominated the watertight-bulkhead technology of Chinese junks for inclusion on the UN’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. The nomination was accepted the following year.

Developed in South China’s Fujian Province, the bulkhead technology is used to create watertight compartments such that if one or two cabins on board an ocean-going junk are accidentally damaged in the course of navigation, sea water will not flood the other cabins, and the vessel will remain afloat. I guess this is pretty well the same approach used in the Titanic, although in retrospect in the case of the linern it was not perhaps implemented as well as it might have been.

The junks are built using traditional wood-working techniques and tools and are made mainly of camphor, pine and fir timber, principally using rabbet-jointing planks caulked using the the fibrous ramie plant, lime and tung oil. The experience and working methods of watertight-bulkhead technology are transmitted orally from master to apprentices.

Communities participate by holding solemn ceremonies to pray for peace and safety during construction and before the launch of the completed vessel.

The techniques of building junks are being lost as demand for the vessels has decreased, with wooden vessels replaced by steel-hulled ships, and in 2009 it was reported that only three masters were still able to claim full command of junk building techniques.

My thanks to boat and sail designer and maker Michael Storer for posting this one on Facebook!

IBTC now safely installed in its Portsmouth Dockyard premises

Gill Wilson has written to report that the International Boatbuilding Training College Portsmouth is now definitely installed in its new home at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Boathouse number 4, following various and no doubt frustrating delays.

The building has been refurbished as part of an Heritage Lottery Fund heritage skills training centre scheme.

As well as the International Boatbuilding College Portsmouth, the building also hosts a free-to-enter exhibition of the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust’s small naval boat collection.

IBTC students will train on over 20 project boats in the main boat shop, including Alec Rose’s Lively Lady, Simba one of four Victory Class racing yachts that the college is to restore, and Fandango a Laurent Giles designed reverse sheer light displacement yacht.

Eagle eyes will spot Lively Lady and Fandango among the shots above.


An invitation – the Boat Building Academy student boat launch 2 December

image001 (2)

If anyone is going and fancies penning a shortish report and sending over some photos, I would be most grateful!

For a kind of preview, see the BBA students’ current  projects in build.