Tag Archives: boatbuilding

BBA students build a new design composite sailing canoe

Boat Building Academy students Richard Lyford from Portland and Steve Roberts built and launched a newly designed 14ft 5in composite sailing canoe as part of a 38-week boatbuilding course. The photos are by Janine Cashin, Liz Griffiths, Becky Joseph, John  Pritchard, Grant Morris and Jenny Steer.

Richard took a career break to attend the course.

Richard believes that with interest in the Victorian idea of sailing canoes is growing in the UK and that we’re on the way to a real revival. So he worked with sailing canoe specialist company Solway Dory to develop and design a new light-weight composite sailing canoe and built a prototype as part of his course.

Water sports enthusiast Steve joined the course from a career in the Royal Navy where here worked as a mine clearance diver.

The two created a tulip-wood hull plug, which was then glass and epoxied to create the mould, which was lifted off the plug, polished and used to create the canoe.

Rock Pipit can be paddled or sailed, and has an unstayed Bermuda rig, which Richard argues is simple to rig and easy to reef.

She looked elegant in white and royal blue, so much so that BBA technician Steve Hewins, a man who has seen countless boats, watched her go out and said ‘One day I’m going to have one of those… ‘

Richard returns to his job as a Submarine Systems Engineer in July. Steve has already started work at Compass Tenders, Port Hamble, building bespoke tenders for superyachts.

The Rock Pipit design will become part of the Solway Dory range. If you are on the Devon or Cornwall coast or estuaries look out for Richard, who intends to use his new sailing canoe as often as possible.

BBA students build 12ft Paul Gartside traditional style clinker dinghy

The Boat Building Academy celebrated the launch of six boats and seventeen new boat builders at Lyme a few weeks ago.

The boats were built by the BBA’s class of September 2013, who had completed its 38-week course. Although new to woodworking and boat building, the students built six boats and a paddle board using modern and traditional methods, completing every step from lofting board to launch in just nine months.

Some three hundred well-wishers gathered in the sunshine to celebrate the students’ achievements and give a resounding cheer as the champagne popped and each boat went into the water.

First in was the 12ft traditional clinker dinghy above, built by David Rainbow and Adam Smith to Paul Gartside’s 2001 design, #130 design, and planked in west African mahogany on oak ribs and backbone. (The photos are by Liz Griffiths, Becky Joseph, Jenny Steer, and John Pritchard.)

David, from Middlesex, worked at Heathrow Airport for 20 years in a variety of roles, most recently as baggage operational assurance manager, and first came to the BBA to do a three-day introductory course, and then decided it was time for a change of career and booked a place on the 38-week course last year.

David chose to build this row and sail boat as he felt the traditional clinker method would make a good test of skills, and felt the style and size of this particular Paul Gartside design was just right for him.

He made a couple of changes to the original design – he planked it in West African mahogany rather than western red cedar for aesthetic reasons, and chose a boomless standing lug rig designed by Paul Gartside specifically for David’s boat, rather than the original boomed rig.

Named Enfys – the Welsh word for ‘rainbow’ after David’s surname and his wife’s welsh roots – the boat is to be sailed on a lake at Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre, which is close to where David lives.

Adam Smith, originally from Canada, was David’s main build partner.

He was working with computers, but built a Selway Fisher dinghy in his spare time and enjoyed the process so much he decided to train for a new career. Adam made the most of the academy’s facilities and in his spare time on the course he made a cabinet, trestle table and chest. His latest spare-time project now that the course has finished is a strip-planked canoe.

Both David and Adam are start work in jobs on the Thames after a short break.

Scottish Traditional Boat Festival to see launch of youth training boatshed project

The boatshed, and photos from previous Scottish Traditional Boat Festivals at Portsoy

This year’s Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy is to see the launch of a project to create a new home for Portsoy Organisation for Restoration and Training (PORT), an organisation that teaches youngsters traditional boat building and restoration skills.

PORT is to refurbish Portsoy’s 18th century boatshed, currently a derelict harbour building, and turn it into a community centre to teaches traditional skills and boat restoration.

The foundation stone for the revamped shed is to be laid during the annual festival, which takes place this coming weekend.

Festival vice chairman and PORT founder James Crombie says that in teaching traditional skills to young people PORT provides a bridge between the old and the new, and that the festival provides a particularly good platform for the launch of the project, not least because it includes the inaugural North Sea Ring meeting, which sees countries from around the North Sea come together to share maritime traditions.

The rebuilt boatshed will give the local community a spacious workshop that will allow work on boats to be undertaken in full view of the public.

The PORT training programme takes participants from the initial stages of boat building right through to learning to sail the boats they have helped to create – which no doubt brings something special to the trainees.

As well as providing an outlet for training and restoration it is hoped that the boatshed will become an attraction for visitors to the area.

PORT was given the boatshed by the Portsoy Maritime Heritage Society in 2009; the renovation is a £420,000 project funded by Aberdeenshire Council, CARS (a collaboration between Aberdeenshire Council and Historic Scotland) and AEFF Axis 4 funding.


An appeal: help local boat builders replace the Phillipines’ 50,000 lost fishing boats

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This piece by boat designer and sailmaker Michael Storer is a short report about instant boat building in the Philippines – an appeal for help in replacing the lost boats so important to feeding the Filipino people and to the economy.

If you want to cut straight to the donations page … it is here. $210 pays for a complete boat on the water without a motor, and there is also there is an urgent need for nets.

As most people will known, typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) cut across the bottom part of the Philippines late last year. Tacloban was one of the worst affected areas.

A two storey-height storm surge reached ing as far inland as 1.5km (that’s a mile in old money), leaving wasted urban areas not looking much different from Hiroshima.

People, houses, cars were all just washed away. Immediately after there were only three working trucks in the city and things are not improving very rapidly – the photos of the area were taken by me in early March.

The name Tacloban might ring a bell to history buffs: it was the town (now city) on the island of Leyte where General MacArthur made set up his headquarters when the Philippines were retaken from the Japanese.

It should be said that Japanese control was fragile due to the staunch resistance of Filipino guerillas, and it’s the Filipinos’ nuggety, tough resilience I want to write about here – and boats, their design and building methods.

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This map gives an indication of the area of devastation. In the green area alone, the Bureau of Fisheries census has estimated that 19,000 small fishing boats were lost along the coast.

In essence these are fishing communities; they are resilient and independent.

Fishing is very small scale; after a day fishermen return with a bucket or two of water with fish swimming around in them. They eat what they need and sell the rest; if they can sell a few kilograms of extra fish a week, they can buy a bag of cement or a couple of sheets of plywood for building a more permanent house rather than waiting for handouts – in short, they can get on with life!

The fishing also underpins the local economy. Some politicians talk about the trickle down effect, but this is more truly a trickle-up effect – if cheap fish are caught locally then small businesses distribute the produce, run roadside stalls selling fresh or grilled fish, and small cafes and restaurants can also sell local produce.

Lots of people get a little money in their pockets and the economy starts moving.

The reason I was there with my friend Dylan Tantuico (who originally came from the area) was to have a look at projects rebuilding some of the estimated 50,000 small one- or two-person fishing boats destroyed by the typhoon.

Part of the problem is that in Tacloban two out of the three traditional boat builders died, and neighbouring boat builders across the bay in Samar are working flat out dealing with their own local devastation.

The traditional boats take longer to build than instant boats, but there is a second, equally significant issue here. Illegal logging by Filipino and Chinese interests has led to nationwide logging bans, which is a problem because the local boats are built with a dugout bottom (‘casco’ meaning ‘like the shell of a coconut or the internal space of a skull’ – it’s not not dissimilar to our word ‘hull’ meaning the outside case of a seed).

Traditionally the sides were planked in solid timber,but more commonly plywood is used.

Aid and government agencies have managed to replace just over 10 percent of the destroyed boats, mostly with fibreglass boats that in many cases don’t quite fit the needs of the local fishermen and don’t really teach anything. So many fishermen continue to wait for help.

These photos are from the BalikDagat (balik=return to dagat=sea) project, which uses traditional construction to repair and build new boats. The folks behind the project are currently deciding whether to continue, after they achieved their fundraising project for 200 boats, most of which have been delivered over the last months.

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Looking at the construction… the casco is visible in this bow. The ribs are there to hold the planked sides together; they’re not really needed now, but fishermen are a bit nervous about removing them.

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All these boats are slender and balanced by outriggers. The crossbeams are steam-bent green bamboo, and the outside hulls are bamboo lengths.

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But even where traditional builders work they can’t get the materials.

But there are a number of exciting projects that buck this trend, for example by moving to full plywood construction. Get rid of the aid agencies’ notion of fibreglass and industrial production, and teach fishermen to build boats for themselves using materials that are available?

The first one we visited was run by the national religious order, The Sisters of the Holy Spirit. They used their community links as well as donations from graduates of their schools to acquire building materials for non-traditional boats, then brought in an experienced ply epoxy boatbuilder from a less affected area further south.

These are totally Filipino boats progressively developed by people in small communities; Pinoy boatbuilders are no slouches in development and design. If you want to see an article about the power of this progression have a look at this article on my website. These boats are both beautiful and effective.

It is quite a shock to see what we think of as our usual methods for fast building boats employed in a village somewhere that to us seems remote and very different.

The boats have 9mm (3/8in) bottom and 5mm (under 1/4in) sides, and have a hybrid hull form that comes from a requirement for a boat that may be driven under power or paddled. The result is a standard hullshape that will do both, with very little rocker and a dead flat bottom. In the photo we see the side ribs as well.

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The deal here is sweeter in many ways. A fisherman helps others build their boats for four days, and is then helped to build their own boat; they then walk away with a boat and with knowledge about building and materials.

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The guy in this photo is finishing off his boat. He has never built a boat before. ~The building rate is two boats at a time, each of which takes two days.

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I love the detailing of these boats. There is some very nice custom work that the fibreglass boats can’t incorporate.

The Sisters of the Holy Spirit have a plan for 125 boats. Effectively they are producing one a day or a little faster, but the project covers just two tiny barangay (local areas) within the Tacloban city.

But what would happen if you go the full fast building hog, and start building the way we would series build simple boats like my Quick Canoe or Andy Linn’s Easy Weekend canoe?

Since moving to the Philippines my support group has been Pinoyboats.org. This group is pretty well the same sort of people that build boats for fun in Australia or the USA: office workers, retired engineers, public servants.

What can they bring to the mix? One of the members, ‘Kuton’, organised for his old school classmates to donate materials for 70 boats. At the same time a group on the pinoyboats forum was discussing and designing a bangka (boat) for fast construction from precut kits. It was based on local boats that had been measured up.

The plan was that the classmates and other volunteer labour would cut the panels and join the sheets. They would be shipped to Ilo-Ilo and fishermen would assemble them with guidance from four of the Pinoyboats members.

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This is a trial of the Biglang Bangka in a suburban Manila swimming pool – Biglang = quick or instant, so the name represents a nod to Dynamite Payson and Phil Bolger.

It not only meets the functional criteria, but it is actually a very beautiful looking boat. A couple of weekends of hectic work and a couple of weeks of two men working by themselves produced 70 kits.

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The packs were shipped to Ilo-Ilo by one of Kuton’s classmates shipping company.

And then the fun started: a four-day project with a target of 70 boats to build, with Fishermen building their own boats for the first time.

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One of the fun things was that it was easier for two boatbuilding teams to work together. So a lot of friendships made on the day.

This is what Filipino grit can achieve in a very short time.

We can help by providing funds. These will be donated to specific projects that are delivering excellent boats and building the skills of local people, and which I am able to track down with help from members of Pinoyboats.

These projects will also put the power in their hands to improve their own boat designs and do repairs without the slightest hesitation into the future.

Duckworks is collecting the money via one of its pages – as I mentioned earlier, $220 is the total cost for one boat, and smaller amounts will buy nets or contribute to building further boats. Duckworks will transfer the dollar amount donated, so Duckworks itself is effectively donating all the exchange, transfer, bank and institutional fees. I will put it directly in the hands of the active groups.

So please consider helping this exciting initiative! They will keep building as long as money flows.

Michael Storer

Replica 18th century shipwright’s workshop to be built at Buckler’s Hard

Buckler's Hard

This year sees the building of a new replica timber-framed 18th century shipwrights’ workshop at the old shipbuilding village of Buckler’s Hard by the Beaulieu River.

Once built using local timber, the workshop will become a centre for the teaching and study of traditional shipbuilding, working in partnership with the Portsmouth branch of the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC).

The school’s aim is to ensure the continuation of shipwright skills for the restoration of historic ships, and to support the traditional boatbuilding industry.

Nearby woodland will allow students to be taught about timber felling, conversion and storage.

The building project will also be used as a learning exercise, with students taught to use traditional tools and methods, and the building is planned to be raised in in early August 2014 using the traditional gin pole and block and tackle, and then pegged together with cleft oak trunnels.

Read more here and here.

1908 Falmouth-built rowing boat White Owl is restored and back on the water

White Owl arrives at the Museum White Owl Launch

The 1908 15ft rowing boat named White Owl has been restored at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

White Owl was built in Falmouth in 1908, by Jacketts Yard, which priced her at ten shillings per foot – one of Jacketts’ best known customers was the Newlyn School painter and photographer Henry Scott Tuke. See his entry at the Wikipedia website to see some of his works and for his story.

Although White Owl has undergone extensive work, she is said to retain much of her original timber.

The conservation and restoration was started by the well known local boat builder Ralph Bird before he died, and finished by a team of Museum volunteers led by Henry Wylie.

The team is now starting work on restoring a Mevagissey tosher.

Sea Queen was built at Mevagissey in 1924 by legendary boat builder Percy Mitchell – she was in fact only the second boat he built. The first stage of her restoration is being funded by a donation from one of the Museum’s trustees and the Museum is currently seeking funds to purchase the materials for the remaining work.

Percy Mitchell’s son Gary will be giving a lunchtime lecture at the NMMC 3 March next year, where he will be discussing his father’s life and work – he built no less than 360 boats ranging from dinghies to racing yachts. To book seats call 01326 214546.

Sea Queen

A lovely stained glass window

Peggy Bawn post re Stephen Adams window


This wonderful window showing a boat builder with his adze is one of 20 fabulous 19th century stained glass panels celebrating the trades of Glasgow recently reinstated at their original home, Maryhill Burgh Halls, Glasgow. Read all about it at the Peggy Bawn Press weblog.

We don’t get many stained glass windows here at intheboatshed.net, do we?