Ex-Academy student wins scholarship to build a Dorset lerret by eye

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lerritt-at-portland-1980s

Dorset lerret photographed on the beach. Click on the image to go to the
excellent Burton Bradstock web pages including some interesting photos
of traditional boats

Former Boat Building Academy student, instructor and Cornish pilot gig builder Gail McGarva will be back in the workshops from September to build a traditional Dorset lerret by eye.

Gail has won a £13,500 Queen Elizabeth Scholarship for the project, which is to take place under the mentorship of Roy Gollop, one of the few remaining Dorset boat builders who build this way.

She worked as a qualified sign language interpreter, but after she decided to live on a boat in Bristol became seriously interested in boats and trained at the Boat Building Academy – her course boat Georgie McDonald was a replica of the oldest remaining Shetland boat constructed in 1882. She was also was named the 2005 British Marine Federation Trainee of the Year.

Gail went on to an apprenticeship in Ireland, became part of a team building an ‘Atlantic Challenge’ gig, before returning to Lyme Regis and the Boat Building Academy to work as an assistant instructor and project leader in the construction of Lyme’s first Cornish Pilot Gig. She is a member of the Wooden Boat Trade Association and is presently building a second gig for Lyme Regis rowers in a shed next to the Academy.

The scholarship for the lerret project comes from the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, which looks for well thought out projects that will contribute to the pool of talent in the UK and reflect excellence in British craftsmanship.

She will take the lines of a historic lerret currently lying in an old barn in Dorset, and then build a replica by eye over six months – I think it will be very interesting to learn how close the ‘by eye’ boat fits the lines at the end of the project!

PS – The Academy will also be exhibiting at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show this weekend. Principal Yvonne Green tells me that they’ve got a much larger tent this year and, because several students will be bringing boats, pontoon space as well.

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