BBA students launch Dorset crab and lobster boat replica Witch of Weymouth

James Bird - Witch of Weymouth - Jack Soesman at the bow

Gemma Blathwayt - Witch Launch - BBA Gemma Blathwayt - Witch - BBA Tracey Marler - Witch of Weymouth -final touches and rigging BBA

Witch of Weymouth launch – thanks to James Bird, Gemma Blathwayt and Tracy Marler for the photos

Chelsea Davine - Class of March 2010 - BBA 1

BBA class of 2010 – photo by Chelsea Davine

Boat Building Academy staffer Emma Brice has written in with some photos of the last boat to be built and launched by last year’s student intake – and it’s also one that has become something of a local celebrity.

Witch of Weymouth has been featured in many local newspapers, on television, and there is a even three-part series currently running in Water Craft magazine under the punning title of the Baird Witch Project, a name that refers to a cult movie and to the policeman turned boat builder who led her building – Ian Baird.

‘The boat is also due to appear at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC) at Falmouth later this year.

‘Ian’s passion for boat building was ignited when he restored a 26ft Fairey Atalanta. Having absolutely no practical skills but with hope in his heart and love of a challenge Ian managed, with the help of more knowledgeable friends, to get her afloat again and in the process found something he loves doing.

‘The Witch of Weymouth, if you haven’t heard, is a historical replica of a Dorset lobster and crab boat named Witch of Worbarrow. Here is some more information on her history, taken from Ian’s excellent Facebook Group ‘Witch of Weymouth’ which has followed the build from stem to sail:

‘The original Witch was built in Weymouth in 1902 and rowed to Worbarrow on the Isle of Purbeck on one tide by John and Robert Miller. She served many years as a fishing boat on the Purbeck shores, later being converted to a gaff-rigged day sailer for leisure.

Witch was bequeathed to the National Maritime Museum in 1979 by her late owner, Philip Draper of Arne, near Wareham, Dorset, and as far as we know, she is the only Weymouth crab and lobster boat surviving.

‘108 years old and very nail sick, she is well beyond seeing the water again and so the rebuild of Witch gave us not just a chance to rebuild a piece of our maritime history, but also to find out how an unique craft performed to do its job of sustainably employing and feeding the people who lived in the Purbeck and East Dorset area.

‘The replica is a beautiful example of a sprit rigged, traditional clinker working boat. She is made of oak and larch – oak for the backbone, ribs, thwarts and so on, with larch planking. The mast, spars and oars are made with spruce. She is painted in the same style as her predecessor, with the paint lining the curve of the planking rather than marking the waterline, as is traditional for these boats.

‘Since completing his course Ian has begun work on a restoration project in Bridport, but he has many ideas on what he wants to do in the future, one of which is to recreate a sustainable in-shore fishing fleet using oar- and wind-powered craft.

‘Lending a helpful hand in building Witch was 23-year old Jack Soesman. Formerly a lighting technician from London, Jack has just started a month’s trial at A & R Way in Scotland, where he’ll be working with Mike Dyer, who graduated from the BBA seven years ago.

‘So, what’s happening at the BBA now? The September 2010 group promptly moved into the workshops to begin their boat builds on 10th January. The boats are coming along really well, probably due to there being a record number of 18 students (and a record number of 12 boats being built).

‘Nine boats have started already and are well past their garboards. Among those in the workshop we have a Paul Gartside 12ft clinker dinghy (set to be exhibited at this year’s Art in Action), an outrigger sailing canoe, a Yachting World Dayboat, and a Cayman carvel catboat.

‘Photographic diaries of the builds have begun and can be seen on the BBA website. Also, you can follow the progress of Diamond a 1827 Half Rater designed by Charles Sibbick and a Spitzl rowing boat, featured on the blogs’ of student boat builders Martin Nott and Uli Killer.

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