Ant Mace skin on frame boat building courses at the historic Underfall Yard, Bristol

Ant Mace has been in touch to talk about some skin-on-frame boatbuilding classes that he’s running this summer. Here’s what he has to say:

I started building skin-on-frame boats out of personal interest alongside my other restoration work. It’s now the majority of my work. Mainly sea kayaks, but also some canoes and a skin-on-frame version of an Adirondack guideboat, which is a joy to row!

I’m running three kayak-making classes this summer. These are happening in July, August and September in my new workshop at Underfall Yard in Bristol. Students can choose between a modern design or traditional West Greenland-style sea kayak. Full dates are here

I love the combination of the traditional wood frame and modern skin materials. We make the frames from Western Red Cedar or Spruce with steam bent oak ribs, always bending by eye without moulds.  Each frame is custom-fitted to it’s paddler, and lashed and pegged together in the traditional way – without any nails or glue. They’re skinned by sewing on a ballistic nylon, then coated with a 2-part urethane (specifically formulated for skin boats). 

The finished boats end up beautifully lightweight, durable and strong. The lashed frame allows them to flex slightly when taking impacts, rather than cracking as a more brittle material would . I have a sample of skin that I use as demonstration piece when we have open workshops. Over the last 2 years it’s been abused by hundreds of visitors, with claw-hammers, chisels and rocks and is still going strong!

My new workshop is at the top of the historic slipway in Underfall Yard, and a stone’s throw from the lovely Pickle cafe. It’s a fantastic space to run the classes from – it’s much bigger and lighter than the old workshop. Best of all, students will be launching their finished boats from the same spot that iconic ships such as the Matthew were launched from!   

No experience is required to join a class. Last year I had students aged from 16-65 building kayaks.

To see find out more about the courses, see my website (www.shipshape.works) or drop me an email (hello-at-shipshape.works).

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Salmon netting at Berwick

This is salmon fishing on the Tweed at Berwick, using proper salmon cobles, just like it says in the books!

Watching how the two cobles we saw were being used, the wide bouyant stern and flat deck aft are clearly developed for carrying and paying out the net, which hangs in the water across the river. This is what the photo clearly shows. Once the net is across the river, the net is hauled in from the bank.

In the Tweed, the boats are pushed by people in waders as well as rowed, which I guess limits their size.

I guess two other design issues are that the boat should row well (maintaining its direction between strokes) despite that wide stern, and also cope with the short waves you see in shallow estuaries.

All of that explains why these boats have evolved over centuries to be this very particular knifing now, pronounced sheer and bouyant stern shape.

For more, see this article on salmon cobles by Mike Smylie. https://classicsailor.com/2018/04/scottish-salmon-cobles-smylies-boats/

Crowd-funded John Welsford Joansa launched at Faversham

Alan Thorne’s crowd-funded project to give as many local people as possible an experience of boat building culminated in the launch of a John Welsford-designed Joansa rowing skiff a couple of weeks ago.

Quite a crowd turned out, I’m glad to say! The name Bridget refers to the local plan to build a new lifting bridge over Faversham Creek, which would allow barges, smacks and other traditional boats to be moored at the top end of the creek once more.