Most of us, probably, have dreamed at some time of living by the sea and waking to the sound of waves on the shore. Thomasin Sage clearly has, and from December to February this year she was a live-in student at the Boat Building Academy on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis.
Before joining the 38-week boat building, maintenance and support course Thomasin spent a year living and working in Japan as part of her Japanese degree.
When her time as an undergraduate came to a close, she could no longer ignore the lure of boats, her need to work with wood and the sea and the day after graduating she went to the BBA for interview.
Thomasin said ‘It felt like coming home’. Her hope now is one day to open a boatyard and take traditional British boat building to Japan.
Thomasin chose to build a Christmas Wherry designed by Walter J Simmons of Maine, which is based on designs for Lincolnville wherries developed for the Atlantic salmon fishery in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
It has a flat keel so she can be beached easily and will stand upright when ashore, carries a 102sqft standing lugsail and can also be easily rowed.
The original plans were for a traditional clinker build but Thomasin opted for the lighter glued clinker method. Although easily sailed and rowed, the original design was not ideal for taking an outboard motor and Thomasin wanted the boat to be as versatile as possible, so overseen by Academy instructors Thomasin modified the design, reducing the steep angle (rake) of the transom so that it would take a motor.
During lofting, the Wherry’s lines were extended and slight alterations made to the rudder plan. The extra length should also make her slightly faster under sail.
Given the strong glued clinked build, further modifications could be made to reduce the weight and bulkiness of the gunwhale and inwhale, but when it came to the rowlock swellings the original chunkier measurements were used.
The boat’s bright finish shows the high level of aesthetic consideration that has gone into the detail and structural parts. The dark Khaya (West African mahogany) laminated frames have an elegant steamed oak thwart riser, with oak thwarts and black thwart knees and a walnut joggled transom. The spruce spar and spoon bladed oars were all also made on the course.
Assisting Thomasin on her student build of the Christmas Wherry were students Alfred Dalby from the UK and Stefanie Bielowski from Austria.
Alfie spent 10 years living in Costa Rica with his family, helping out with the family restaurant. He is an artist and is fascinated by the practical, craft element of boat building. He sees the course as the beginning of a lifelong relationship with boat building.
Stefanie was a project manager for an NGO in Vienna but, looking for a change, went on to sail and skipper cruising yachts around the world.
Thomasin is completing a trial period with a traditional boat yard on the Thames, Alfie is working at Lots Ait Boatyard, a London yard owned and run by BBA graduate John Watson, and Stefanie began work at Spirit Yachts on the Monday after graduation.
The photographs are by Charlie Fawell, Emma Brice and Janine Cashin.