BBA students build a Robert Steward-designed Barbara Anne for the Thames


A crowd of around two hundred people joined the Boat Building Academy’s class of March 2015 at their student boat launch at Lyme Regis harbour in December.

The first boat built by the students during their 38-week training, to be launched was an 18ft7in electric motor launch named Barbara Anne.

Designed by Robert Steward, Barbara Anne’s hull is cold moulded using three layers of marine plywood and one outer layer of mahogany veneers. The outer layer of veneers were laid fore and aft to simulate carvel planking which were later bright finished. She has a laminated mahogany stem, sapele backbone structure and has been fitted with a Marlin 5 single drive (5 KW/48V) electric inboard engine.

Commissioned by student Mark Turner and built by Mark and the class, she will be enjoyed on the Thames. For those unfamiliar with the Academy’s methods, a range of boats selected for their educational value are built as part of the course, and are owned by the student(s) who pay for the materials

Mark joined the Academy from Buckinghamshire, where he worked as a financial director and controller for 20 years. Enjoying sailing, rowing and diving, and keen to change to a more practical line of work, he decided to join the 38-week course to learn skills for a new career in the marine industry.

Mark originally planned to build a sailing dinghy as part of his training but on a visit to Thames wooden boat builders, Henwood and Dean he became inspired by the river motor launches he saw and so decided to build one for himself.

Mark came across lines drawings for Barbara Anne in a magazine found in the Academy’s collection. Apart from modifying the plans to include an aft deck and enclosed lockers, he chose to remain faithful to the original design.

Peter Tysall from Ilfracombe worked alongside Mark on the build as well as working on the each of the other three boats built by the class. Before coming to the BBA, Peter completed A-Levels in media studies, art and design, and English, and spent time working and travelling around Europe, Indonesia, Morocco, Jamaica, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

He loves to surf and sail and has worked aboard several different sailing yachts as a deckhand. Enjoying this work and wanting to learn further skills to start a career in the marine industry, Peter

decided to take a course at the Academy.

Mark has now returned home to Buckinghamshire where he will work as a boat builder on the Thames, and Peter is exploring options to combine his new skills with further travel.

See Barbara Anne’s build diary here and for further details about the Level 3, 38-week boat building, maintenance and support course, click here.

Andrew Wolstenholme cold moulded electric motor launch built by BBA students

James Bird - Dick Stiles Electric Motor Launch (61)

Emma Brice Dick Stiles Electric Motor Launch Derek Thompson Dick Stiles and his Electric Motor Launch Emma Brice Dick Stiles Electric Motor Launch

Photos by James Bird, Emma Brice, Derek Thompson and Emma Brice – my thanks to all of you for permission to use these shots

Dick Stiles’ silent Andrew Wolstenholme-designed 13ft 6in electric motor launch was the cold moulded boat built by the March 2010 group, says BBA staffer Emma Brice – each 38-week Boat Building Academy course at Lyme aims to have a range of boat construction methods in the workshop.

Dick wanted to avoid a traditional build on this occasion because the boat, which he has names Bia 2, will be out of the water for long periods of time.

The hull is laminated mahogany with mahogany thwarts and seating, sapele decks, and oak detail for contrast on the covering boards. Dick used Douglas fir as a contrast for the sole boards and Emma says he did an exceptional job with the matchboarded veneer bulkhead.

A boat built to the same design was also built as part of student Phil Evans’ course in 2009.

In building Bia 2, Dick added a curved transom, modified the central thwart to house the battery – it has a hinged lid for access – and included a rear seat that conceals the converter and provides a water tight storage area and buoyancy.

Dick, who has dual New Zealand and British nationality, joined the course after thirty years in the oil and gas industries. He has now headed back to his home in Australia to set up a boat building workshop alongside his house there, in which he is to be helped by wife Maria who has herself completed the BBA’s eight-week woodworking skills course.

One of Dick’s main co-workers on the build was Ross Doherty, also from Australia, a project manager in commercial construction. Ross is now in India with his wife Lis to relax after a very busy nine months. On return they are hoping to settle down in the UK and begin a new career in boat building and begin family life, as they’re expecting their first baby.

The BBA website has a series of photos of the electric motor launch build, which strongly remind me of the early days of this boat building technique.