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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BBA student Francis Clarke builds a Bear Mountain Boats stripper canoe

Derek Thompson LRPS - Frank Clarke Chestnut Canoe - Boat Building Academy

Derek Thompson LRPS - Frank Clarke Chestnut Canoe Derek Thompson LRPS - Frank Clarke - Bob's Special - Chestnut Canoe Company Frank Clarke Bob's Special canoe - bow cramp method

Paul Dyer - Frank Clarke Canoe

Students on the long course at the Boat Building Academy often build a canoe or kayak rather than a boat, and that’s what Frank Clarke from Norfolk did this year, says regular BBA correspondent Emma Brice.

A professionally trained canoeist – but lacking a canoe – Frank chose to build a Bob’s Special – a 15ft open canoe from the Chestnut Canoe Company catalogue.

The canoe was modified for strip planking and drawn by Steve Killing who works with Bear Mountain Boats in the US. More information can be seen on the Bear Mountain Boats website.

Frank’s canoe is strip planked with Western red cedar and has oak rubbing strips, thwarts, decks and fittings.

Usually when building the hull the strips are held to the mould with staples until the glue cures, and then the staples are removed. However, Frank wanted to avoid the marks that the staples leave, and so he invented his own tool, which he named a ‘bow cramp’ for keeping the strips in place as the glue set. It worked a treat: click here to see the photographic diary of the build.

Frank says his project will always be a reminder of his time at Lyme Regis, as well as a demonstration of his craftsmanship.

Before the course Frank worked in various roles, from customer service to sales and taught English in China, gained qualifications in outdoor activities and completed a fine art degree in sculpture. However, he became seriously ill and was paralysed from the waist down for two years: on his recovering Frank joined the course in order to regain his career direction and re-energise his creativity.

Since graduating Frank has decided to become a teacher and hopes to pass on his skills and interest in woodworking and fine art.

The first photo of Frank’s bow cramp method was taken by BBA Administrator Gemma Stunt.

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.