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.

Video: hot-nailing a traditional crab and lobster boat’s timbers into place

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Over at the Boat Building Academy at Lyme, Ian Baird has been making progress on his replica of the Dorset crab and lobster boat Witch of Worbarrow. The timbers of the new boat named Witch of Weymouth have gone in, the gunwales are now in place and the spars almost completely made.

He also gave me the link to this splendid Youtube film clip of the process of hot-nailing her steamed timbers into place. It looks wonderfully frantic to me!

On the boat herself, what’s left to complete are the knees, thwarts and finishing, which must all be in place by the time of the grand student launch on the morning of the 9th December. If you’re in the area and are interested in boats and craftsmanship, do get along!

For more posts in this interesting boat and its origins, click here. Also, look out for a series of three articles describing the build, the first of which is scheduled to appear in the magazine Water Craft in January.

Ian Baird’s replica of a Dorset crab and lobster boat in the workshop

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Ian Baird's Dorset crab and lobster boat at the Boat Building Academy

Boat Building Academy student Ian Baird’s project to build a replica of the rare Dorset crab and lobster boat known as Witch of Worbarrow during his course is continuing apace, as it must to be be ready for the big launch on the 9th December.

For more posts relating to Witch and Worbarrow, click here.

Ian, who was a novice woodworker at the beginning of his nine month course at the BBA, has been commissioned to write three articles on his experiences for Watercraft Magazine. The first of his articles will be published in January 2011.

“The centreline structure went together reasonably simply, but the first three planks on either side were really difficult for a fledgling boat builder,’ he reports. ‘The garboard and plank above both return onto the keel and the stern post at an awkward angle and there was a good deal of steaming, rabbet altering and scratching of heads, but we got it right in the end. The third plank was a bit of trouble too, with a tight curve onto the transom, but we are now banging on a plank a day.’

Ian says there has been a lot of interest in Ian’s project: ‘We originally put out a press release to try and winkle out any information we could about the original boat’s life and times, but the response has been more than I could have hoped for.

‘Interest from, local television news and local papers has reached an extraordinarily wide audience and many people have come forward with information and pictures for which I am extremely grateful.’

A pictorial diary of Ian’s project is available at the BBA website.

The launch of the BBA’s March 2010 project boats will take place in the harbour at Lyme Regis, Dorset, at 9am on Wednesday 9th December 2010.

Want to learn more about boatbuilding using the clinker technique? Try John  Leather’s book Clinker boatbuilding at the revived A-store.