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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Hull’s 400-year old Inuit kayak, the Bonny Boat

Hull's Bonny Boat

Did you know that historic Trinity House in Hull has a traditional Inuit kayak hanging in one of its rooms?

It seems that Captain Andrew Barker from Hull commanded a ship called the Heartsease on an early 17th century expendition to Greenland in search of mineral wealth, and that while sailing they found an Inuit kayak with an exhausted Inuit inside. The poor man sadly died, but he is remembered by his kayak and a likeness of himself, and a nearby pub known as The Bonny Boat.

There’s a little about Barker here and here.

My thanks to Liz Davenport for alerting me to this story!

The extraordinary Harvey Golden, kayak legend

Harvey Golden in Folkspress kayak

Folkspress has a very nice article about Harvey Golden, voyaging kayaker, builder of traditional kayaks, and museum owner. Also see his museum website here and this YouTube demonstration of kayak paddling.

The article is an absorbing piece throughout, but the last line made me smile: ‘It was either a museum or a bonfire.’

That could reasonably be carved into the gravestones of amateur boatbuilders and keepers of traditionally built craft everywhere!