Stirling & Son is recruiting…


Devonport, Plymouth boatbuilders Stirling & Son are hiring skilled traditional shipwrights experienced in wooden boatbuilding and repair…

They’re based at the wonderful No 1 covered slip – which is said to be the oldest remaining covered slipway in any royal dockyard. It’s also the one with the famous statue of King Billy looking out over the water.

Check out the company’s website and posts about their projects here on

Boathouse 4 – an amazing new centre for teaching boatbuilding and shipbuilding skills training

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Some 500 adults and families are to have the opportunity to receive training in traditional boat and shipbuilding skills at Portsmouth’s Boathouse 4, I have been told by Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust projects coordinator Abi Isherwood.

Up to 85 students will be able to attend 47-week full-time courses courses provided by IBTC Portsmouth, a new charity to be operated by Nat Wilson of IBTC Lowestoft – Graduates will leave with valuable transferrable skills, equipping them for work in the maritime industry or indeed the wider heritage sector.

I gather seven bursaries will be available each year for those with enthusiasm and aptitude.

The figures Nat gave me don’t quite line up, but he’ll know best. He says the projected numbers are year 1, 35 students; year 2, 45; year 3 60; and probably plateauing out at about that.

He notes that these totals will include those doing the course for their own interest, those just taking a year out, those from abroad who will return to their country of origin and those who will move sideways into transferable skills jobs such as furniture making or green frame timber house building. Therefore, probably only 20-25 per cent of successful students will be looking for a career in the traditional boatbuilding sector and even some of these will go abroad, as do our existing students.

And I’m also told that Portsmouth’s Highbury College will also be delivering boatbuilding and engineering courses at Boathouse 4.

Apprenticeships are not on offer, but may be an option later, says Abi.

More information including details of courses is available from IBTC chief exec Nat Wilson at tel 01502 569663, email and the IBTC website.

Here’s the guts of IBTC’s press releases about their part in the project:

IBTC to open Portsmouth branch

In partnership with Portsmouth Naval Base, the new charity IBTC Portsmouth, is delighted to have been awarded a 3.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a further £ 455,000 from the Regional Growth Fund which will enable us to establish a south coast centre of our renowned College, in Boatshed No 4, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

The IBTC at Oulton Broad will continue to operate alongside the new centre in Portsmouth, working together to increase our profile, prestige and marketing efficiency.

At Oulton Broad and in anticipation of this event, we have taken a number of measures to augment what we already do. These include, the establishment of National Historic Ship’s UK East Anglian Hub for the Shipshape Network, a major Coastal Communities Fund bid and applying for charity status.

The CCF project will build our links with the Excelsior Trust, Lowestoft and access to its facilities, build and expand on the Hub concept, improve footpath access and establish a water taxi to run between Oulton Broad and the Heritage Quay in Lowestoft. We will also build on our sawmill facility to provide reasonable priced native timber to boat builders and furniture builders in the region.

Our landlords, Tilia Properties are also committing funds to major refurbishment works to our building including new insulated roofs, wall cladding and new doors and windows throughout.

Whilst the Portsmouth project is a fantastic chance to spread our training to the centre of south coast yachting and boatbuilding, we see our Oulton Broad branch catering for those living north of the M25, and northern Europe and Scandinavia. Here we offer a quieter more relaxed atmosphere than will be possible in the busy tourist attraction of Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

Traditional Boatbuilding Skills Project in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard secures Heritage Lottery Fund support

Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (PNBPT) is delighted to have received a grant of £3.75m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its Boatbuilding & Heritage Skills Training Centre project, announced today. The project, which focuses on preserving and celebrating valuable traditional skills, will be delivered by PNBPT and the IBTC Portsmouth, the new, south coast branch of the long established International Boatbuilding Training College, specialists in traditional boatbuilding training. The Centre will open its doors to the public and begin training in April 2015.

Boathouse 4, an iconic building within the Historic Dockyard constructed during the massive 1930’s rearmament period, will be restored and opened to the public as the Boatbuilding & Heritage Skills Training Centre. The Boathouse will become a Centre of Excellence for boatbuilding training, with IBTC Portsmouth and Highbury College delivering practical, intensive courses in traditional boatbuilding and related skills. The Centre will provide annual Heritage Bursaries, offering local people currently unemployed or disengaged with education the opportunity to undertake one year’s full time traditional boatbuilding training, leading to a City and Guilds qualification and an IBTC Portsmouth Diploma. Graduates will leave the Centre with valuable boatbuilding and engineering skills, enabling them to develop careers in the broader heritage and marine sectors.

Nat Wilson, CEO of IBTC Portsmouth said: ‘Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, as the centre of the nation’s maritime heritage, is the best location in the UK to deliver traditional boatbuilding skills training. We are looking forward to opening our doors in April 2015 and are already receiving enquiries from those wishing to take up our range of courses.’

The Centre will also offer many opportunities for people to get involved with and learn about our maritime heritage, including short courses and family weekend programmes, sessions with local schools, a summer festival, and an extended volunteer scheme offering mentoring and skills training.

Visitors will be able to watch traditional boatbuilding in action as well as enjoy fun, tactile and engaging exhibitions on the building and the fascinating story of small boats in the British Navy, including the display of several small craft from the Trust’s own collection. The Centre, based in the very boathouse used during World War 2 to construct the secret three man midget X-Craft submarine, will be the perfect setting for visitors to discover the astonishing history of small boats in the Navy, from Captain Bligh cast off the Bounty in a 23ft launch to Ernest Shackleton’s legendary voyage to South Georgia in the James Caird.

Peter Goodship, PNBPT Consultant Chief Executive said: ‘The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will increase diversification in the Historic Dockyard, leading to meaningful community engagement and greatly enhanced prospects of employment for those taking the training courses. It is also significant that Boathouse 4 will be used for the purpose for which it was originally built, bringing alive part of the civilian story of the Dockyard, as well as giving a new slant on the history of the Royal Navy.’

Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: ‘This is a great opportunity to provide in demand and popular heritage skills training. The project will recreate the industrial past of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s impressive cathedral-sized boathouse which was so crucial for rearmament on the South coast during World War Two. We are passionate about helping people learn new skills so our great maritime heritage can be enjoyed and maintained for the future.’

As well as securing the future of Boathouse 4, the skills training opportunities delivered within this project will help to create the next generation of craftsmen to preserve iconic ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. IBTC Portsmouth students will spend part of their course at the Shipwright’s School to be established at the historic shipbuilding village of Buckler’s Hard on the Beaulieu River, enabling them to further develop the skills required for the construction and restoration of larger vessels.

Dominic Tweddle, Director-General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which owns HMS Victory, said ‘HMS Victory depends on traditional craft skills for her very survival. It is splendid that there will be a centre at the Dockyard which can train the people Victory desperately needs.’

The project has also received £479,000 from the Regional Growth Fund, a Government initiative supporting large projects with the potential to create long-term private sector jobs, as part of a £1.3m award towards PNBPT projects.

Victory Class racing yacht for restoration at Portsmouth

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Victory Class keelboat free for restoration

Victory Class keelboat free for restoration Victory Class keelboat

Victory Class keelboats

This super little Victory Class keelboat ideal for racing and daysailing is available for restoration – and from the class website it seems there may be one or two others available on a similar basis.

These photographs were taken on a recent trip to Portsmouth by Julie, who knows a nice boat when she sees one. Thanks Julie! My spies are everywhere…