BBA students build a Eric Hvalsoe-designed rowing and sailing dinghy in cedar



Photos by Emma Brice, Philippa Gedge and Jenny Steer

This lightweight Hvalsoe 16 rowing and sailing dinghy built in cedar was made by Boat Building Academy students Rob Murphy and Matt McGlade with the help of Matt Cowdery.

Read about the Hvalsoe 16 and its sister the Hvalsoe 13 at the website of  veteran Seattle boat builder and designer Eric Hvalsoe.

Rob wanted a boat that he could enjoy with his family, and chose this design as he wanted a lightweight boat that he would be able to use in protected waters and be able to launch by himself.

I gather Rob is ‘chuffed to bits’ with Skylark – he’s pleased with her light weight and finds it easy to manage, launch and recover the boat by himself. He has now sailing her in Poole Harbour and Stithians Reservoir – a fresh water lake in Cornwall – with his family on a recent holiday.

Skylark sails and rows very well and Rob says that his kids haven’t managed to break any part of her yet!

Rob has recently taken over a new workshop in Briantspuddle near to Bere Regis in Dorset and is starting a new boat building and repairs business to be called Blue Lias Marine. Once it has been set up, he has promised to let me know his web address, which I will post here.

Before attending at the BBA, Matt McGlade completed 20 years in the army during which time he acquired a range of useful skills. Having learned woodwork and boatbuilding at the BBA, he has now moved to Bolton, where he is continuing his studies.

Matt Cowdery who had previously worked on superyachts worked on Skylark in its earlier stages but moved on to a glass fibre restoration  project. He’s now working at Reading, building wooden frames for restored Bentleys – a line of work that that has a lot in common with boat building.

BBA students build a Whitehall rowing skiff


Boat Building Academy students Luke Cooper, Casey Milburn and Seby Rubatto built this 14ft 9in by 4ft Whitehall rowing skiff made of glued plywood this summer.

Luke, who is from Devizes, was 18 years old when he joined the academy and had just completed A levels – the story goes that he met BBA graduate Ian Thomson at the Southampton Boat Show and  immediately decided to sign up for the long course.

(Ian was at the show exhibiting his now well known Nestaway boats range of nesting boats, which he’d started to develop when he was on the 38-week BBA course.)

When Luke visited the academy for an interview before joining the course, he noticed a similar Whitehall skiff that 2010 season student Matt Cotterill was building at the time, and so Luke decided to build the same boat on his course. There’s a diary of Matt’s build here.

The boat itself was built from a Robert A Pittaway design obtained from the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, and appears in the book 87 Boat Designs – a Catalogue of Small Boat Plans from Mystic Seaport. The plan dates from 1973, and the original boat is said to be still in service at Mystic.

The book Aak to Zumbra- a Dictionary of the World’s Watercraft states that a Whitehall skiff was originally used on the Columbia River in the mid-19th century.

I gather Luke is pleased with the boat and plans to keep it as a rowing boat for himself and his family to use.

Before relocating to Lyme, Casey lived in Antibes in south-eastern France, raced Optimists and Lasers, and from the age of 15 began spending his holidays teaching sailing at Club Nautique D’Antibes.

He completed his Yachtmaster qualification at the age of 18, and then spent three years crewing on super yachts before attending at the BBA.

Casey has returned to France where he is working with friends developing a boat repairs and maintenance business.

Seby came to the BBA from Trieste in Italy – it was his first visit to the UK, and so he spent his time both learning boat building and improving his English. Seby has now returned to Italy and is looking forward to starting a career in boat building.

Glued clinker John Gardner Whitehall skiff launched by BBA students

Derek Thompson LRPS - Mark Cotterill Whitehall skiff on parade

Derek Thompson LRPS - Mark Cotterill Whitehall skiff on the water Tracey Marler - Mark Cotterill Whitehall skiff Tracey Marler - Mark Cotterill Whitehall skiff waiting for launch

Chelsea Davine - Whitehall skiff with Matt Cotterill and Yvette Smith newly engaged

Photos by Derek Thompson LRPS (first two); Tracy Marler (third and fourth); and Chelsea Davine (fifth)

Boat Building Academy students Matt Cotterill and Nuh dan Per built this glued clinker epoxy ply 14ft Whitehall skiff ready for the student launch in December, reports BBA staffer Emma Brice.

Originally from the Yorkshire Pennines, Matt worked in package design and 3D branding before throwing it all in and taking up the chisel in March 2010.

Matt chose the John Gardner-designed skiff because of its general similarity to the traditional boats of the Thames – he lives in the Thames Valley.

The boat, named Nicky Nacky Noo, was made using Gaboon marine plywood, with West African mahogany plywood for the sheer strake. Matt, who I gather showed clear evidence of his designer’s eye, and great attention to detail and craftsmanship, incorporated steamed timbers and various bronze fittings.

When it came to launch day Matt certainly added a dimension of his own to the schedule: surprised onlookers cheered as he rowed out on his maiden voyage, got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend Yvette. She said yes, and accepted the wooden ring Matt had made himself.

A local newspaper article about the newly engaged couple appeared under the headline ‘Bride and Boom’.

I should add that Chris Partridge of Rowing for Pleasure beat me with this story weeks ago, but it’s still a very cute tale.

With the course is over, Matt is setting up his own workshop to develop wooden products, inspired by the shapes and forms of boat building and using boat building construction methods.

Nuh, Matt’s main helper on the build, is of Turkish descent but was born and grew up in Germany and is one of a number of German students who have studied at the BBA. Nuh was an IT project manager for a car manufacturer before attending the course at Lyme. He is now pursuing boat building opportunities in warmer climates and hopes to move to Greece.

PS – Photographer Derek Thompson has signed up for the next BBA 38-week course due to start in March and attended the December launch day to see what he was in for. I guess he found out…