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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Life of a Boat Builder Part One

Over the past 37 years there has been a lot of changes in the way boats have been build and restored and the many different designs that have come and gone over these years.

When I started my apprenticeship back in 1977, I was apprenticed to an traditional wooden boat building company who only worked on wooden boats. They saw GRP as a sweat word and something to steer clear of.

During this time doing my apprenticeship on the Norfolk Broads I was able to see how designs of yachts and motorboats had evolved over the years. Some that had worked and others that had not, I remember one yacht that was built and was a prototype for a new at the time Broads half decker that had the one major problem that it nearly always sink itself when sailed downwind in a blow. The boat was built as a standing lugsail and the mast position right in the bow, although it was not Cat rigged. I I asked my boss at the time why it did this, he said the designer had been playing around with the mould positions and had brought the first mould a little more aft than in previous boat to increase its upwind performance , but had not foreseen that this was a tradeoff too far. On the other's in the class the mould was moved back forward and the other's did not sail themselves underwater when sailing down wind.

While doing my apprenticeship I got to learn a lot about working in cold damp places and using old methods to get the work done. Also the rule of measuring twice or even three times and cutting once and having this drummed into you from the start.  The boss was a firm and fair person, but at the same time would not put up with crap from anyone.

I remember the very first day I started working for him. I was a sunny August day, the 7th of August to be precise and I did not know what to expect. Would I be sweeping floor, making tea, in the end there was another apprentice who was just coming to the end of his apprenticeship with the owner and this apprentice took me under his wing and broke me into what was going to be my job.

The first job was holding the brass doll while he clinched the nails after had fitted a new plank in the dinghy he was repairing. So my first few weeks was taken up with working with this apprentice and learning the ropes so to speak.

By the end of September I was starting buy my tools that I going to use for the next 30+ years. I remember the tool man would come to the yard on a weekly or sometimes monthly basis and bring the tools that I had saved my wages to buy. A beech Mallet a set of wooden handle chisels and set of drill bits and No4 Smoothing Plane. So week by week I started to build up my toolbox and as I got more difficult work to do the more varied the tools became. The list is long and at the sametime I was building my tool collection up I was making myself a Toolbox to put them in. This job I was doing in my spare time after work.

Then the first autumn of my boat building career was upon me. This was going to be a shock to the system like no other.     

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