As much as I am keen to write about my more recent projects that I am currently excited by, I think it would be a better idea to show at least a little of the path I came down first. The job I have chosen is one from the time before I had an equipped workshop of my own, I worked with just hand and power tools either in other people’s workshops barns or boatyards and my tools were taken in and out of my little car each day.
I have always been busy as a working boatbuilder though the title is a little misleading, for most boatbuilders today building new boats is rare and most work is in the repair, restoration and general upkeep of existing boats and yachts. Restoration can be as big a job as building from new and in some respects more difficult. Laju is a Dragon class racing yacht originally built in Ireland in the 1930’s This is what she looked like when she came to me….
The job came as most do by recommendation. I had recently worked on a 5mtr class (similar boat) and two other dragons one of which was in a similar state to this one. The temptation with boats and very often the mistake that is made, is to spend time and money on the pretty woodwork and shiny surface whilst trying to avoid the foundations and core structure. A good boatbuilder will always address the structure first so for Laju it was keel off and ribs out.
Here she is with her deck off old ribs out and new oak ribs steamed and copper riveted in place. She is very fragile at this stage and care is taken not to let her move out of shape.
With the main hull structure and hull back to strength the deck is fitted and new deck structure and joinery are made.
With the hull caulked and faired and all joinery made she is painted and varnished, in this case by the owner. Unusually for a customer this one is in fact a natural craftsman himself, both gifted and capable he has been a great help to me on other projects since the restoration of Laju over twelve years ago.
Taking a boat from a weak and damaged structure, and bringing her through to (to be honest in this case) better than new, is of course rewarding. I was in my early twenties at the time with very little in the way of tools and even less of an idea of how to quote properly for work, but I had a great desire to prove myself and produce something beautiful. The owners also poured everything they had into her and I believe the three of us became part of an important chapter in Laju’s history.
When I see one of “my” boats like Laju, I see a part of myself, now adrift and making its own way, I like that, particularly when they drift unexpectedly back into my life. Something else I enjoy is knowing that with a restoration there is the history of other unknown craftsmen hidden in there too and I’m now part of the mix. I’m not a fan of restoration plaques, it feels only right to be lost in with the other craftsmen.