BOATBUILDING may be a dying skill nationally but it’s having a renaissance in Portsmouth thanks to this team of talented craftsmen.
For the past year Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Boathouse 4 has been the home of the city’s International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC).
And yesterday saw the first batch of 10 students on the inaugural 47-week course graduate after having honed their skills in traditional wooden boatbuilding.
They have come from all walks of life, with some either looking for their first job or to learn new skills, while others have sought to jump ship and change careers entirely.
One of those on the course was Alex Brown. The 47-year-old dad-of-one started life as an estate agent at 17 before becoming a chartered surveyor.
After a tricky year out from work, Alex, of Petworth, is now set to begin his new career in boat restoration.
It feels really nice to be part of history and carry on the legacyRichard Atherton, 24
‘There is a risk but a lot of people do it now,’ said Alex after his graduation ceremony.
‘You hear of plenty of people changing careers part way through.
‘It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s been incredibly rewarding.’
The students spent three months in Boathouse 4’s joinery learning key skills of the trade, as well as how to create their own tools.
They were then given the chance to restore real boats, from working on the historic Lively Lady, which circumnavigated the globe, to restoring an iconic Falkland landing craft.
Richard Atherton, 24, of Petersfield, was another one of the college’s intake to complete the course.
He said he is now looking forward to a new career and hopes to move to the west country to build boats.
‘It feels really nice to be part of history and carry on the legacy,’ he said.
‘Today’s been a really proud moment. To be at the end of it feels like quite an achievement.’
Nat Wilson, chief executive, of IBTC, said the students had been fantastic.
He added there was a high demand for their skills.
‘It’s a sector that doesn’t have enough people in it,’ he said.
‘Fifty-four per cent of wooden boat owners can’t find someone to repair their boats so there’s a gap to fill.’
He added: ‘I’m very proud of them all.’