A-Z of courses: boat building

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The Independent Online

What is it?

A vocational course for people wanting to enter the marine industry or just to build boats for fun. There are courses at Falmouth Marine School, part of Cornwall College, and Pembrokeshire College. Courses give plenty of hands-on experience, so that by the end of a level 3 course people should be able to build their own boat from scratch using a range of materials from wood to aramid and carbon. There is an emphasis on practical skills, with most of the time spent in the workshop, and some time spent in lectures on boat building techniques, materials, health and safety and the marine industry in general. "We take people on and assume they know absolutely nothing about building boats," says Richard Davies-Scourfield of Pembrokeshire College. The idea is that once people are comfortable using the tools, they can be given a drawing and get on with a project under supervision.

Who studies it?

Students currently range from 16 to 83 years old and there's a good gender mix. There are school leavers, university leavers, people having a mid-life crisis and retired people. "All we really ask is they have an interest in boats and boatbuilding" says Davies-Scourfield who is happy to enrol people with no qualifications on the course and even people who can't swim or haven't been on a boat. "We had one student who was dyslexic and had had some difficulties studying but he took to this, appropriately, like a duck to water. He's now building super yachts in Italy."

Why study it?

Many people on the boat building courses don't have much boat building experience but are interested in the process. They first learn the skills they need and are then given the chance to work on a boat. Quite a few people study boat building after a university degree because, no pun intended, they've harboured a dream to build a boat.

But can I get a job in it?

Everyone who has completed the course at Pembrokeshire and who has wanted a job in the boat building industry has got one. Some decide they'd prefer to use the skills they learn for furniture making or the construction industry. Many people leave the course and are inundated with work offers, often taking jobs all over the world to build racing yachts and hi-tech power boats. Others prefer just to build small boats for their own use. It's a great way to travel and work at the same time. One graduate of the course from Pembrokeshire has worked in Australia, France and Sweden.

I am interested in the subject but I don't want to study it

There's nothing that says you must make your own boat to enjoy sailing them but there's no reason you can't potter around in the shed building your own boat.

Little known fact

There's nothing half so worth doing as simply messing around in boats. Or so said Ratty in Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows.