A CASE FOR TRULY TRADITIONAL BOATBUILDING
The massive resurgence of interest in ‘heritage’ and traditional craftsmanship in recent years suggests there’s a widespread loss of confidence in modern values, a growing concern that modern materials lack sustainability and a yearning for something honest and reliable.
The romance of boatbuilding has acquired a more universal appeal. Perhaps people are finally waking up to the fact that our society desperately lacks manual skills and that building a boat is just about the most creative thing you can do with wood”
For most of my working life I’ve been repairing and sailing historic vessels of various sizes. As a craftsman, this has given me an understanding of the use of appropriate materials whilst introducing me to a host of traditional skills. In my experience, traditional methods and materials rarely combine happily with modern ones. The result is usually a compromise – both technically and aesthetically.
My approach is to avoid compromise altogether by embracing traditional building wholeheartedly! It is only then that we begin to understand the virtues of some of the old techniques. If you want a traditional boat then let’s aim to build it that way from the outset with the confidence that grows from an intimate knowledge of old techniques and materials.
Then we’ll be creating something honest and reliable, something that doesn’t merely hint at tradition but feels, smells and matures like the real thing!
BUILDING A BOAT FROM SCRATCH IS JUST ABOUT THE MOST CREATIVE THING WE CAN DO WITH WOOD.
It is also a golden opportunity to put these ideals into practice to produce a craft that will be infinitely more worthy and rewarding for you and for future generations. So, please get in touch!
A NEW ROLE FOR TRADITIONAL BOATBUILDING
During the 1970’s, like so many of my generation, I left my home town of St Ives to the tourists, choosing instead the more work-a-day atmosphere of Falmouth’s waterfront.
About 30 years later, I was launching the punt which I’d built as a tribute to my father at St.Ives. The enthusiastic response from the small crowd that had gathered seemed quite disproportionate for such a modest craft which, clearly, must have symbolised so much more. It dawned on me that traditional boatbuilding had acquired a modern social relevance: it had the potential to revitalise fragmenting communities such as the full-time residents of St.Ives.
After forsaking the place for 30 years, it was time to try to make a difference….
I decided to use my boatbuilding skills to try to reintroduce an element of integrity which I felt modern values and an over-dependence on tourism were erasing from our lives. I began researching a sailing boat to replicate and discovered that St.Ives once had its very own fishing boat known as the ‘Jumbo’. It was the perfect solution!
THE ST.IVES JUMBOS.
The Jumbos were a small class of open, double-ended luggers introduced exclusively to St.Ives during the mid 1880’s. The modern Jumbos are replicas of a design by the renowned boatbuilder William Paynter. I hoped sailing them would encourage people to engage with the sea and each other and even kindle a sense of pride in the town’s almost-forgotten heritage.
The idea caught the public imagination and took off.
Today’s Jumbos are operated by the St.Ives Jumbo Association – a charity of some 450 members.
Clearly, this model could easily be adapted to benefit other coastal communities and would provide an exciting opportunity for any boatbuilder with a passion for heritage.
Thanks for your time.
Jonny. Jan 2021