When Am I a BoatBuilder

So in our pretty inadequate education system, according to Colchester Asylum I can call myself a Boat Builder after a 2 year apprenticeship that covered the basics and drowned me in pointless paperwork.

This is wrong.

In the good old days you trained for 7 years, worked in 3 different yards and only then could you claim to be a time served shipwright. That’s without mention of the conditions in which you were expected to work and the basic nature of all the machinery.

Due to the ridiculous health and safety enforcement these days most yards wouldn’t contemplate training an apprentice officially coz it would cost them too much money. The yard I am currently working in has received awards in the past for the number of young people they have trained, but due to the new requirements for health and safety that the schools now insist upon they can no longer train anyone at all. It is so sad that all these skills are not being passed on due to our blind folded and ridiculous governing bodies.

I ain’t having it though. I may not get a certificate at the end of it but I intend on serving my time. I already have a certificate from the asylum but its not worth the paper its written on and I’ve not once been asked to produce it.

Every time I think I’m getting better n I finally have that chat with a guy in the pub who asks what I do for a living and I reply with far too much arrogance “I’m a boat builder…glorified carpentry”. He leans back astounded and bemused and then disappears because he feels a bit emasculated when he said he works for vodaphone. The next day I’ll head into work, hit a brick wall, admit defeat and ask my boss or his dad for some advice. It takes a lot to get me to do this, generally speaking I will be close to tears, gagging for a cigarette and be covered in several bruises. I spend 5 minutes with either of these guys and I’m just like WOW you guys are boat builders…I’m just fucking bambi stumbling around trying to look like I know what I’m doing. With their hands like plates of meat, ridden with muscle after years of hard labour they never fail to solve my problems n wander off like they’ve just had a cup of tea whilst I stand in amazement and stare at what I thought was the boat building equivalent to climbing Mount Fucking Everest. Its moments like these that make you realise just how important it is to do those 7 years training.

I don’t know why our government insists on dumbing down the quality of vocational courses but it is not only insulting to the guys that do this stuff for a living but you are also just setting us up for failure. When we strut into a yard thinking we know it all coz you told us we did, what do you think happens? I pulled through it, mainly by blagging my way through everything but most people don’t. Now your complaining that we are not training enough young people for “these” jobs…buck up ya ideas big guys coz what you’re doing just ain’t working!

9 Replies to “When Am I a BoatBuilder”

  1. I think you will end up being a social commentator with your own column in some paper (or boat builders magazine). You will possible even write a great novel ))))))

  2. You are so right! Just not good enough, so many vocations are like this.

  3. Mike Pettenuzzo says: Reply

    Great piece. As someone who has spent the last few years trying to understand and learn about an old wooden boat. Bought every book I was recommended and hassled every one I thought knew what they were doing. I still haven’t a clue. I know just a little bit of that daunting feeling. Great to see someone is gonna carry on the skills.

  4. It’s a global problem, here in Terrace, British Columbia it’s no different, “Degreed Professionals” run the training institutes and they are basically clueless as to the needs of machinery and other hardware. So called “Safety Concerns” suck up all to much of the course time to little or no real benefit of the students. My last employer hired a farm boy as their newest apprentice, he was good, damn good, word got around town and another shop hired him away by the simple expedient of paying him 3rd year apprentice rate instead of first year rate. The employers loss, a few weeks later I left as well. You’re on the right track with the right attitude, as your skills set and reputation grow, the world will be your nut, have no worries in that regard.

  5. Stephen Brown says: Reply

    Oh this is going to be fun…

  6. There is so much to learn when rebuilding a boat that you will know how to build a boat when you are done!

  7. Get your boatyard (employer) to issue you a certificate after your 7 year apprenticeship and list ALL the aspects of training you completed. Start your own training journal in effect. It will be worth so much more, and when you interview for a job you talk to your certificate and journal and you will blitz the competition. You will be demonstrating you know your s..t. Just a thought!

  8. pete radclyffe says: Reply

    have you read richard birminghams book, also clinker boatbuilding and gaff rig by john leather

  9. It is a big problem here in the states also. I am the third generation to run our family boatyard, and finding help that has the willingness to work and learn is all but impossible. We specialize in wood boats, and my current helper is great with mechanical or finish work like sanding and painting, but laying out a plank accurately is beyond him. Hiring young people just doesn’t work. You can’t learn with a cell phone in your hand… I would hire you in a minute.

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