About the Stem to Stern Heritage Training Project

The Stem to Stern Heritage Training project is based in Woodbridge, Suffolk, using networks spreading to the South Coast and the West Country; it was formed to keep core boatbuilding skills alive – skills essential to maintain and restore historic and traditional vessels. At the heart of the scheme is the traditional model of an apprentice working for up to 4 years alongside experienced shipwrights whilst also being monitored and assessed against recognised NVQ standards to level 3. Alongside the NVQ the second aim is to inform children and young adults about their local sailing tradition and create an awareness of individual traditional sailing vessels and their origins.

Tim Smith was offered an apprenticeship after the team saw how dedicated and talented he was during his time as a volunteer on an introductory project. Tim had completed his latter part of NVQ level 2 City and Guilds 2451 Boat Construction, Maintenance and Support with Lowestoft College when he started the Project and had experience in Carpentry and joinery prior to the Boatbuilding Course.  The Project offered him the opportunity to gain experience and continue his training to NVQ level 3 Marine Engineering – Pathway T Wooden Yacht and Boatbuilding.

 The Training Project began in May 2010, initially with funds for 6 months. After a brief period assessing Tim’s aptitude and ability, a training period of a maximum of 3 years was set, including a degree of flexibility and reviewed at intervals by shipwrights and the apprentice. Raising funds has continued throughout the project usually working 3 to 6 months ahead.

The vessels

Pembeth of Clyde – registered historic vessel, fishing smack built by Aldous in 1906. Tim constructed a new hatch cover, made repairs to coach roof and deck, alerted the owner to significant leaks for which he made emergency repairs preventing the ingress of water below the waterline; he was part of a team of up to 8 people, under the supervision of shipwright Michael Emmett, working on the slip to overhaul and make repairs to the vessel to keep her in sailing condition (May 2011).

Mist – a classic canoe yacht built by Albert Strange in 1906.  Working with John Krejsa* on the complete rebuild

Kate/Sunbeam – registered historic vessel, a Scottish Zulu built by Hays of Lerwick in c 1906. Tim had the opportunity to see work below deck and examine the rebuild of the hull and deck structure using historic records, drawings and photographs.

Rock of Ages – registered historic vessel, a clinker double ender by Gostellow of Boston in 1916. Restoration continues with Michael Emmett and Bruce Chapple.

Black Rose – 50ft wooden ketch, based in Woodbridge, Suffolk and built in 1999. Spar repair and construction.

Sea Ranger 12 – A 12 foot clinker built, gunter-rigged, general purpose dinghy which is still in use by the Gunfleet Sailing Club in Brightlingsea. Helen Kemp is coordinator/Project Manager.

The Shipwrights

John Krejsa;* Melton, Woodbridge.  Previously of Whisstocks and Robertson’s at Woodbridge, who has experience of mentoring apprentices.

Michael Emmett; Articled Shipwright and Charter Skipper who has organised successful apprentice training.

Bruce Chapple; Boatbuilding technician/Mentor


Spring/Summer 2011

A number of visits were organised for Tim in the Spring of 2011 the first of which was a 3 day visit to Devon. The initial port of call was Topsham to visit a unit on Topsham quay which specialised in traditional hand tools for such crafts as boatbuilding.
Under the guidance of Michael Emmett and Bruce Chapple, Tim was able to assess a range of tools and make a core selection for his work. The second day was spent in Brixham to see some ongoing restoration projects and Tres Hombres a brigantine trading under sail. The last visit was to an extensive and established marine reclamation centre which was an opportunity to explore a range of original and reproduction artefacts available for classic and heritage vessels.

Summer 2011

Visits included a trip to Tommi Nielsen’s in Gloucester Docks where Tim was shown the current projects and gained valuable insight into what was expected in the trade both in discussion with Tommi and his business partner Sarah. Visits were also made to Bristol Docks to see Underfall Yard, look over ss Great Britain and have a tour of The Matthew and have a discussion with the lead shipwright about the challenges of her construction. Tim also had the opportunity to discuss work opportunities with yards on the waterfront both in Bristol and during a final visit to Poole in Dorset.

Autumn 2012

A visit was made to the Windermere Steamboat Museum (see below).


August 2011: Apprentice Tim helped work on the complete rebuild of John Krejsa’s Albert Strange yawl, Mist, and helped replace the deck and cabin structure.  During the Autumn, he worked on Rock of Ages at Mel Skeet’s yard under a large tent with power available, allowing Tim to have the opportunity to work on a vessel of different construction and purpose from Mist.  The Stem to Stern Heritage Training Project continued to support Tim in his development, introduce him to local organisations, boatbuilding businesses and shipwrights and organise visits to yards (see above).

June 2012: Tim Smith was awarded not only Boatbuilding Apprentice of the Year, sponsored and presented by Peter Aldous MP for Waveney  but also Student Achiever of the Year Award, sponsored by the Lowestoft Journal, at the Annual awards ceremony at Lowestoft College. Nominated by course lecturer, Andy Barratt, and Employer Training Officer, Jude Parr, for his commitment.  Tim is the second boatbuilding student from the College to win the top award and follows in the footsteps of James Dennis, who won the first ever Student Achiever Award when it was introduced in 2002.

Summer 2012: Tim was able to help crew Black Rose, Michael Emmett’s 50 ft wooden traditionally built ketch, to Belgium and back. Upon return Tim worked under Charlie, Head Shipwright at Robertson’s, to repair Black Rose and help laminate an entirely new mast.  Black Rose is the successor Mike’s Maldon oyster smack Ostrea Rose, and is based at Woodbridge on the River Deben. 

September 2012: Tim helped crew Black Rose to St Katherine’s Dock for the Thames Festival where he acted as guide to Black Rose explaining aspects of her construction and took the opportunity to visit a number of other vessels including a Chinese junk, historic sailing barge May and the historic steam
tug Portwey, where he was given a tour and explanation of the engines.

November 2012: Tim Smith invited to work alongside Adrian Stone and his team and the Windermere Steamboat Museum to gain valuable insight into the conservation and restoration process first hand – the fresh water steam vessels housed at the Museum offering a contrast with the coastal sailing craft on which he has previously worked. During his four day visit, Tim was involved in:

-          Propshaft alignment and replacement

-          Surveying 1760’s sailing vessel

-          Preparation and hull caulking

-          Measuring for replacement keelson and keel sections

-          Welding practice

-          Monitoring and recording environmental conditions.

All of these tasks were set within the context of the decision making process required by Maritime Conservation. 

February 2013: A core part of the Project was to give Tim the opportunity to build his apprentice piece, a dinghy built from scratch, with the aim of increasing responsibility, speed and skill.  A Sea Ranger 12 has been selected, in liaison with the 5th Woodbridge Sea Scouts, with the Sea Ranger to be donated on completion.  Originally built in Brightlingsea, Essex, the Sea Ranger is  a 12 foot clinker, gunter-rigged, general purpose dinghy.  It is an enduring regional design, which in its day went national.  An important part of the project is to offer the Sea Scouts a chance to understand the construction process and participate in the maintenance of the vessel, together with sailing her. 

 Tim is again working with John Krejsa (shipwright*) and between them, they have experience of the Sea Ranger design in the guise of Swallow, a possible early prototype.  Tim is currently working hard having just begun to loft for the dinghy while also attending a Level 2 Welding Course at Lowestoft College one day a week.


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