About the Boat Building Academy
Lyme Regis Marine Centre is home to the Boat Building Academy which provides full-time, highly practical skills training with the emphasis on 'hands-in' learning. The school was founded in 1997 by Commander Tim Gedge, who is still a Director.
The Academy is on the provider's list for a member of the British Marine Federation and an approved City & Guilds centre.
Longer courses have City & Guilds certification attached but the training goes far beyond City & Guilds requirements and all 'long' courses are full-time, five days a week. Classes are under the direct supervision of at least one instructor at all times during the working week and students also have access to workshops in the evening and at weekends.
In recent years, the Academy has developed a programme of woodworking courses which are not boat-related but are based on the same philosophy as the boat building training: intensive and highly practical development of skills.
Building Boats as part of the 40-week course
Building boats as part of the 40 week course is integral to the Boat Building Academy's (BBA) training philosophy. Students learn by hands-on, 'start to finish' experience of the boat building process. Boats built are selected for their educational value and their contribution to the required sill set for each student. Students learn to project manage each build and work to deadlines, but do not work on commercial projects; the BBA believe it's vital that what students learn is not dedicated by the requirements of a 'job'. Students work on 'small' boats to avoid the repetitive work needed on larger boats.
The value of building a selected range of construction types is immense. Students experience the building process from obtaining plans to lofting, to ordering wood, to setting up moulds, to building the boat, to fit-out, to painting and finishing and the final launch into Lyme Regis harbour, project managing the builds at every stage.
Which boats are built or restored by a group is decided during the first three weeks of the course through discussion between students, instructors and the Principal. The boats must satisfy the Academy's overall training criteria in that:
- they are built in a range of construction types
- are no longer than 16 foot (although any visitor to the workshop will soon see they make exceptions)
- it is possible for the group to finish all builds by the end of the course (although again they will make exceptions depending on what the student's objective is in building the boat and what other boats are being built by the course).
Restoration projects can also be undertaken as part of the course. The Academy negotiates good discounts on the highest quality timber and fixings and fittings; it's therefore possible to make significance savings over the normal cost of building a new boat.
When potential students attend for interview, they discuss the advantages and disadvantages of building an 'own' boat, offering advice on which we feel is more appropriate in terms of your aims and objectives of the course. They do not guarantee that everyone who wants to can build their own boat.
At the end of each course (December for those on the February course, and June for August groups), the boats are walked in procession down to the sea and launched into Lyme Regis harbour.
Friends, relatives, students, staff and the town gather to celebrate the end of the course and cheer each boat as it goes into the water. The boats are a testament to the skills the students have gained, their launch representing the beginning of each student's new life as a boat builder. After the launch there's a ceremony in the main workshop where students are presented with their certificates.
Find out more about the Boat Building Academy here.
NEWS - January 2020 BBA Principal, Will Reed, interviewed on ITV West Country news - see here.