Feedback is an important part of life at the Boat Building Academy. 'Long' course students have regular individual review sessions with their Instructor and the Principal's door is always open to people who would like to discuss any aspect of the course they are on or the school. Additionally all students are asked for details of their experience at the end of the course. The courses have been honed and improved over the years by the implementation of student suggestions.
We keep in touch with graduates of longer courses through our Graduates' network. The comments below are a representative selection of what people have said after completing their course.
“I would like to make a complaint! Nowhere in the course information does it prepare you for the return home following a boat restoration course. I’ve been home for several days and it’s been quite rudely pointed out that there are apparently other domestic tasks apart from messing about repairing boats all day!
I have not been able to find a whiteboard anywhere in the house to pick my lunch choice. Indeed, when I suggested the purchase of a white board, this was met with even more rude replies!
Joking aside, I just wanted to say thank you to all the staff at the Academy for a fantastic course. The Instructors were excellent but also please pass on my thanks to the backroom staff, who worked to make sure my stay was enjoyable.
I shall miss Wendy’s lunches and hope to return for further courses in the future.
Ian Chatterton, Wooden Boat Restoration, February 2018
“Having spent the last 20 years in financial services, I was definitely on the look out for a change. I wanted to do something that gave me enjoyment on a daily basis and enabled me to express a creative side that was longing to come out. I have always been interested in working with wood, over the years building sheds, decking and restoring the odd item of garden furniture. So a fine furniture making course, working to fine margins with hand tools fitted? (well actually, I was made redundant so why not!) I heard of the course through a friend who spoke highly of it so I took the plunge. It was so different to anything I had experienced before, but I say with all honesty that I had a blast, learning every day and being given the freedom towards the end of the course to really explore wood and what I could do with it. I made loads of items in time for the final days show, with the pick of the bunch being my Steamer trunk bar.
I had accumulated many tools over the years and came to the course with ‘loads of gear but no idea’ now I am confident that this is the right career choice for me. I have a fully set up workshop and I have had my first commission. Loving the wood always.”
Andy Staines Woodworking Skills Class of September 2017
If you can learn and have fun at the same time (and get amazing lunches) what’s not to like?
Huge thanks to you all, it’s been a great week again.
“My boyfriend did the boat building course and I was impressed by the quality of teaching. The course exceeded my expectations in all regards: teaching, contents, hands-on, day trips to Hooke Park etc. This is one of the best training courses that I have ever done.”
Laure Mora Woodworking Skills Class of September 2017
“I did the 12 week woodworking skills course in the summer of 2017. I had found myself unexpectedly retired after 30 years as a GP. The previous summer I attended the one week short course and was hooked. The 12 week course exceeded my expectations on every level. Firstly, the place: the location is wonderful but the energy is extraordinary. Secondly, the students on the boat building course, the fantastic administration staff and Wendy with her remarkable breakfasts give the place an amazing vibe. The body of knowledge held by the instructors must be truly unique.
I have been fortunate to have had some great teachers in my time as a doctor but I have never been taught by anyone as inspirational as Will. His quiet expertise as he demonstrated a joint in 10 minutes that we would spend several days reproducing was one thing but the way he encouraged and developed our project pieces was the highlight. He quietly challenged and encouraged us to aim miles above and beyond the level we thought we could achieve. Every disaster (and there were many) was met with a solution. Being taught by a master craftsman was a huge privilege. Since the course I have built and equipped a workshop at home and I daily think of the huge amount of knowledge I gained in that 12 weeks. I cannot recommend this course enough.”
Mark Couldrick, Woodworking Skills class of May 2017
All aspects of the course were extremely satisfying. Cannot think of anything I would change. Thanks for a wonderful week.
I would just like to thank you and the team at BBA for a fantastic week. I thought the course was spot on. It covered a mixture of modern and classical woodworking techniques.
Mark, the instructor, was fantastic. I thought his manner, delivery and coaching was just brilliant. He always had time to help on an individual basis as well as in a group. As I started as a amateur in the field, Mark would encourage and guide in equal measure and I felt a he is a real asset to the course and BBA.
Please also pass on my thanks to Wendy in the kitchen, having her there is inspired and makes the logistic of the course much easier not having to worry about feeding oneself.
The course exceeded my expectations. Both instructors are incredibly knowledgeable, I liked the way they molded the course around my old boat. The entire group were very friendly. Everyone in the building were helpful. No criticisms at all. Sorry – I cannot suggest any improvements!
Just finished the GRP Repairs short course. Amazing how much we were able to cover in just a week. I got everything out of the course that I wanted and much more. Everyone there is very friendly and obviously passionate about boat building. Our teacher was very encouraging and made the course very enjoyable. I would recommend the Academy 100%.
I’ve had the honour to be a guest at the BBA since 2002, as a presenter of epoxy use and production techniques, I’ve got to know all the tutors very well and also Yvonne Greene, the Principal and Tim Gedge, who started this wonderful establishment in the late 90’s. They are all inspiring people.
I thoroughly enjoy my all-too-short time at the Academy and then even more inspiring whilst on my UK and European travels seeing course graduates working in the industry with immense credibility gained during their quite intense and demanding education in Lyme Regis. I’ve bumped in to ex students with successful boat building careers in Italy and Spain and also flagship UK manufacturers, and been amazed how several flourishing small boat building businesses have been created through time spent as a BBA student. In fact an ex-student works for our company!
What a perfect place to learn fantastic new skills and a great credit to those who have given their hard work, students and tutors alike.
Your college has set the benchmark for the future of training craftsmen, which has long been the biggest worry of traditional boat builders and repairers. You deserve to go from strength to strength, and I for one will recommend it to anyone looking for a career in our industry.
I have built some 4000 small boats and trained around seventy apprentices on small boat construction. Many of those apprentices now work for, manage or indeed own companies building and servicing large sea-going craft. By contrast, I was never able to integrate into the system those who came to small craft from the big boat sector.
Yacht Designer Andrew Wolstenholme and Boat Building Academy Principal Yvonne Green talk about Jack on Radio 4’s ‘Last Word’.
Definitely will be very useful for the project that I have in mind, which is to build a sailing boat for two people – a ‘Vaurien’ one design class. Modern Wooden Boat Building, July 2016
I’ve sent staff on courses at the Boat Building Academy and attended courses myself, both as a representative of the Imperial War Museum and personally. I can honestly say they are the best practical courses I have ever completed. As a result we now work closely together on appropriate projects.
I’m amazed how quickly the course has gone – but more so – how far I’ve come. Certain tools like the plane seem like second nature now! I’m really looking forward to continuing in my learning when I leave and hope to find a job in the field. Couldn’t recommend the course more, the college and staff are amazing and Will is a wonderful patient and knowledgeable teacher.
The course met my expectations. I enjoyed being able to work on a restoration project. Good practical information to start one’s own restoration project. Wooden Boat Restoration, July 2016
My visit to the Academy was truly inspirational. I found the energy and commitment of the staff to be second to none. Their dedication to their craft and the students, and their passion for excellence in design and technical skills, clearly explains the success rates that the Academy has, and the very high level of results achieved by the students. You truly are a centre for excellence in your field!
An extremely intense and rewarding course. Exceptional instruction, clear lessons and guidance with freedom to experiment and develop. C&G Level 3 projects are challenging and give a great feeling of progression. Workshop and equipment are excellent and well maintained. Overall this is the best course I have ever attended. Simon Murphy (WWS Class of January 2016)
The course either met or exceeded my expectations in all areas. I think the fact I did it twice kind of speaks for itself. Bella Bathurst (WWS Class of September 2014 & January 2015)
The course was fantastic – truly life changing and affirming in that I feel I’ve started to learn a craft properly, something I always wanted to do. Instructors were fantastic.
More than I could have hoped for. Excellent tuition from a master of his craft with excellent support from Steve. The administration of the course and overall running of the facility are also of the highest order. The whole place has a wonderful feel to it and now my daughter wants to come and build a surfboard! Chris Akerman (WWS Class of May 2015)
The course was fantastic. I loved the atmosphere of the Academy. I have learnt so much and felt I was pushed out of my comfort zone just the right amount. I have learnt so many really valuable skills and made great friends at the same time. Michael Clifton-Dey (WWS Class of September 2015)
The course is fast paced and intense, learning new skills every day. I never imagined I would actually be able to build a boat for my family and this is what makes the academy unique. The quality of training and instruction is first rate with a diverse knowledge base and I would recommend the 38 week course to anyone wanting to become a boat builder.
Considering a career in some form of woodwork, I signed up for the short course as an introduction. Spending eight weeks at the academy was fantastic. Being taught by such a highly experienced and engaging tutor meant I learnt a huge amount. Will was incredibly helpful and very patient, always on hand to offer guidance. Together the tutors and staff create an atmosphere of enthusiasm and passion for boat building and furniture making which is infectious. Beside teaching me a huge range of essential skills, spending two months at the school fuelled my own enthusiasm for woodwork. Upon completing the course, I took the chair I had built to a cabinetmakers and they offered me a trial; to help design and build a stool. From that they have offered me an apprenticeship. The course exceeded all my expectations and I greatly enjoyed it.
Hector Kennard, Woodworking Skills class of January 2013
Course content and instructor were excellent. Course leader led an informative, hands on and inspiring course.
I have watched the Boat Building Academy grow in stature, from its inception in 1997 when, along with the late Jack Chippendale and others I was asked to help with the short courses. There are two brilliant ideas that characterise the long course training at the Academy – firstly, the involvement of professional wooden boatbuilders within the training program provides the students with direct contact with working boatbuilders, a sense of the real world of boatbuilding, and a friendly face within the industry. Secondly, the facility, within the course, to build a small boat which, along with the satisfaction of completing your own boat, gives the very real experience of working to a schedule and a deadline. This is imaginative, relevant and quality training at its very best.
One of the many good things about the BBA is the very positive, supportive, encouraging and friendly atmosphere – which is particularly excellent for the long course students for whom the BBA is their ‘home’ for nearly a year. To achieve this is wonderful, and rare these days. Great! Modern Wooden Boat Building short course student, January 2012
I thought the course was extremely useful as a novice intending to go on the ‘long course’, it gave me much better understanding and peace of mind.
This course has fully met all my expectations and provided all the information I hoped to learn – it’s brilliant. The positive atmosphere and completely helpful attitude of instructors and students alike has been marvellous.
Many thanks for a wonderful week of great company and refreshing instruction. I went home each evening tired, but full of enthusiasm to rush back for the next day. I shall be looking out for the calendar of next year’s courses to try and come back again.
The Academy is an outstanding place to be and an oasis of inspiration.
Just one wee complaint about the Boat Building Academy: it wasn’t there when I needed it! And what was needed was . . .
1. Skilled experienced boatbuilders to show and explain all the intricacies and complexities of how boats are put together. Who also have the vital teaching skill to meet each individual student where he’s at; to find the fine balance of pushing him so he takes in as much as he can handle, without getting out of his depth. (Some good boatbuilders are very good teachers; some just can’t do it!)
2. Insistence on careful precise work, right from the start, so it becomes an unwritten rule, a habit, to give close attention to the tool in the hand, the part being cut and fitted, so the finished boat will be a fine piece of craftsmanship, fit for purpose and looking good. Though of course ideas of ‘quality’ are as variable as the builders. One wants professional finish, lots of brightwork, while another is quite at home with a more amateurish job. Maybe in painted workboat finish, rather than 12-coats-of-varnish ‘yacht finish’. Either way – or anywhere in between – a course at BBA, although perhaps mentally and physically challenging, often seems to leave the student surprised, that they have perhaps learned more than they thought they would, and have achieved a higher standard of quality and finish than they had expected.
3. A wide variety of craft building, in many different construction methods, traditional and contemporary.
4. A friendly stimulating environment of like-minded folk, full of enthusiasm and eager to share what they are learning, helping to encourage one another.
5. Some may wonder if being a student for a nominal year is as good as a 4-year apprenticeship, in terms of depth of experience, skill, and efficiency. A major difference is that with the limitations of time on the course, the work is focused, directed, intense. Without spending lots of time being ‘the boy’, and available for endless bottom scraping, floor sweeping etc. The BBA training is deliberately directed at preparing a trainee for planning a career in boatbuilding; indeed many do seem to be finding jobs with well-respected boatyards. While some are doing it just for the experience, for their own building project.
…I didn’t do the course with a view to getting a job, just to learn some woodworking skills and have a great experience. I did both of those things and realised at the end of the 9 months that I didn’t want to go back to the day job but wanted to see if I could follow up all the good work done on Anna’s (a fellow course members) boat and earn a living in the industry, that remains to be seen!
When I heard about the BBA – only a few miles along the coast from Weymouth, I had to investigate. To be honest, when I visited, it all seemed wonderful, but so far from anything I’d ever done before that I didn’t know if it would be the right place for me, but then some friends offered to lend me half the fees, and I just couldn’t refuse their generosity.
Before the BBA, I’d never used a jigsaw, nor a plane or chisel, and I have almost no memory of woodworking class at school, however the instructors were so helpful and clear in their instruction that I quickly picked up the basic skills. Then came lofting, and my ever migraine, but it was still an amazing experience! I had been sailing off the West coast of Scotland before going to the BBA, and had fallen in love with the old wooden boats I’d seen, and wanted to work on something traditional, so it was great to be able to participate in the build of a 17′ 8″ clinker Pilchard Larker; an open working boat….
I feel very lucky to have been able to attend a school like the BBA, and then to go on and be employed by two of the world’s top luxury boat builders, without having any other previous experience in the industry. The BBA gave me a mass of skills (many of which I had never heard of before); a love of making things, and a career and a direction for my life. I may not be living on a boat yet, but when people ask me what I do, I can now confidently say; ‘I am a boat builder’.
I’ve learnt so much since my time at the Academy, it was there that I gained the confidence and a basic skill set to pursue a career within construction. But I’ve still been building tables, chairs and other furniture for friends and family. I’m managing a million dollar construction project at the moment which is a real challenge and a massive learning curve but I’m really enjoying it.
Jack Pammenter, Woodworking Skills class of August 2010
For me, attending the BBA was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The pace is massively intense and the teaching is very no nonsense with a commercial focus but it is up to each student to put as much in as they want to take away. I put in a massive amount and graduated with so much from a beautiful boat to a life changing career and some great friends. It is also great to still have a link with the BBA when I return to carry out our epoxy talks and see what other students are building with our products.
The 38 week course really appealed to me as I didn’t want to spend several years at college not earning. I wanted to be exposed to new tasks quickly and pick up the skills then move on to the next job. Sometimes in education you feel that the tutors are talking for the sake of talking. I never got that feeling at the BBA. They are all like minded people who have had to get things done as quickly and as easily as possible in the real world and want you to be able to do the same. The second half of the course is mostly building boats from scratch. Whilst doing this you are learning all the time, even if you don’t realise it. You can be sanding for 5 hours but you have learned not to put so much filler on next time! Your personal progression is clear from the quality and speed at which you complete jobs as the course moves on. First time it might take a whole day, second time you might be finished by lunchtime and you wonder what took you so long before. Before you know it you are tackling something you would never have dreamed of doing and it turns out really well. Being immersed in the whole boat building environment and just walking around the workshop is a valuable experience each day. You can see how others have approached similar tasks and benefit from their mistakes and vice versa.
When I reflect back on my training at the BBA the thing which really stands out is how well structured and organised the training was. The level and breadth of knowledge I gained over the course and have since been able to build upon, went well beyond my expectations.
The knowledge I gained on the course was far greater than I expected. It has helped me tremendously in other aspects of woodwork. It was also great to work in the same workshop where so many beautiful boats were being built. That all just added to the whole experience for me.
The 38 week boat building course was an amazing experience, it challenged me both mentally and physically. When I began the course I had absolutely no wood working skills and by the end of the nine months at the BBA I was able to confidently work with wood and was the proud builder/owner of a 13′ larch on oak clinker rowing punt.
The course provided me with a range of practical skills that has enabled me to gain a foothold in the wooden boatbuilding industry and latterly has enabled me to be offered a three year funded PhD researching the Shetland Boat: its history; folklore and construction.
I left the BBA in December 2008 and I have been impressed by the continued encouragement and support the team have provided me. When in Lyme Regis I always enjoy popping-in for a welcoming chat and a cup of tea.” Marc’s boat ‘Defiant’ was centrepiece of the ‘Boats that Built Britain’ exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich that accompanied the BBC series of the same name.