Monthly Archives: January 2015

On Developing a New Fascination

It was always the goal of this blog to encourage other people to contribute to it, lots of different voices is far better than just Ben’s! So without further ado here are Brian’s words on his experiences so far with Anchor and Sail:


My name’s Brian, I’m currently one of the four apprentices on the Anchor and Sail project. I’m based at the GalGael workshop in Govan where I work alongside Catherine, my fellow apprentice, Ben, the lead boat builder, and all of the other volunteers who so kindly donate their time and talents.

Before starting the apprenticeship I had very little in the way of woodworking skills or experience and virtually none when it came to boat building (I had fashioned some knees for the pram dinghy and shaped a mast and a gaff but that was just about it). To say that I was a little bit concerned that I would be out of my depth would be an understatement! It very quickly became clear, however, that with Ben’s help and guidance and Catherine’s support and camaraderie this was a challenge I was capable of meeting. That’s not to say there haven’t been frustrations and set backs along the way and days when nothing seemed to go right but with perseverance and determination I have so far been able to help deal with every problem we’ve faced.


Catherine and Brian peruse the plans from a higher vantage point

The first thing that we had to learn was the lofting process and to learn that we had to spend 4 weeks crawling around on our hands and knees drawing lines, rubbing them out and redrawing them, fairing 25 foot wooden battens, lifting and laying numerous little lead blocks, plotting heights, re-fairing the battens, redrawing our pencil lines in ink, realising that some of the inked lines were subtly wrong and had to be adjusted by 1/16 of an inch. Once we had plotted and inked all three line views (the profile view, the halfbreadth view and the body plan) and checked and rechecked that we had drawn just one boat in three different orientations and notthree different boats, we began developing the sections. That’s a topic in itself and takes a little careful thought to properly understand. Throughout the process things went wrong, we discovered mistakes in the plans or missing information; at one stage, three and a half weeks in, it was thought, for a few very horrifying hours, we’d have to paint over all our hard work and start again! Luckily Ben fixed the problem and we only had to re-fair a few waterlines. It was a struggle at times but hugely rewarding and to see our boat plotted out full size, ready to be built was something of a quiet triumph.

As a result of this process and of learning more and more about hand tools, their uses and limitations, I’ve come to have a deeper understanding and admiration for the people who, across the centuries, built boats in a far less forgiving world than ours and whose lives literally depended on them, and on them getting it right.

Anchor and Sail is a fantastic project, a way of connecting people with our maritime history, of keeping traditional boat-building practices alive and well in the heart of Govan and of building self-confidence, self-belief and new friendships. Come and join us, even if you’ve never even picked up a chisel or a hand plane before. You’ll learn a lot, about boats, woodworking and about yourself and might just develop that same fascination that I have, a fascination that makes me try again and again and again until I get it right.

Note: If this does pique your interest don’t forget you can apply to volunteer by following this link

Finishing the backbone

In the last few month’s we’ve made loads of progress on the West Coast Skiff in GalGael. First we had to complete the backbone assembly. This is the central component of the boat and it’s pretty key that it’s well put together.

Traditional Boatbuilding Keel

Cat and Brian are happy about the backbone!

From our lofting we could pull the exact shape of not just the keel but the other parts that make up the backbone. In the picture above the stem, the front of the boat, is the dark piece on the left and the sternpost is the dark piece on the right. Both are made from Greenheart. The long straight section is the oak keel that we milled from the huge board. Joining the keel to the stem and sternpost at either end are the knees. These are both made from elm, the curving laminations follow the shape of the boat and ensure that they are sufficiently stong.


Cat and Brian drilling bolt holes for the stem.

Once we had all these pieces made we had to assemble them, they are held together with numerous 1/2 inch thick bronze bolts. Throughout this boat we’ll be using only bronze and copper fastenings, both these metals have different purposes but are strong and have the benefit of not rusting!

2014-10-07 13.56.14 2014-10-07 13.56.28

While the keel was going together our dedicated teams of volunteers and participants were busy making the moulds. Each one of these is exactly patterned and shaped from the lofting to define the shape of the boat at a given position. Once the back bone was set up and ready the moulds stand on it at a given position, but first we have to set the keel up. And to do this we need a ceremony! About a traditional keel laying ceremony, next time!