Boat Building Academy students Jonathan Howard and Tom Moran have built and launched an Iain Oughtred-designed Acorn Skiff. The photos are by Jenny Steer and Becky Brown. Some 13ft in length, she is planked in 6mm gaboon-faced marine ply, using glued-clinker construction.
Five years later, Jonathan came back, and chose the Acorn Skiff for its light weight and elegant design. Her glued clinker construction will be simple to maintain and she’ll be easy to transport.
Tom enjoyed working on each of the boat projects built by the class but particularly enjoyed the detailed and delicate woodworking involved with the Acorn Skiff and the planking of the larger Nordlands boat (report to come). Tom has a BSc in applied geology and before coming to the academy worked as an exploration geologist in Zambia and Australia, analysing extracted coal, copper and gold. Tom came to the academy as a way of starting a new career as a boat builder, and soon after graduating, started work at Stirling & Son.
Jonathan has now returned to work at the BBC and will use his increased skills in his spare time to make furniture.
He decided to name his new dinghy Dash of Lyme, to reflect where she was built, and his time on the course which he says dashed by.
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Classic Sailor is a new magazine about traditional and classic boats from ex-Classic Boat editor Dan Houston and colleagues that promises rather more coverage of the traditional craft around our coast. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Follow me on TwitterLooking for something?This is a busy weblog, and what you're looking for is probably still here - just a little way down the list now. Our Faversham-based friend Alan Thorne can help with boatbuilding projects - constructing to plans in very tidy stitch-and-glue or more traditional techniques. To wooden boat enthusiasts around the world, the name Iain Oughtred invariably invites a warm and knowing smile, a nod of instant recognition and respect. In the solitude of this remote and idyllic rural setting he’s able to focus uninterrupted on perfecting the lines of his boats. His cluttered kitchen cum living room doubles as his studio with plans, books and filing cabinets, photocopiers and his drawing table all crammed into a space barely big enough to house one of his dinghies. Although he was born in Melbourne and brought up on the shores of Sydney Harbour where he learned to sail, Iain has always been deeply aware of his strong Scottish family ties.
He was travelling through Norway in an old camper van in the mid-1970s when he first saw the lovely traditional Faerings afloat in the fjiords between Oslo and Bergen.


Up until that time he’d been a footloose drifter, a sometime model maker, instrument maker, van driver and leather worker. Iain Oughtred has never trained as a naval architect although he worked with several long enough to absorb the basics. Neither is he a trained professional boatbuilder, but a gifted amateur, a perfectionist who has built scores of beautiful boats.
Although the meticulously drawn plans for Iain’s boats are sold to professional and amateur builders throughout the world, the life he chooses to lead on Skye is one of frugal austerity.
Struan Cottage, his 140-year-old stone home, is sparsely furnished and generally goes unheated, even in the bitter depths of winter. Iain deserves much of the credit for having sparked the long awaited wooden boat revival in the United Kingdom. Thirty-odd years ago when he took his Acorn skiff down to London for the fledgling traditional wooden boat show at Greenwich, her lovely lines drew plenty of admiring glances, but no orders. In the United States on the other hand, traditional wooden boat enthusiasts not only treasured their old vessels, they also inspired others to build classic boats of their own. When the traditional wooden boat revival eventually took off in the UK and Europe, Iain found himself front and centre as one of its leading lights. I wonder whether the Cox name here has any connection with the wonderful old singer and melodeon player Harry Cox? By the way, he was the real source of that famous old song, The Black Velvet Band, among others. Postscript: two pals have been in touch following this post, Paul Davenport (see the comment below) reveals that this is his home area and there is a family connection between the boatyard Coxes and old Harry Cox (Catfield is close to Stalham, and half-way between Barton and Hickling Broads), while Pete Stockwell said the shed in question used to be a venue for parties back in the days when he used to sail Norfolk punts. Nearly two weeks ago now we finally met the Home Built Boat Rally folks at their annual meet at the Barton Turf Adventure Centre. As I write many of the Home Built Boat Rally folks are currently making their way from Lechlade in Oxfordshire down to Pangbourne for the Beale Park Thames Boat Show.
As well as sailing tuition, the Barton Centre caters for groups involved in boating, ecology and nature study and it’s difficult to imagine a better place for these activities. The skiff has a laminated khaya stem and apron, and her hog, keel and pretty wineglass transom are sapele. Try scrolling down, clicking on the 'older posts' button at the bottom of this page - or try the search gadget! His distinctive wooden boats are renowned for the elegance of their traditional lines and for their timeless style and character under oar and sail.


It may be a handsome clinker-built Acorn Skiff, a double-ended Ness Yawl, a flat-bottomed dory, a sprit-rigged Caledonian Yawl or any one of his 110 designs.
His mother’s forebears were Hendersons from Orkney and he says he has always regarded Scotland as his spiritual home. I asked him what it was about Scotland and Skye in particular that had made him feel so very much at home.
Some, like the Faerings and the Ness Yole or yawl, have a lineage that goes all the way back to Scandinavia at the time when the Vikings ruled Scotland’s Northern Isles. Shaped by hand and eye, they had evolved to an easy, seaworthy perfection over centuries of use in all weathers. Now he had a Vision, a Mission that would ultimately see him play a pivotal role in the worldwide revival of interest in traditional wooden boats. He is instead a gifted, intuitive designer, someone with a rare natural ability, and an unerring eye for the sweeping curves that come together in a sublime hull shape.
He copes with the cold by piling on more and more layers of wool and becomes so immersed in his work that he says he scarcely notices the ice forming on the windows.
At that time, Britain seemed to have turned its back on its long and venerable tradition of wooden boat craftsmanship, opting instead for a convenient modern alternative in soul-less fibreglass.
Iain Oughtred’s beautifully drafted designs arrived at precisely the right time and his name quickly became synonymous with distinctive boats immediately recognisable for their aesthetic appeal and their performance. The fact that we could camp made the cost of the course affordable, and the Fishwick family who largely run the place couldn’t have been more kind and helpful during our stay.
He prefers to allow his boats to speak for him and they are eloquent in their testimony to his creative genius.
They were so beautifully simple, and their lines so perfectly suited to their purpose that he felt compelled to stop and make detailed pencil sketches on the spot. And besides, he points out, the kitchen kettle is always close at hand for a warming cup of tea.



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