As a NAS member, Ben Saunders recently had the opportunity to participate in a free boat building workshop with the Dunoon Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) project. Here he tells us about his experience that started with a watery commute…

As someone with a background in amateur boat repair I was delighted to take part in the traditional boatbuilding skills workshop through the Dunoon Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme We are Building a Beach-hut project.

Sketch of the beach-hut to be created

Every commute should include at least one boat ride and when I stepped onto the Gourock to Dunoon ferry under blazing blue skies the portents for a good day seemed high. A sighting of a single dolphin slanting its way back up the Clyde only reinforced this.

On the green lawns of Argyll College overlooking the West Bay where the completed beach hut would stand the CARS team of Claire, Hannah and Ben the boatbuilder made us welcome and explained the extensive history of boating and beach huts of West Bay, where the entrepreneurial people of Dunnon had once fished, repaired and hired out their boats to galivanting tourists who’d ventured doon the watter.

Participants laying out the tools for the day

The workshop gave us a chance to try out our woodworking skills initially on some hefty chunks of oak, constructing timber framing to create the structure which we would eventually build a mimic clinker boat hull on. This gave us an insight into the properties of good oak timbers, as well as a chance to learn a few secrets of the timberframer’s art. You can’t have a sharp enough chisel for this work and the joy of seeing our mortice and tenon joints solidify when the offset oak pegs were driven home was real. Following on from this we then tried our hand at lofting- the process of transferring the sinuous curves of a drawn boat hull from paper dreams to wooden forms. The basis of these drawings are measurements from the hypotenuse of a triangle and worried looks of those who had forgotten their school maths were exchanged; however following the appearance of the world’s largest eraser (to correct big mistakes) our fears were allayed and we completed the transfer of the boat lines onto pine planks which were then cut out and connected together to form the shape of the hull.

Putting new wood working skills into practice

Taking a leaf out of the Vikings’ book we were then asked to practice our roving but before too much damage was done to the town Ben gathered us back in, disarmed us and explained the two processes of connecting overlapping planking together to form a clinker hull: roving and clenching. Both require a copper nail driven through a drilled hole in the overlapping sections of the planks, but whether the clench is simply the turning of the nail point round 180 degrees to be driven back into the plank (effective but not necessarily pretty) roving requires a small cone of copper (the rove) to be driven down onto the nail from the interior of the hull, like a small copper rivet. The point of the nail is then clipped off and the excess beaten down with a ball hammer to clamp the nail and rove fully together. Skilled rovers can do all of this so that someone could run a pair of tights over the roved nails without snagging them, something we could only dream of.

Roving is a skill best left for the brave or those wearing suitable PPE!

With the end of the day drawing close we were able to bring all of these skills together to partially cover the template form in planks and the remaining work will be completed in the Pop Shop over the coming weeks.

Starting the process of planking the frames

I was able to cross the Clyde with a new sense of ability and having had a highly enjoyable day. I may even try some more roving in the safety of my own home.