The Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis reaches out to the public to fund Covid building work

The Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis has launched a crowdfunder to raise £20,000 in order to undertake Covid-necessary building work, and in just a couple of weeks is 80% of the way towards reaching its target.

The academy is situated on the idyllic waterfront of the Dorset town made famous by fossil hunter Mary Anning, who’s soon to be recognised with a long overdue statue, thanks to another crowdfunding appeal led by 13-year-old school girl, Evie Swire.

The Cobb at Lyme Regis, home to the Boat Building Academy. The town was made famous in The French Lieutenant’s Woman and by fossil hunter Mary Anning. Photo: Ali Wood

Recognised as a charity in 2020, the Boat Building Academy normally sees 36 students a year through its boat building courses and also runs a 12-week furniture making course.

The building work – primarily expanding a mezzanine to allow space for students to socially distance – is projected to cost around £76K, with £26K already raised from trusts. After the crowd funder is complete, the remaining £30K will be covered by the Boat Building Academy.

This will allow each course’s students to maintain 2m distancing using individual workstations instead of sharing benches.

Converting some of the existing accommodation into workshop space is also within the project’s scope. Once works are completed, the academy will be able to run two boat building courses and a furniture making course as planned – at the same time – in a covid-secure manner.

The current facilities at the Boat Building Academy, which will be modified to allow social distancing

“We obviously don’t want our doors to be shut for a minute longer than we have to,” says Will Reed, principal and trustee. “As soon as the science deems it safe for us to reopen, we want to be able to welcome our students back into an area that they feel confident to be in. That means increasing individual’s workspaces, and to do that we need to raise the capital. Covid has raised unexpected situations for everyone, but we’re throwing ourselves into the challenge.”

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“We’ve had brilliant support,” he adds. “We’ve been humbled by the amount we’ve received from our former students who are now working for companies like Spirit Yachts, and T Nielsen. We are determined to make sure that the legacy we started in 1997 – of incredible boat builders and highly skilled wood workers – can continue.”

Providing the funding target is achieved, building work can start as soon as possible in March – when Will hopes the first boat building cohort will be in residence. Then the race will be on to expand the space so that when the second cohort begins in May, the space will be even better to learn skills such as joinery and planking, and also be socially distanced.

For those who have found themselves interested in a change of career over the past twelve months, a few places are available on the boat building course starting in May. This 40-week course is full time and offers a thorough grounding in modern and traditional boat building.

You can donate to the Boat Building Academy’s crowdfunder appeal here.

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This feature appeared in the January 21 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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