A COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY
Those following us on @womeninboatbuilding on Instagram will know the answer but if you're a new friend, read on...
I grew up sailing wooden boats my dad built in the garage in Ipswich, and spent a fair amount of my childhood handing him tools, holding bits of wood, listening to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on the radio, so a few years ago now... but these childhood memories stick. I always owned and maintained my own dinghies, then had a stint as a deckie, and perfected my varnishing skills in the Caribbean. I then entered the wonderful world of PR and film marketing, and ended up in film partnership marketing, where I met my husband. Heavily pregnant, I handed over my biggest project - a Pirates of the Caribbean yacht entry in the (then) Volvo Ocean Race - to the Skipper, Paul Cayard, in a pub in Southampton. Then spent 13 lucky years at home bringing up my family.
New Year's resolution in 2019 was to venture back in to the world of work and I felt totally unqualified to do anything, so I wrote to Spirit Yachts and offered to sweep their floor. They offered me a job finishing and I loved it. When I started at Spirit, there was one other woman in the yard building boats. The mess room had a bikini calendar and the banter was great...such a different environment to the school gate, and just what I needed. In 2021, aswell as working in the boatyard, I was refurbishing my dad's keelboat, so all my time was spent working on boats and I just wanted to see who else was out there, juggling families and boats...I was the only mum at school pick-up clearly doing a hands-on job. So I turned to social media, started @womeninboatbuilding and gradually found some incredible women. The page was about me, and then I started featuring other women I'd connected with....and it grew. I found out more about other boatyards, conditions, experiences, colleges, shared problems, then started being asked for support and advice.
Along with 3 other women, I spoke on a Women in Boatbuilding panel at the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights lecture day in Southampton in 2021 and Simon the organiser asked us..."how do we attract and keep women in the industry" - I could think of so many things the industry could do and should be doing....and kept expecting it to do.
The Instagram postings continued - and every single woman I have had the privilege of speaking to has been fascinating...so many incredible personal stories. And the same issues come up time and time again. In Autumn 2022, Catherine Larner wrote 2 brilliant pieces about Women in Boatbuilding in The Guardian and Classic Boat Magazine which were the catalyst for deciding the time has come to up our game.
So I needed a team of like-minded women in the industry who I knew felt equally passionately about supporting women. Heike was with me at Spirit and already helping to advise and mentor boatbuilders who contacted me, so she was in. Amy is one of the few women who have taught boatbuilding in the UK, and the person who said a CIC was the way forward - and a great mentor for me. And Gail is a boatbuilding legend and brilliant person to have on the team.
We are now set up as a Community Interest Charity so we can continue and build on the initial development of our community. This will allow us to apply for funding and provide support for the amazing women within the industry and those who are to follow.
It's an exciting time ahead - and we can't wait to get building!