A COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY
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American Fellowship student and filmmaker, Annie Means, toured yards on the South Coast, Cornwall, and the East Coast over 3 weeks in August. She filmed and interviewed women working hands-on, to capture a snapshot of their experiences. All boatbuilders were asked the same questions, with the focus on their skills and work. However many also talked about their gender in relation to their work, so the interviews are an honest, insightful, inspiring and fun reflection of some incredible women.
The series showcases the work of women in a diverse set of roles in yards – from cover-makers to shipwrights, laminators to electricians. Covering the full range of scale in boatyards – from the enormity of Sunseeker International to Abbey Boatbuilder in her one-woman yard in Norfolk, and everything in between. Several yards that were approached have no women working hands-on, some have 1 in 100+, and some are yards owned and run by the women that were interviewed.
‘The one thing all boatbuilders we spoke to have in common is their passion about their jobs and their conviction that there is a place for everyone in the industry.’ Belinda Joslin, founder of WIBB
The aim of the tour was to create content that shares the skills and experiences of some of the amazing women and the work they are doing, to inspire others and further grow the community of women who are working hands on in yards.
‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.’
Produced by Belinda Joslin and Annie Means - 2023
Annie Means has given her time and expertise to Women in Boatbuilding as part of her Fellowship studies into Gender Stereotypes in the Marine World. We are incredibly grateful to Annie for her contribution to WIBB and the content that she has created on our behalf. We think it’s amazing, and will help to further develop conversations about diversity in the boatbuilding world.
Without the women who are forging their way in the industry, this would not have happened. We could not have been happier or more impressed with the answers to our questions – thank you for your honesty and wisdom. Many thanks also to some of the brilliant, supportive men in the industry:
Elizabeth Banks, Peter Collins, Sydney Fassam, Emma Mermaz-Rollet, Clementine Mollier, Otto Marples, Obioma Oji, Betzy Shell, Katie Hammond
Katie Allan, Livvy Higman, Rachel Bland, Neil Capper, Tara Clark, Daisy Leach, Holly Latham, Tori Ablett
Matt Lis, Jess Wright, Alison Taylor, Alan Staley, Gillen Knight, Ben Felts, Abbey Molyneux, Heike Lowenstein, Faye Thorley, Emily Stokes, Sacha Walker, Neil Capper, Alannah Barton, Helen Porter
Annie’s fellowship grant has made this project possible – but without the welcoming hospitality of the boatbuilders, the tour would not have been possible – so we would like to thank Betzy Shell and Holly Latham for hosting Annie on the tour.
A final and Huge THANK YOU to all the yards who have embraced and enabled this project:
Ship to Shore
BlueTree Boat Builders
Latham Traditional Boatworks
SKB Sails Ltd
Alan Staley Boatyard
The Boatbuilding Academy, Lyme Regis
The Elephant Boatyard
After months of trying to find data about the boatbuilding workforce, we came to the conclusion that no-one has it! In conversations with the UK Shipbuilding Skills Taskforce team, it seems that they struggled to get meaningful data about who is actually building boats in the UK. The recent Heritage Craft Association and Wooden Boat Trade Association survey threw up some worrying trends - a lack of diversity and an ageing workforce. Anecdotally, this won't surprise anyone. The survey was brilliant, but only concerned with traditional boatbuilding.
We live in an age of data, and money is allocated and decisions are made when you can back up your reasoning with facts.
So we've created the British Boatbuilders survey - for all boatyard trades.
Its a simple Google form - at https://tinyurl.com/boatbuildersurvey
so please complete it and share it with all boatyard friends and colleagues.
It will be open for 6 weeks. We hope in that time we will have a decent response....but we're relying on word of mouth in the yards. Email me if you'd like it in an email or whats-app format to share. It went live yesterday, and 30 lovely people have already filled it in, which is amazing.
The survey is anonymous and we will share all results openly. Its done for the benefit of all, not just about women.
Email if you'd like to know more.
Launching the 'British Boatbuilders 2023' Tour with US Fellowship student Annie Means - get involved!
Women in Boatbuilding CIC and US Fellowship recipient combine forces this summer to create
‘British Boatbuilders in 2023’ – A snapshot of Women working hands-on.
Women in Boatbuilding was approached by Annie Means to be a part of her research Fellowship this summer. Together they are creating a snap-shot of what boatbuilders are working on in the summer of 2023 – with the focus being on the practical skills being used and the projects they are working on.
Annie is a recent US university graduate and a recipient of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for the 2023-2024 term. The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship presents a year-long opportunity for purposeful and independent exploration outside the United States. For her fellowship project, she will be embarking on a journey to the United Kingdom to delve into gender roles within the maritime industry, particularly by collaborating with women involved in the boatyard scene.
Annie will be visiting boatyards across the UK, interviewing boatbuilders and capturing content of their work. This material will then be used to create more awareness of the work that women are already doing, encourage more women to know that boatyards can be inclusive and more boatyards to see the benefit of diversity and offer equity in their employment.
By helping to create a narrative of skill and expertise in the boatbuilders we interview, the project’s aim is to take the focus away from gender-difference, and onto normalising the presence of women in the boatyard environment and the tangible benefit that their work and expertise can bring.
‘The boatbuilding industry, as well as the maritime sector as a whole, is predominantly male-dominated. My objective is to document and amplify the experiences of women mariners and shipbuilders through my fellowship. Working alongside WIBB, during the months of July and August, I am seeking to meet and gather testimonials from the remarkable women working in the United Kingdom's boatyards. I am enthusiastic and eager to document and learn about the experiences of women in the maritime industry in 2023. Capturing the current state of this industry and its transformative journey toward inclusivity and diversity can provide valuable insights into where the nautical community has been and where it's trending.
As an avid boater, my interest in this topic was sparked during my two-month journey through Canada's Inside Passage. Last summer, I had the privilege of captaining a small motor trawler with an all-female crew, tracing the footsteps of a pioneering female sea captain and mother who ventured into the remote inlets of British Columbia in the early 1920s and 1930s. Her story inspired me to pursue boating. Recognizing the existence of remarkable and adventurous women throughout the history of this industry, who have often been overshadowed, motivated me to connect with individuals in 2023.’
So far, Women in Boatbuilding has focused on telling career stories – how did boatbuilders get into it? They’ve launched a mentoring programme – supporting women at the start of their careers. Now they are really excited to be focusing on the skills of British boatbuilders in this snapshot – telling the story of what everyone is making in the yard in the summer of 2023.
Annie will be visiting yards from July 24th to August 18th 2023.
If you or your boatyard would like to be a part of ‘British Boatbuilders in 2023’, please get in touch.
Belinda Joslin – Women in Boatbuilding - firstname.lastname@example.org
Annie Means - Thomas J Watson Fellow 2023 – 2024 - email@example.com
Instagram @womeninboatbuilding www.womeninboatbuilding.com
British Boatyard tour….How will it work?
Annie will be travelling round mostly by herself, sometimes with Amy Stringfellow in South West and Belinda Joslin in East, both directors of WIBB. She would love a tour of the yard, because who doesn’t love a yard tour! And she would like to ask ‘How many people working hands-on in the boatyard and gender split today’?
The interview, filming and images won’t take long – it’s a snapshot, not a full personal career interview we’re after. All images will be in the workplace, working on whatever it is that’s being done at that particular time – no posing, or pretence. The interview questions will be asked before and after filming – not during boatbuilding. We’ve been interviewed before whilst using tools and it’s really stressful and neither the work, or interview is good.
The sort of questions that will be asked of boatbuilders:
All footage and images would be owned by ‘Women in Boatbuilding CIC’ and used at their discretion. Annie will also be blogging during the tour, using images to share her journey and observations.
By participating in this project, you will be agreeing to have the answers and footage shared on social media. We commit to using the material in a respectful way to create inspiring and informative content. Please let us know how and where you want to be tagged.
The Women in Boatbuilding Mentoring Programme, supported by the Shipwrights, is successfully up and running.
Since the launch in March, we have advertised the programme, analysed and paired the mentor/mentee applications and 8 pairings are now underway. All at slightly different stages of their boatbuilding journey’s, but all equally thrilled to be on the mentoring programme.
Last week we had the first mentor catch-ups, and these will continue monthly, enabling the mentors to check-in and report on their mentee meetings. The pairings are meeting in a variety of ways. We have – where possible and appropriate – paired locals together, so some are meeting in person and some digitally.
The programme is headed-up by Heike Lowenstein and Amy Stringfellow, both Directors of Women in Boatbuilding CIC. Between them, they have extensive boatbuilding and teaching knowledge and experience, so are well-placed to lead the amazing mentoring team.
Thanks again to the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights, whose support has facilitated this programme.
We had our third zoom social last night, and it was great to chat again to old and new faces about boatbuilding and life.
We always start the socials with everyone introducing themselves - so if you haven't joined us before, don't be daunted....these really are for everyone to join as and when they can.
The link is always the same - next date is 8pm on Thursday 8th June. Email or message if you want to join us.
Thanks to Faye from Raybel Charters, who shared with us a little bit about the project - and their efforts to focus on helping women in the community. https://raybelcharters.com/
We are very excited to be launching the WIBB mentoring programme on International Women’s Day, March 8th 2023.
The programme will run for 10 months for 10 mentor and mentee pairings, and aims to support women in their early careers in boatbuilding and related trades. Mentoring is hugely successful in other industries, and we’ve also worked with The Magenta Project on this – whose sailing mentoring scheme has been running successfully for 5 years.
The Worshipful Company of Shipwrights have very kindly supported us to make this programme a reality – thank you Shipwrights!
To apply to be a mentor or mentee go to the Mentoring Page.
BBC South news report from the Boatbuilding Academy in Lyme Regis, during the WIBB visit to launch their women's bursary.
Another great day and my head is buzzing again. Every hour I change my mind...we're all mad wanting to restore old wooden boats....there again, why would you want to do anything else? So today we talked about what to look for in an old boat - really useful information before you take the plunge.
Mike talked us through the restoration of Barnacle, a 10ft clinker tender, built in 1962 by Lou Walker. And Vindilis, a 27ft sloop built in 1930's and restored with modern materials. A brief chat about surveys and how to 'take the lines' when a boat has gone too far. Ken introduced us to 'Brown Bear' a clinker rowboat over 100 years old and - until recently - a regular in Brixham's pirate re-enactment weekends. 'Brown Bear' deteriorated surprisingly fast when left full of rain water and sadly it was decided that she was a lines and lofting project.
Patrick's double-ended clinker day boat had a few interesting design features; water ballast bags and a retractable rudder blade, but no floor and minimal sole boards. We had a good chat about improvements that could be made to structure and comfort, and how to turn it into a wild camping boat.
More time on practical work today too. Finished the feather scarf and lipped scarf...and learnt how to fix them together with a rove and nail. Then we had some free-style repair time on practice hulls in the workshop...making holes then fixing them!
Had two full-on days so far on the week-long Traditional Restoration course in Lyme Regis. Plan was to blog everyday about what I've been doing, but I'm afraid red wine and sleep won over last night!
Driving down towards the Cobb in Lyme Regis takes me back to sailing here as a teenager and more recent fossil-hunting family holidays and is always a happy place to come back to. Such a lovely spot.
Met at 9 for welcome from Academy Director Will, who briefed us on house-keeping then introduced us to Mike, our genius instructor for the week. Straight to the classroom where we were given blue folders with notes for the week's course and more. The morning was a classroom session, starting with the obligatory round of introductions. Including me, we are 3 women and 6 men, with many different reasons for doing the course. Some have been before, and some are using the week as a taster to see if they want to do a longer course. Really lovely group and very relaxed.
The morning was a speed course in hull construction methods. From clinker to carvel, cold moulding to strip planking, Mike took us through the rough principles of each method. We covered stresses and forces, Llyods rules and regulations for hull construction and some terminology. The sole is the floor and the floors are wooden uprights inside the hull that look nothing like the floor. The camber on a deck is a portion of a true circle which makes it stronger to resist the force of a big wave. So many things to learn.
We moved onto tools after break, and how to sharpen planes and chisels. Grinding with water to 25 degrees, then adding your honed edge. Using the oil stone and then the leather pad to remove burrs. Never knew that '80 grit' paper meant that 80 'grits' would fit through a given size hole versus 1200 smaller 'grits' fitting through the same hole...hence less gritty paper. Who knew that?!
Mike talked about planks and all the things that can happen to them....cupping, winding, bowing, and how to square your timber when all these things have happened.
Lunch - little walk in the sun to the Good Food Cafe, BBA discount on pasties and sitting in the veranda looking out to sea - perfect.
PM - Time to use some tools! We all have a bench, and a tool box for the week. Short version....
Squared the timber, and started to make a feather scarf joint. (Long version another time)
Woke up to an amazing sunrise...beautiful views out to sea from roof-top rooms.
Ally from Practical Boat Owner joined us for the day, to write a feature on the BBA and find out more about their diversity strategy...and to get practical in the workshop.
Mike started with wood, which was fascinating. Different bits of the trunk, how to saw it, how to dry it, types of wood, issues with wood. Google 'ships worm' and go to images and join me in getting hypnotised by the 5ft black ships worm video. Then bending, adhesives, ply construction, epoxy and into the workshop for a lip scarf demo.
Lunch....pasty in the sun obvs.
After lunch was fastenings, corrosion and cracking on with the lip scarf.
So much learnt already. Mike is making it all look easy, and is very patient!
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!