The Boatyards & Me

At that time, the workshop area had developed into a wooden framed shed, still with tarpaulins for a roof and sides. It gave little protection from the very cold winter frosts and south / south-westerly winds but was better than just a tarp over a long ridgepole which initially covered the ‘Matilda’.

The next vessel was a Laurent Giles design 48ft with longer overhangs, again for a Sydney owner and set up within the newer shed framework. At this time a fisherman based at Barnes Bay on Bruny Island, Rupert Denne, wanted a dinghy suitable to set his nets and be safe and stable. Rupe was a large man and the dinghy had to be more buoyant aft where he stood. Jock gave the job to me. It was a real challenge but with the guidance of Max it finished up quite well. The dinghy was carvel built with seam battens giving a smooth outside hull shape (totally different to the usual Clinker build). Coincidentally, about six years ago I was asked to look at a dinghy and advise the owner on a conversion to sail.

I thought there was something familiar about the little craft and then recognised the features that I had built in for Rupert. I am annoyed that I never took photographs at that time.

No one that I knew had served an apprenticeship in boatbuilding up to that time, although I believe now that all the boys at Purdon and Featherstone were indentured and Sam Purdon was the same with Norm Taylor. One day a well-dressed man came into the shed and asked Jock whether I was apprenticed. Jock, Don, Wally, Max and even Max Creese, who had set up a yard near Jock, had never served a formal apprenticeship in boatbuilding although Jock was an indentured tinsmith. But it seemed in this ‘modern’ era boys could no longer just work at the yards and become skilled. So I became indentured to Jock. The fact that I had been working for some two and a half years was a concern because I didn’t want to serve a five-year term on top of the time I had spent up until now. The apprenticeship commission were good with this and my papers state, ‘in consideration of the time already in the trade they would accept a two and a half year term as a full apprenticeship.’