Glorious Good Wood!
Published at 15:52, Wednesday, 18 November 2009
IT WAS while visiting a Lakeland boating museum that Steve Beresford found the inspiration to make a life-changing decision. He had thought long and hard about taking the bold move to change career.
The father-of-three yearned for something more creative – to find a calling that demanded craftsmanship and inch-perfect precision.
He said: “I always wanted to do engineering – making things – but found that over my career I got further and further away from that ideal.
“Over a long period of time I discussed doing something more different and creative.
“A number of years ago I was at the steamboat museum in Windermere looking at the boats there and thought they were beautiful. As I looked at the boats I wondered if I could do it.”
So Steve, of Cockermouth, started doing his homework to see if he could become a boat builder.
He heard about a National Boatbuilding Training College at Lowestoft, Suffolk.
And, during a career break from Sellafield, he enrolled there – graduating with distinction.
Steve, 44, had found his calling and was now ready to set sail in a new direction.
A year ago he left his full-time job as an engineer in manufacturing improvements at Sellafield and started the Good Wood Boat Company.
From his workshops on the Moota Business Park, near Cockermouth, he now builds, restores and repairs wooden boats.
The craftsman speaks passionately about his new vocation and clearly takes pride in his work, which is just as well considering the detail needed.
Every craft has to be built to perfect specifications. Not a measurement can be out of place, observing skills going back to Viking times.
Of course, that pursuit for perfection and the thought that goes into it is part of the appeal for Steve, along with his love of the outdoors.
“On top of that, there is the hand craftsmanship that goes into traditional boat building,” he added.
“I also like to do things that wow people. If someone comes through the door, looks at a boat and says ‘that’s a beautiful thing’, it gives me a real sense of purpose.
“If I can build a boat that someone can not only sail, but enjoy owning, it gives me a real sense of achievement.”
With this as his benchmark, his first completed craft ticks all the boxes.
It is a Redwing racing dinghy, first designed in 1938 by renowned yacht designer Uffa Fox for Cornwall’s Looe Sailing Club and ideal for sailing in the likes of the Solway Firth or the Lake District.
Because it’s a sporting boat, every curve and plank on the Redwing must be built to strict racing specifications – as the likes of a Formula One car has to.
It took Steve 1,000 hours to build the Lyoness – starting with a full scale-model of the vessel.
From that, through a process known as lofting, moulds for each part of the boat created before work begins on constructing its frame. The templates created can be used again.
Steve said: “Building wooden boats is a labour of love. You’re building them for people who love sailing but buy the boats because they are real wooden classics – a thing of beauty with a high level of craftsmanship which continues our country’s tradition as excellent boat builders.
“If you look at it in cost terms you would never do it because this is a historical process that has been superseded by modern ones that are much quicker but less environmentally-friendly.
“Wooden boats are more likely to last and sail longer and at the end of their life you can put them on the compost heap.”
The Redwing is, however, a notoriously difficult boat to build.
“That was one of the reasons why I chose it,” Steve explained. “It’s not the sort of boat someone could build in their back yard.
“I wanted to build a boat that was an example of what I can do. This is such a niche market that people have to know you can do it and do it well. The only way to get that out there is to build a boat that’s difficult.”
Steve plans to use the boat as an example of what he can do. Given the time that went into it – and its importance to his enterprise – he was delighted when it took to the water to compete in national racing championships in the Scilly Isles in the summer – finishing fifth and clocking a speed of 12 knots.
He said: “It quite an emotional thing, not only with the boat on the water, but with the whole career change – going from a professional job with a guaranteed income to having no guaranteed income.
“It was a gorgeous day. The Redwing is a beautiful boat and with the red sails up and speeding along, it was fantastic to watch.
“I was really proud of the job – not only that I had done it, but for the support I have had from my friends. Thanks to all the people who helped support me.”
Steve’s work on the Redwing has attracted interest in sailing circles.
As well as building one, he has carried out a restoration project on another, originally built in the 1950s.
But this is just the start for the ambitious businessman, who received support from the West Cumbria Development Agency to start up. He has big plans for the future.He has already secured an exclusive licence to build wooden Tideaway pleasure boats – a dinghy the craftsman describes as being reminiscent of Swallows and Amazons – for the next three years.Work has already started on his first Tideaway, which will be completed in time for spring sailing next year. As time goes on, he hopes to add to the classes of boat in his portfolio – even progressing to bigger vessels, using traditional methods to build the likes of a wooden yacht.When appropriate, he hopes to build a team of skilled craftspeople as the business grows and is proud of the fact he is based in West Cumbria.Another key part of the environmentally-friendly business is the fact that it is the only UK boat builder which uses wood from responsibly managed sources that is Forestry Stewardship Council certified.Steve is excited about the future.“For this type of product, it is all about reputation, quality and craftsmanship. It’s also about doing something that is a bit different,” he said.“The strength is in the ability to take something from a drawing and make a successful boat from it. The lofting process is something I can do and do well, probably as a function of my engineering background.“I think this is an excellent thing for West Cumbria.”
He said: “I’ve built one boat so far. She sailed successfully and I have sold another boat in just less than a year. My plan is now to build three or four boats next year.”
For more information, go to www.goodwoodboat.co.uk
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk
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