The blog will now be devoted not to boat building but to my 82-year-old Vertue, Sally II, now undergoing a well needed refit at Johnson & Loftus in Ullapool (and gliding...)

Monday, 4 February 2019

Farewell Viking Boats

With the workshop now resounding to the cries of turkeys, rather than the cacophony of nails and band saws, Viking Boats is now officially defunct after over 15 years.

It was never a reliable means to make a living, but kept the wolves from the door, and its owner busy in the dark winter days when most of the 25 or so boats were built.

Off to Lake Geneva
I can't say I miss those dawn starts, chipping ice off the chisels - well, you know what I mean. In the early years the cold never bothered me. The activity soon warmed you up, although visitors would invariably ask: "How can you work in the cold like this".

Well, no more. It is 8am on a freezing morning, and I am typing this in my pyjamas.

So, to all my clients, who have to the man and woman been totally trusting and a delight to work with, thank you. I have not had a single bad debt in all that time. Payments have often arrived before the work was done, which meant it was spent by the time it was done, leaving me almost always in arrears and in the red.

Also now on Lake Geneva, here at Beale Park
 Boat building will never make you a fortune, unless you start with a fortune as some fortunately have. But among the lawyers, estate agents, accountants and office workers, building a wooden boat carries enormous cachet. You are considered amongst the lucky elite, to be working with your hands, no matter how far from reality and romance that can be on a bitter morning in January with a recalcitrant strake refusing to yield to gentle persuasion.

Owners became friends, some of whom stayed with us before, during and after taking their boat home. As far as I know none have sunk, or sprung unquenchable leaks, but I must admit that some could have been built better. There's always room for improvement, and being largely self taught, I did enjoy finding new, sometimes unconventional ways to do things, some of which worked well, others not so, leading to a reversion to the old, trusted ways.

My favourite: a faering in solid larch, with copper fastenings and oak frames
 However, although old and trusted ways are often the best ways, that is not always the case, so I would urge budding boat buildiers to trust their own instincts. The old and trusted ways may simply have become ingrained habits, and after taking apart many old wooden boats, you often find old and trusted ways have in fact contributed to the deterioration you find deep inside the structure.

And if you do need a mentor, someone to keep you honest, then I can highly recommend my own, personal guru, Tom Whitfield in Australia. We have never met, and may never meet, but his encouragement has been beyond compare.

And to the late John Leather, wherever you are, when you told me that boat building would be a thankless and unrewarding business, you were not far wrong. But I urge anyone keen to try their hand, to go for it, whatever the rewards or thanks. The satisfaction of seeing a boat you built is all the thanks and reward anyone needs.


  1. Good luck in your next pursuit. I've enjoyed your blog and seeing your beautiful boats.

  2. I have just posted, to thank all those who commented over the years. I never realised how many there were, and feel quite humble now that I have gone through them all. Many of them from yourself. Best of luck with your boat building. Adrian

  3. You have offered me much encouragement too, Adrian and I thank you for it. I have also retired from professional boat building this year and miss it already. Can't say what might come next, but it's been a good ride so far.

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