Building a boat fit for a gentleman

Building a boat fit for a gentleman
Designer Josca Craig Smith builds a boat at New Zealand Traditional Boat Building School

After scoring some old Venetian blinds in an inorganic rubbish collection, Josca Craig Smith – artist, bike specialist and lover of all things Victorian – hatched a plan to build a boat fit for a gentleman.

"It was such beautiful quality timber," says Craig Smith. "It was ideal for cold-molded construction, a glued wood composite technique developed in the mid-20th century that uses multiple layers of thin wood glued together."

Growing up on the shores of the Waikare Inlet, boat building has always been an ambition for Craig Smith. 

"I got inspired by the late-19th century gentleman's hobby-sport of sailing canoes, such as those designed by Henry Rushton, Geo Holmes and WP Stephens."

He continued to devour books about traditional American and European boats and, with the timber on hand, all that remained was a suitable workshop. 

That's where the New Zealand Traditional Boatbuilding School in Hobsonville came in. They host boat-building classes from beginner through to advanced. Craig Smith has been involved in the latter, which means that he could "plonk a small boat project into their large workshop and get some guidance and advice from the tutor, Phil Bish.

"The Hobby Class is a great mix of people, young and old, each doing their own small boat construction or restoration. The school is a great place for the sharing of skills and ideas, tea, biscuits and baking; and it is an important part of our ongoing maritime heritage. It has enabled the restoration of several historic yachts, including the mullet boat Corona, moored at Wynyard Quarter."

The young boat builder is halfway through his project and has been documenting the journey here on his blog Joscat. 

The boat is his own design and, apart from a punt he built his parents, it is the first he's taken from paper to full, sailable glory.

However, the days are numbered for the New Zealand Traditional Boatbuilding School in its current location. 

"The lease of the old 80-year-old Air Force barracks is ending shortly in November –​ it will be demolished for a housing development –​ and they are desperate for a new location," says Craig Smith. "I'll have to get a move on with the boat."