Boat building

Can I become a boat builder in 40 weeks?

Yes and No.

Yes, because you WILL build a boat in 40 weeks, several in fact. And if you graduate and pass your exams you will gain a professionally recognised qualification. The 40 week Boat Building, Maintenance and Support course, incorporating City & Guilds 2463 Level 3 Diploma in Marine Construction, Systems Engineering and Maintenance (the technical certificate of an apprenticeship) is the flagship course at Lyme Regis.

It gives students the skills to find jobs in the marine industry or establish themselves as boat builders in their own right, although some students join the course for a sabbatical or on retirement and have no plans to work in the marine industry. Being able to fix and build things in solid wood, laminating shapes in wood, GRP repairs, sail making etc are all very useful skills if you want to travel around the world and work.

No, because the journey to becoming a skilled boat builder or shipwright is never complete. It is an incredibly complex, multi skilled career.

If you have the latent desire to construct a professional looking boat with oars, sails, masts, or engines, and aquire versatile practical skills in the process, then the more important question is:

How long do you sit on that dream, and never put it to the test?

One of our recent enquirers didn’t hang about. A traditional boat sailor working recently in sail training, she applied for the February 40 week course through Classic Sailing in November 2023. She visited Lyme Regis for an interview and successfully got a bursary from The BBA in December 2023 and she starts in February 2024.

There are still bursary funds left for this next course entry and to date there are places remaining (max 16 students). There are specific funds for women in boat building as well as more general help for all who might be struggling)

More on the Application & Bursaries


19th February 2024 – Fri 6th December 2024

2nd September 2024 – Fri 27 June 2025

details for 40 week course

Where Can it lead?

This week the Boat Building Academy at Lyme Regis had their boat launch and their total of graduates now stands at 602 new boat builders created since the college started.

Graduating is only part of the journey, but as someone who completed the course in October 2021, I can say that 2 years on nearly all my fellow graduates in our year group (aged 16 to 70) are on a roller coaster, embarking on interesting futures in every aspect of boats, wood and practical projects.

I harboured a desire to be better at woodwork and learn how to look after a wooden boat properly, for over 15 years. I had no pretentions that I was going to be gods gift to boat building.

ARTCLE on Career case studies to come

What were my barriers to doing a boat building course?

1. I was too embarrassed at my lack of formal woodwork training (girls weren’t allowed to do it when I was at school) to know where to start.

2. Everyone told me I was too impatient to be a skilled craftswoman (probably true!)

3. I didn’t have enough money for the course fees (my financial salvation was the Gov furlough scheme during lockdown, but now the BBA has a limited number of bursaries)

4. I had many boat building heroes but I assumed they would disapprove of zero to hero courses after their lifelong apprenticeship. Actually it turns out that several started their careers with exactly the same City and Guilds Course (and those that didn’t have employed those that have taken the more modern approach)

You can apply for a place AND combine a visit to the workshops with an informal interview. Once you have a place offer you can apply for a bursary if you need some assistance towards the fees.

The 40 week course will be the most intensive learning experience you are likely to experience, so I would put it easily on a par with 2 years of university. Your time will not be squandered.

Article by Debbie Purser, Tallulah skipper and Classic Sailing Co founder.


19th February 2024 – Fri 6th December 2024

2nd September 2024 – Fri 27 June 2025

details for 40 week course

Steps in the ladder – Short courses in Boat building

Did you know you can now book 2-5 day boat building courses through Classic Sailing?

The Boat Building Academy is on Monmouth Beach in Lyme Regis, only a stones throw from the famous Cobb harbour and fossil beaches. It is hard to imagine a more salty spot to learn new skills, without going to sea.

On Classic Sailing website is now a tempting array of short and long courses for budding woodworkers or boat builders. The short courses are typically £295 for 2 days or £695 for a Mon-Friday course.

Everything from traditional sail making to modern or traditional wooden boat building options, wooden boat restoration to GRP repairs, setting up templates to build a boat, clinker to carvel construction, laminating wood and strip plank construction, ropework to painting and varnishing professionally.


We can also tell you, from first hand experience, about the 40 week professional career course in Boat Building at Lyme Regis.

Classic Sailing co-founder Debbie Purser was a student there in 2020-21, exploring a new career direction. Whilst Debbie had maintained wooden boats through trial and error in the past, she was new to woodwork joinery and many of the construction techniques both modern and traditional. Debbie benefited hugely from this highly intensive course, and she was part of a team that built 6 boats. If you want to know more from  students perspective, you can book an evening chat with her by phone or video call, via the application form.

If you are at the point when you want to reserve a space on a long course, and go visit the college to be absolutely sure, then fill in our application form and book a visit. The college principal Will Reid, or one of the tutors, can show you around the workshops.


There is a 5% discount if you book more than one course. You can also book courses in furniture making, marquetry, bench and green wood chair making because we think many of our website audience appreciates craftmanship (and craftwomanship) and aesthetics in many forms. Wood is good for the soul.

So why this new partnership with the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis? read on beyond the gallery.

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