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Old 27-07-2015, 20:50   #1
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Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Hello cruisers,

I am a long time forum browser but first time poster. I have gained a lot of knowledge and ideas from the forums and thought this would be a great place to seek some advice.
I am currently looking for an opportunity to change careers and follow my passion of boat building. Ideally I'm looking for a position as a shipwright apprentice, but am open to any learning experience available especially on the east coast of Australia.
I have always loved the water and went to university to become an Aquaculturist. Although I have enjoyed this work I am ready for a career change.
During my university and working years I did casual work experience in slipways throughout North Queensland. I really enjoyed working on timber boats and gained experience with caulking, anti-foul application, sanding, painting and general boat maintenance.
My passion for boats was reignited this year when a friend asked me to help crew his Baltic 42 on a trip across the Pacific Ocean. We sailed from San Fransisco to Tahiti having many highs and low during the trip and confirming my passion for boats.
One day I hope to own a sailing yacht and look forward to being able to do my own repairs and renovations.
I'm a hard worker, fast learner and really passionate about this industry.
I currently have many certificates and some of my own tools that would be appropriate for this work and can forward on a resume. I currently live in South Australia but am keen to relocate to the East Coast with short notice. I have attempted to contact a variety of shipwrights, slipways, and marinas without much success in terms of a response. I just wanted to seek some advice on the forums on how to go about achieving this goal before I jump in my ute and head up the coast to chat to some boaties face to face. Feel free to private message me or post on the thread.


Cheers,

Joel
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Old 28-07-2015, 05:14   #2
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Shipwright is a rather specialised job title for someone who probably has a very broad skillset. Many of the good shipwrights I have met started as house carpenters or cabinetmakers and then restoring their own boats to a high standard led to them being offered more and more contract work by other boat owners. Many others could be considered itinerant dock bums who get occasional work where they find it while living on their own project boat.

As it is so specialised it really is a matter of being known, so get out there and meet as many people as possible. Contact the major builders and designers who may need a hand on a specific job. Contact any TAFE teacher who has a course in wooden boat building. Hang out on the boat design websites. Go to the Wooden Boat Festival.

You would find it easier to get an apprenticeship in house carpentry or cabinetmaking than shipwright, and the experience and financial backing gained in that line of work will support you to transition to shipwright at a later date if it really is your dream, with the option to fall back to a more mainstream line of work if you fail as a shipwright.
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Old 28-07-2015, 06:28   #3
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Find where the boats are. Volunteer to work on them until they start paying you.
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Old 28-07-2015, 06:53   #4
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Have you seen the apprenticeship position advertised on the below link here in Newport, NSW?

Boating Industry Association of NSW

Also try googling Afloat magazine and look through the positions vacant there. It is the local boating mag that comes up monthly.

There are several boatyards here around Newport and in Pittwater in general, and several good shipwrights. The one I use is an absolute genius with a thriving business built on incredible work ethic and attention to detail and employs several apprentices. I would want to learn from him.

I might be biased but it this is also a nice part of world to live/work, on the water, lots of boats and sailors and a niche boat building industry to boot.

Even if an proper apprenticeship isn't available around here immediately, I would guess that there would also be plenty of painting/detailing work at the boatyards around here, chandleries that need a weekend guy, etc all which would see you positioned well to make good representations.

It can be frustrating not hearing back from people. Perhaps being on the scene, demonstrating that your keen, explaining that you have some experience (and even simply proving that you can turn up for work on time, sober and awake at 600am) will make an impression more than an email from the other side of the country. It is very much a small, who you know, word of mouth, Johnny on the spot, kind of industry. Get your foot in the door and be as keen as mustard

I speak of Pittwater as it is what I know, but I think you would also find comparable opportunities on the Gold Coast.

Best of luck. If you end up here let me know I will buy you a beer.
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Old 28-07-2015, 17:07   #5
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Cheers for all the useful advice! You have given me quite a bit to think about. I understand it is very much a word of mouth type industry and I reckon I will contact the shipwright in Newport that you mentioned. I was thinking that just emailing some boat builders and marinas would be a bit weak and I agree that showing I can be reliable, sober, and keen has never failed me in the past. I never really considered picking up a different trade but that would definitely be a step in the right direction. Cheers for the offer Chall; I'll be sure to grab the second round.

Joel
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Old 28-07-2015, 18:10   #6
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Having survived as a practicing shipwright for four decades, I would like to offer a few words of advice. First, my condolences. You have chosen (or were chosen) to do a noble career. Few occupations are as clear and honest, since working on boats is not for the faint of heart, the weak of spirit, the unclear as to ethical values, and the unclear of purpose and direction. Shipwrights send their handiwork to sea containing families who trust the care and foresight of the craftsman. That's a pretty heavy responsibility. Second, you may not realize it, yet, but you aren't going to get rich, financially, from this decision, so get over it and get on with it. Third, you need to allow yourself to learn EVERYTHING that comes across your path. Electrical, mechanical, rigging, structural engineering, disaster planning, navigation, psychology, maintenance, cruising, charm, cunning, and survival skills. Working on boats isn't specialization, it's recognition that there's a heck of a lot of stuff you never thought about and that you might be responsible for having known before you get too deep into a project. People's lives depend on you. And you will need to be so overwhelmed by that concept that you spend the rest of your life and energy making sure you don't f**k up. And you occasionally will, so you have to plan for contingencies, doubt yourself regularly, seek advice, avoid arrogance, and followup with your customers to see how things work out. And remember, maybe your mother was right about becoming an accountant. You only need a sharp pencil, a calculator and a green eyeshade. Far less to carry around with you.
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Old 28-07-2015, 18:32   #7
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Roy, what a great post! Good insights, nicely put.

And for the OP: another obvious venue where shipwright skills are common and the timber boat biz is burgeoning is Tasmania, especially in the Hobart and D'Entrecasteaux channel/ Huon River area. The Wooden boat school in Franklin offers training, and there are lots of active shipwrights in the area. At least one, Jeremy Clowes in Cygnet currently is training one apprentice. There are likely others.

Good luck. I hope that you are successful, for the world needs more competent shipwrights, especially ones that follow Roy's ethic.

Jim
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Old 28-07-2015, 23:48   #8
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Again, great post from Roy!

I have about 35 years in the trade with a couple of distractions to fill some gaps but still had interest in marine industry as sailing instructor/coxswain & building after some hailstorms & a few weeks driving truck.
True there is no great bucks beyond working hard & consistently, however through the industry I've paid for a comfy home(with spouse), got a 300m2 factory plus land & enjoyed ownership of some nice yachts, some built, some fixed etc. It's always good to have a side project that will end up as a valuable asset, this does a couple of things like showcase your skills much as the mechanic might have a show car& enforces savings as a few spare funds get locked in & also a great standby job for quiet times... also a platform to learn & prove new skills on before charging others for the same. Just have to pick the right boats which can be tricky- if it's a possible live aboard can be so much the better but better to stick in the 34-40' range as costs are managable & turnover easier, while since I've done it though. Most of the Comfort/prosperity comes from things that happen alongside- the job is just the bread & butter bill paying thing.
The lead to BIA of NSW/SA is a good one with a jobs wanted section too to website, also SBA members often look for committed apprentices although I think there's often a preference for younger starters but there may be a subsidy for mature age.. not sure?
The main point I make is that Shipwrighting is definately not a vow of poverty if you're a consistent worker prepared to have a go, the Northern beaches area of Sydney as suggested is a great spot with a level of affluence to support marine industry, the Harbour has commercial work that is always there even in downturn, there's always demand in composites/repairs.

Jeff.
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Old 29-07-2015, 14:31   #9
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

You might want to think about Newport Marine Services at Royal Motor Yacht Club at Newport NSW (Matt). They were looking for apprentice shipwright a while back.
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Old 29-07-2015, 14:37   #10
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Chall - We are always on the lookout for a good cabinetmaker shipwright. Who is it that to you use?
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Old 29-07-2015, 15:15   #11
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Howdy Joel and Welcome to Posting on CF!

How old are you? Just curious, because I wondered about becoming a shipwright back when I turned 40 or so (midlife change of career dreaming).

Are you willing to travel far off to start your career? Or will you limit yourself to Australia?

You mentioned email. I think it is understandable that a "blind" email will get little or no response. I agree it is much better to show up in person, if possible, as many times as possible. And, I think it would be smart to have something that shows your handiwork (proof) that they can see in seconds.

Are you willing to relocate/immigrate and travel for your training?

Would you consider signing on as a bosun's apprentice for a tall ship? That could provide "live aboard" work with LOTS of rigging and wood and other skills needed and learned.

Here is a well established company (considered by some to the best of a kind) in San Francisco, that currently is advertising that they are hiring a variety of "marine professionals" (e.g. riggers etc.). Big boat yard. KKMI

As I recall, there are some wooden boat yards (museum/school type) in SF and Seattle.

There are some nice yards in New England (search in Maine, USA) and small ones in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Port Townsend) and Chesapeake areas too.

Today, I would love to work as an apprentice with Luke Powell (UK) because he makes some really nice traditional wood boats, and my heart is really touched by the traditional boats and historic boats.

Good luck on your new career.
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Old 24-08-2017, 20:04   #12
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Still looking I need someone for a few weeks.....
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Old 26-08-2017, 11:55   #13
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

I have had an apprentice for about a year, now. Best decision I ever made. She has an engineering background, her brother, father and uncle are ex-commercial fishermen (she earned 25 cents for every salmon jig she made at the age of six years) who have moved on to tugboat operations, and she previously served as operations manager for West Marine in San Diego, before I stole her from them. She now installs and repairs the stuff she previously sold, and for more money. She is self-directed, enthusiastic, bright and the best salesperson one could ask for. Needless to say, trustworthy and capable of working on her own as a subcontractor. And, she fits in places that are otherwise inaccessible to me, knows what to do when she gets there, and does it with a smile and a giggle. Every day she learns something new and useful for when she pursues her own cruising dream on her own sailboat.
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Old 26-08-2017, 16:25   #14
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

Good one Roy!

Is she enrolled in any sort of formal training as well as OJT? The apprentice that I know in Tasmania spends part of his "work"hours attending formal classes at a nearby TAFE (Technical and Further Educaton) campus. Gets training in diesel mechanics, some electrical, etc, things that his chippie boss may not be up to speed in. It's a great program, and his skill level is rapidly advancing. He will be a great asset to the yachting community, and hopefully will earn a decent living doing things he enjoys.

Jim
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Old 26-08-2017, 17:12   #15
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Re: Looking for Shipwright Apprenticeship

I did find work with a shipwright in 2016 up in Townsville Australia. It was great and I learned heaps of valuable skills. In December of 2016 my wife and I purchased our new floating home on the other side of the pond in Panama. We are now cruising around combining our passions of boats and free veterinary work in the communities we sail to. I'm not due back to Australia for a while but I do hope ya find someone to help you out as an extra set of hands can make the job so much faster. Best of luck finding someone and cheers for all the helpful advice on the forum in the past.
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