Trip Report — International Boatbuilding Training College


“…there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” — the Water Rat, from The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908.

We didn’t really get to mess around with boats much on our visit to the International Boatbuilding Training College last week. But we did get a grand tour of this remarkable facility on Oulton Broad in Lowestoft, Suffolk, said to be England’s easternmost settlement. Our thanks to the proud owner of the college, Mike Tupper, for taking the time to show us around.

Students from all over the world learn every aspect of boat building and repair, general woodworking and furniture-making — professionals and hobbyists alike. IBTC offers 47-week courses on Practical Boatbuilding and Joinery and Furniture as well as shorter courses: Build Your Own Boat (24 weeks — yes, you sail away at the end of it in your own boat), Woodworking Skills (12 weeks),  Introduction to Boat Surveying, and many more courses that cover all aspects of boatbuilding. And they include the whole gamut of non-woodworking boat-related skills: Glass Reinforced Plastics (4 days), Rope Work — Knots and Splicing (30 different knots!), as well as Rigging, Lofting, Caulking, Welding, and so much more.


There are boats of every style everywhere in this facility, in every stage of manufacture and repair. The work gets done on each as the curriculum dictates, moving from boat to boat as the students progress. Most of the boats are brought to the school by their owners who contract the school for repairs. They pay for the needed materials plus a small percentage but even though accepted for repair, there is no guarantee when a boat will be ready — could be years.


Hold on, though. If you need a repair done more quickly than the repair college can offer, it offers a perfect solution: right next door to IBTC, the school operates full-service repair facility that is staffed by many of the college grads. Here are some photos of their work:

Anyone interested in the design, construction, outfitting and repair of boats should seriously consider the offerings of the International Boatbuilding Training College. It’s a resource not to be missed.


About Ron Hock

Owner of HOCK TOOLS (.com) and author of "The Perfect Edge, the Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers"
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