Friday, 22 October 2021

I spent pandemic building traditional wooden boat

I spent pandemic building traditional wooden boat

A MAN who has spent the last 18 months building a traditional boat says it gave him a sense of achievement,

Steve Pestell, 60, from Benson, worked in IT for most of his life but at around the start of the coronavirus pandemic he decided to set up a boat-making business.

He will take part for the first time in the Thames Traditional Boat Festival in Henley next weekend with the wooden gentleman’s day boat.

The annual display of vintage boats, also known as the “Trad”, will take place at Fawley Meadows from the Friday to bank holiday Monday.

It usually features around 150 boats on display, including some of the most iconic steamers and some of the Dunkirk Little Ships

Mr Pestell said: “I had worked in IT ever since I left university and took some time out but decided not to go back.

“I went to the Trad for a couple of years and I thought it looked interesting and that I might try it.

“This is my first boat and it took me 18 months to build it. It was a real struggle, especially getting the supplies as lots of factories were shut down during the pandemic.

“It was taking up to four weeks to get the supplies and as this was my first boat, there was also a lot of learning involved.” Boats eligible to take part in the festival have to be of traditional wooden construction, built in hot or cold moulding techniques, or can be composite crafts with metal frames and timber planking, built of riveted iron or steel. Those built of canvas on a wooden frame are also welcomed.

Mr Pestell’s boat is 4.5m long and up to 2m wide with a mahogany hull and a Volvo engine. It can carry up to six people.

Mr Pestell, who has lived in Benson with his wife Susie for 20 years, fell in love with traditional boats when he was growing up in Kent. He said: “I did a bit of sailing when I was young and used to hang around people who owned boats.

“I think they are interesting to make. It is a challenge mentally, making sure everything fits and that the boat you are building reaches that quality standard.

“When you work in IT most of your day is spent sending emails and it is very difficult to see progress and put a finger on what you have achieved at the end of the week. With something like this, you can really see it.

“I have enjoyed the process and I hope that the people who end up buying it will have as much fun using it as I had making it. I wish I could keep it but, as you find out when you start working with boats, nothing is cheap.

“My idea is to start taking more orders and make two boats at the same time after this one is sold.

“I have learnt that while you are in the process of making one it is worth making another one at the same time as well because of the materials involved.

“The enjoyment I got out of it is the reason why I’m planning to make at least two more. It takes long hours and the process is difficult but I’ve always done woodwork so I felt confident in that part of the process.

“It was not that challenging but you need to be able to work accurately and take your time with it.

“I taught myself how to build it, mainly reading up on the internet and watching YouTube videos.

“I worked with an engineering company to get the electrics part right and Volvo were also very helpful when installing the engine.

“The boat is for sale but I’m more interested in meeting other people in the business and talking to other people who have the same passion.”

He added: “The Trad is always a nice weekend and there’s lots going on there. Some of the boats are pretty old and have a natural beauty to them.

“I had thought for a long time that making one would be a lovely thing, something that will last for that long.”

For more information, visit www.tradboatfestival

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