New approach to old school skills

The Boat Works has welcomed shipwright and timber boat specialist, Ryan Thacker, director at 143 Boat Building, already up and running and in high demand for his specialist skills.
Ryan recently relocated to the Gold Coast from Sydney where he worked at various yards and marinas “out of the back of my van”, as he recounts.

“Business started to increase as people become more sentimental about timber boats, and I was looking for a home base where I could set up a workshop for fabrication,” he explains. “The Boat Works has a reputation as a thriving marine hub and Tony Longhurst for running an extremely clean and well managed yard, so I came up to check it out, and by December I was in and operating.”
Now ensconced in the purpose-built facility at the entrance to the Coomera marine precinct, Ryan is working on several projects for local and interstate clients who are shipping their boats to the Gold Coast to avail themselves of Ryan’s unique skillset.

“I specialise in the maintenance and repair of carvel planked vessels (wider planks with caulking such as cotton/oakum between planks) using traditional joinery methods that ensure hulls are both sturdy and flexible.
“Timber is a living organism, it moves and swells in water and temperature. You can’t just spot-repair a timber vessel. Newer boats make repairs easier, but with wooden boats, you need the time and precision to ensure a quality job.”
Ryan came to boat building via an unusual route. Born in Kentucky, USA, he moved with his family to Sydney when he was 12 years old and settled in coastal Coogee.
Ryan, who despite never having taken woodwork classes at school was always interested in how things worked, took a job as a labourer where he was able to pick up the fundamentals. “I developed an interest and took up an apprenticeship as a Shipwright, and then really found my forte.”
He worked on timber boats at a small yard in Balmain, before taking up a role at Garden Island where he worked on Naval and commercial craft in repair and refit.
After a decade dealing with the traffic and challenges of working in Sydney, Ryan decided to head north and stake his claim as an expert in his field.

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Acknowledging that his stock in trade is “a niche market”, Ryan says he is pleased to report “the phone is ringing hot” with clients seeking traditional skills in timber for restoration projects, refits and new builds.
He has just completed a major refit project on a Halvorsen, which started out as a repair job and then grew into something more time-consuming.
The boat, originally called UNA was built in the early 1960s. Her current owner saw the beauty and history in the classic lines of the vessel and sought Ryan’s services.
Over two months, working alone in a berth on water for a few weeks, then raised out of the water while the deck and gunwales were fixed, Ryan carried out the painstaking repairs.
The iconic wooden boat required the removal of significant dry rot, and Ryan replaced much of the bulkhead and timber work in the cabin and on deck. The restored sections were sanded, sealed, primed and varnished or painted. The thoroughly revived vessel, complete with rewired high-tech helm and an antifoul was renamed Lunera, meaning ‘moonlight’, and is truly a sight to behold.halvostbdmooring
“Yes, she looks brilliant,” says a proud Ryan. “This kind of work requires an expert and a big-picture approach. You can’t just patch a section and hope for the best.”
The client is over the moon with the outcome and has committed to the next phase of work which is to bring Lunera up to showroom condition.
Next on the agenda is a new build for a sailing enthusiast from Newcastle – a dinghy-style boat like the kind he had in his youth, that he wishes to revive his sailing skills in retirement.
Ryan will soon hire timber specialists to cater to demand, and hopes to have two more talented shipwrights on-board by the end of 2018.
“We can provide all the services of a shipwright in timber and fibreglass, as well as teak decking, gel coat repairs, paint and resprays, refit coordination and detailing,” says Ryan. “Our difference is a genuine passion for the work and professional and personal pride in the end result.”