The UK has a long and strong history in boat building. From the time that King Henry VIII grew the royal navy from a fleet of five ships to a force of more than 50 there followed a seafaring history that carried British interests across the globe.
The UK heritage of naval domination appears to have made a British boat desirable. Henry VIII had his boats built with oak 500 years ago, made by British craftsmen who had honed their skills at any of Britain’s ports, true artisans using traditional building methods and tools, many unchanged for centuries.
Whilst the UK boat-building industry was once sought after across the globe, the industry has suffered since the middle of the twentieth century. Up until the end of the second world war, two-thirds of the world’s ships sailed under the British flag. By the 1960s, the introduction of composites saw the introduction of high tech players into the business which saw the building time and costs reduced. This competition, combined with the economic downturn in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, saw many British builders fold.
Today, the boatbuilding industry remains positive, with manufacturing in the leisure industry growing even whilst under pressure to compete in international markets.
The industry is also helped through greater cooperation between marine industries and maritime services, particularly with a focus in naval and leisure exports. The UK is now the third largest boat builder in Europe and the fourth largest ship builder in a market dominated by South Korea, closely followed by Japan and China.
The appeal of British craftsmen is reflected not only in the UK’s naval heritage, but also in the heritage of the builders themselves. The ability to build a boat that can navigate sometimes challenging seas without the slightest problem is a great recommendation for Britain which has the belief, the confidence and the technology to provide the best.
The emerging markets are growing fastest in Latin America, the Far East and the Middle East, where the British heritage of boatbuilding skill is trusted. The heritage of British boat building equates with quality and craftsmanship at least matching other European builders with well-earned reputations, with Britain’s worldwide reputation for design, innovation and quality giving it an edge.
The thick curve of a boat’s wooden hull is the biggest challenge to boatbuilders. Steam bending is a boat building technique that has been used for centuries to curve wood. The heat softens the lignin in the wood, which is the wood’s natural glue which binds the fibres of wood together. The hot wood can be bent around a mould and clamped there for about two weeks. Oak is one of the best timbers to use along with elm and ash, which have all been used for centuries.
The monocoque construction of cold moulding was used for racing yachts before the use of fiberglass in the 1960s. This involves thin layers of veneer bent and criss-crossed over each other to form a curved lattice that can bend in both directions. The lattice structure is placed over compound curves for maximum strength with minimal material usage, whatever the size of boat being built. It is also durable and light which makes it a good technique for boats you want to move by hand.
A boat has been specifically designed for navigating in near-shore areas or inland waterways. Used mostly for recreation, boats are also used commercially to move passengers and cargo short distances. Boats fall into three main categories, being powered by motor, sail or man. It is impossible to list all the different types of boats, but in the main boats are: