Graduate Richard Atherton on his experience with IBTC Portsmouth and beyond

Graduate Richard Atherton on his experience with IBTC Portsmouth and beyond

We love hearing from our graduates and following their journeys after the course. Below Richard, who completed his 1 year boat building course in September 2016, is sharing his story and testimonial with us. Read on to learn about what did he do before joining IBTC Portsmouth and how is he using the skills he learned  now.


What did you do before joining the course? 

Before enrolling at the IBTC Portsmouth I didn’t have much of a career direction, I’d worked numerous jobs, everything from working on building sites to pulling pints down my local pub. But after visiting the college and speaking to various people I decided that boat building would be a great path to head down.

Why did you decide to start a boat building training course and why did you choose IBTC Portsmouth?

I chose the IBTC Portsmouth because of the location and the range of boats on offer to work on. There was nothing better than getting off the train each morning and being immediately shadowed by HMS Warrior. I’ve always had a love of naval history and being able to work on boats that each have their own story inside Boathouse 4 has been such an interesting way to learn.

What is the most satisfying aspect of boat building for you?

There are many satisfying aspects about boat building, but for me it’s the ability to create something of lasting value, which mixes beauty with functionality so seamlessly. In this world where cheap items are thrown away when broken and replaced with items straight of the production line, just as cheap and poorly made, I think now more than ever, it’s important to learn these skills and build things that will last.

Having the ability to build and repair a wooden boat is just as important and relative as making or repairing a broken chair. The college gives you all the skills to do this and leaves you with the capability to make things that will last for generations. I was lucky enough to be approached by a family who wanted a student to restore their grandfather’s shipwright’s chest, which he himself had made as a young apprentice over 70 years ago. I worked on it alongside my own tool chest and it gave me a great sense of satisfaction to know that both tool chests would last for many more years to come.

How does it feel to be IBTC Portsmouth graduate?

Not only has studying at the college opened up many doors for me into what I hope will be a long career, but I’ve also made some lifelong friends, both with my fellow students and the staff. I try to visit the college whenever I’m home to catch up with everyone and to see how the projects are developing. It’s very reassuring to know that even having left the college if I ever need anything that they are there and are always ready to help and offer advice, I can’t thank them all enough for their patience, knowledge and infectious passion for what they do.


What did you move onto after completing the course with IBTC Portsmouth? 

Since leaving the college I have started working for Devon Wooden Boats Ltd. – a boatbuilders, restorers and repairers on the beautiful River Dart in South Devon. Under the experienced eye of owner and lead shipwright Pete Newbery-Thornton I have continued to learn and develop my skills that I acquired at the IBTC Portsmouth, on a number of interesting projects.

My first project was finishing the rebuild of early 1950’s clinker launch which included re-ribbing and replacing all bottom planking.  Followed by the 1860 Victorian Gaff Yawl ‘Cleone’,  which is maintained by the company and has just come to the end of an extensive refit getting her ready for skipped charters around the rivers and estuaries of the south Devon coast. We’ve just finished making important structural repairs on England’s oldest wooden passenger ferry “Ferry No.4 Teignmouth / Shaldon” that runs every day just up the coast in Teignmouth, and are currently working on the refit of the classic Sonny Levi racing powerboat “Viva Tridante”.

Pete Newbery-Thornton, Richard’s current employer, says:

 I am very pleased with the standard of skills, commitment and attitude towards learning that Rich continues to show.

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