Living the dream


Living the dream

Laura had a professional background in theatre, music and fashion when she decided in the summer of 2017 that it was time for a change, and that she was interested in living and working by the sea.

Like many people I suspect, I signed up to IBTC Portsmouth to make a change in my life. I decided I wanted to live and maybe work by the seaside. Portsmouth was a quick dash from my South London home and an area where I had some relatives. I often think now of my sea view across Southsea Common watching the hovercraft come and goI didn’t know the Historic Dockyard at all until I studied there and it is a hidden joy. My one trepidation was surviving the oft mentioned cold of the open boathouse suspended over Portsmouth Harbour but I surprised myself in this regard (helped now and then by a sneaky hot water bottle under my jumper!)”

Laura and the rest of her cohort had a few of those colder days,”It was the year of the Beast From The East but also the most glorious Spring and Summer. One of my best memories is sitting with friends at the Still & West pub looking across the harbour entrance as the sun set.”

She found the course to be very rewarding. “I was suffering from quite a lot of anxiety when I started the course. This improved over the year. I loved the process of Lofting a boat full-size which was much like my design experience of pattern cutting but I also enjoyed preparing a strongback to support a new build, learning to sharpen my chisels and use a drill properly, put a shoe on a sagging keel and endless other experiences. I use everything I learned in Mark’s joinery class.

Laura didn’t have a next step in mind when she began the course, “My main focus was to try to savour every moment and not think about the future but in the end I had to answer the question so my plan became the most dreamy thing I could think of – to build a gondola in Venice. Four months after the end of the course, I somehow found myself in another draughty boathouse restoring an actual gondola. I’m still not sure how that happened but I hope to write more about it one day. I also hope to find a way to get some students and graduates out to Venice to be part of the incredible wooden boat owning and building scene here. It would be amazing to see a cross fertilisation of skills and knowledge between these two great seafaring locations. 

Since realising that first dream, Laura has stayed in Venice, working on other boats and restoration projects. I am now passing my skills onto a local champion Vogaressa while she teaches me Venetian style rowing, standing up and facing front. Our plan is to build our own boat (or three). When you’ve learned everything IBTC Portsmouth has to teach you, come and join us any time.”

Laura’s website is , you can follow her on Twitter @LJ_Pritchard Instagram and Facebook Laura Jessica Pritchard.

Photos courtesy of Laura Pritchard and Row Venice