Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Going Professional

Back on 3 July 2000, I drove out of the staff carpark at the Brisbane Air Traffic Control Centre for what I believed was the very last time. I had been working as a controller continuously for twenty-five years, and things were about to change. My decision to get out of the job at age 45 years of age had been planned, as I wanted to follow my passion for the building and designing of small wooden craft.

What followed was an odyssey of business risk, independent learning, support from friends, seven-day work weeks, and formal qualification. The first five years were the most intense, but after an interlude caused by a serious heart illness and associated surgery, I've been back into fairly constant work. These days most of my workload is made up of design projects and answering questions from email enquirers. My good friend Paul Hernes (builder of the first Phoenix III) tells me to, "Keep Smiling", and most of the time that is what I'm doing.

Here are a few random photos from the early days in the workshops.


First Boat after going full-time - a Green Island 15 designed by Mike Roberts. I was building a number of other boats at the time, being helped by Allen Danvers

Here she is on an early sail - son David at the helm, and Steve on the rail.

This is a very serious and young me starting the layout of an Iain Oughtred Whilly Boat. My current workshop is not as tidy!

Not long after, we were building an Oughtred Tammie Norrie and a Phil Bolger Micro at the same time. In-between times we had built a 24ft Oxford Punt of my design, a Surf Ski also of my design, and had finished the Whilly Boat. The dapper-looking fellow in the tie is David Neumann, the Hempel Paint rep.

Here is the finished Whilly Boat

My first commercial design - the paddle ski

Customers were friendly, and brought in lunch!

Boat Cupboard designed and built for a local high-class restaurant. Can still be seen in Manly, Queensland

Five boats - four 18 footers and one 22 footer for the movie, "Diamond of Jeru" starring Billy Zane. We built these (fully functional with buoyancy tanks and provision for outboards) in 20 days of 5am to 12pm work. That is Allen and me feeling very exhausted. The boats lasted so well that they were sold after the filming was complete. We also built two Phil Bolger Payson Pirogues for the movie at the same time!

Jeru boat on the movie set - this is one of the small ones

Here I am at nearly fifty-seven with fifty-five boats under my belt, a tolerant wife, and about three glasses of red wine inside my belly. This is what full-time boat building does to you folks!

That is probably too many photos for one posting, but if you are interested I'll put up the odd interesting photo from time to time. We did some interesting stuff (and still do) in those days, like making patterns for complex bronze castings etc. Let me know if you want to see more.


  1. Ross,
    Great to hear that you are pursuing/living your passion and how Bayside Woodenboats got started.
    Keep it up!
    .. Denis

  2. Hi Ross,

    your intrepid story reminds me of some of my favourite passages from Thoreau:

    If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.

    Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.