Projects: One boat. A thousand stories.
The Lone Twin Boat Project used the latest yacht building methods, to turn wooden objects donated by people from across the South East into a seaworthy archive of stories and memories. Jesse Loynes, who worked alongside Mark Covell as one of the lead boat builders, tells epoxycraft about The Boat Project and how epoxy made the impossible project possible.
Collective Spirit is not your average 30ft wooden yacht. It’s the seafaring unification of over 1,200 pieces of timber, including pieces of wood from the Mary Rose and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.
It was created during the first half of 2012 as one of the twelve public art commissions across the UK which celebrated the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The artists behind the project were Gregg Whelan and Gary Winters, two directors of one of Europe’s leading performance companies, Lone Twin.
From February – August 2011 they asked people from the region to bring us their wood – but not just any old wood. Pencil or piano – exotic as Zebrawood or as familiar as pine – they wanted wood that was meaningful; wood with a story to tell and that’s precisely what over a thousand people did – bringing their pieces of wood and telling their stories. The result is, therefore, a seafaring record of their lives.
Three years later, epoxycraft caught up with Jesse Loynes one of the lead boat builders on the project.
Tell us a little about yourself.
The first restoration I ever took part in was a Seafly sailing dinghy when I was five. Since then I’ve repaired my fair share of boats and finally decided to train professionally at the International Boatbuilding Training College in Lowestoft. I then undertook a range of placements before starting work on The Boat Project. Since then I’ve started my own boatbuilding company, Arbor Yachts.
What is The Boat Project and how did it come about?
It began as a unique, artistic project for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, started by Lone Twin (http://www.lonetwin.com/).
I joined the project in December 2010 as a boat builder and grew into the role of lead boat builder. We worked as a close team, Mark Covell – project manager – 3 other boat builders and myself.
We also worked with between 50 and 60 volunteers who helped on the practical side. Some came in week after week, each with a huge mix of skills and backgrounds, including policemen, teachers and retirees. As the project started to grow we knew we’d be working with lots of donated timber but had no idea just how much!
How did you manage to integrate such a wide variety of timber?
The important thing was to make good use of the timber. Some of the largest and most substantial pieces, including wood from both HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, went into the backbone and the keel. Toys, musical instruments and other pieces with a distinctive shape had to be made the most of aesthetically. We really had to make an effort with these pieces to incorporate them on the outside.
All of the timber had to be faired in and we had to make sure the pieces could withstand this. Because we had so many different pieces of timber in very different conditions, we had to prepare them correctly. For example, we had one virtually fossilised bit of timber that was flaking away, so we warmed a bath of epoxy and used it to get the wood into a workable condition.
A lot of the timber we encapsulated in epoxy resin because it was too damp or too rotten – it wouldn’t have been as durable without epoxy. We pre-filled most pieces with resin so we knew the timber was really well sealed once it was on the boat.
Which epoxy products did you use? How did they help?
It just couldn’t have been done without epoxy. The project was this wonderful creative thing that wasn’t practically achievable with resins that we’ve used previously. WEST SYSTEM® epoxy meant that we were able to do – and achieve – so much more.
We built the hull first using WEST SYSTEM epoxy. We needed a canvas to put the rest of the timber onto and this went together with a mix of epoxy resin and fillers. We used 105 Epoxy Resin® and 209 Extra Slow Hardener™ to give us a workable cure time. Then we sheathed in glass cloth. When we washed the hull with the 105/205 Fast Hardener® mix, we found that by heating it up just a little, we could get it to work right into the timber.
We wanted to keep things simple because we had the volunteers and we wanted to train everyone how to use the resins safely. Having a small variety of products that could be used for such a breadth of applications was extremely useful.
What was the most rewarding part of the project?
We originally had no idea how this was going to turn out. We didn’t know what timber we’d receive or who we’d be working with. When we started working with such incredible teams and getting these amazing donations, that was really rewarding. It was all about the public and community involvement. Every time someone came to us with a new donation it made this feel like a very special project.
We had one boat builder come from Portsmouth with wood from the very recently decommissioned HMS Ark Royal. That was a fantastic surprise.
Then there was a man who’d been to visit the set of his favourite film, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, in Spain. He came back with sticks of juniper from the set which he then donated to us.
The breadth of stuff that came in and the breadth of people that got involved was the best part of this project. What came out at the end was something that was very, very special. Seeing your boat on the water for the first time is always amazing, but for this project it was the essence and the generosity of everyone that made it an amazing result of everything that came into it.
What’s happening with Collective Spirit now?
Since launching in May 2012 she embarked on her maiden voyage, which saw her sail around the South East coast, with bespoke festivals and events welcoming her in to towns and cities as a part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. She was in Weymouth for the sailing where thousands of people encountered her on the way to the event. She’s been over in France as a part of Dunkirk’s Capital of Culture celebrations and spent a summer in Torbay offering sailing to young people who wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity. Currently the team are in the early stages of developing a permanent home and visitors’ centre for her, which is really exciting. This coming summer she’ll be back on home waters as Portsmouth Sail Training Trust take the helm and offer disadvantage young people the opportunity to train on Collective Spirit – quite a remarkable opportunity given her provenance.
What’s your top tip for boat builders inspired by this project?
Prepare your timber correctly. In the sheer variety of timbers that we received, some had a 40-50% moisture content, making it very difficult to work with. It’s all in the preparation. Even epoxy can struggle in poor conditions, so getting your timber into to the correct state is the most important part of all of it. Then your epoxy will work well and everything else will come together nicely.
I’d also encourage you to learn from new processes. The techniques and products I used while working on Collective Spirit have inspired the practises I now use in my own business.
Get the full story on The Boat Project (http://www.theboatproject.com/).
If you need support with your own WEST SYSTEM epoxy projects, visit West System International for advice on a full range of applications, for any project.
Photo credit: Toby Adamson & Michael Austen