Traditional boatbuilding in Skippool Creek
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:42 06 September 2017
Beautiful boats like The Polly are still being built the old fashioned way on the river Wyre, writes Paul Mackenzie
Little has changed at Skippool Creek for centuries. Tranquil farmland rolls down to the banks of the river Wyre where boats gently bob on the tide. And while David Moss’s boat yard is relatively new, the boats he builds and restores there are almost as traditional as the timeless landscape.
Boat yards like this were once a staple part of towns and villages along the Lancashire coast. Although most have now gone, David is preserving the traditional craft of building wooden boats.
David, who is originally from Formby, grew up around boats – his father worked for the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board legal department and an uncle, who worked for a shipping line, would take him aboard ships docked on the river.
‘When I left school I had thought about the merchant navy but my dad put me off and when I said I was going into wooden boat building he said that was a dead-end job,’ he recalled.
‘In a way he was right because wooden boats were going out of fashion and as glues got better people could build their own wooden boats or simply buy a fibre-glass hull. It has been tough but I’m stubborn and I don’t give in easily. I just stuck at it.’
In spite of his father’s thoughts, after leaving school at 16, David began work at a boat yard in North Wales building wooden boats, yachts and racing sailing boats. From there he moved to a yard at Freckleton, then worked on the Shropshire Union Canal and moved to Glasson Dock after a brief spell on the Isle of Bute.
In 1985 he began building his own yard at Skippool and moved in a year later. He has since built a reputation for the quality and craftsmanship of his work and when he’s not at work, David can often be found in his 14ft sailing dinghy called Escape.
‘Word of mouth is very important in this business – if someone likes what you’ve done, they tell friends,’ he said. ‘I’m known around the country – and around the world – now and I have reputation for doing a good job. I’ve got to keep that up.
Skippool Creek boatbuilding
The good ship Polly is hoisted up ready for launch
A steady hand carefully manouevres the boat
A low loader edges towards the water
Safely in the water
Everything seems shipshape
The Polly is ready for service
David Moss, the boatyard owner, with Mike Dickens
The launch team: Brian Nicholson, Mike Dickens, Mike Wilson, Jackie Pickersgill, Ali Pickersgill, David Moss, Trevor Eggleton, Mike Cussens and Roger Unsworth
Mike Wilson, Ali Pickersgill and David Moss
‘Whether you are doing up an old boat or building a new one, you get something to be proud of. You know it’s been done properly and it could last 100 years.’
Since opening his own yard, David, who now lives in Catterall, has employed apprentices to ensure the skills he learned as a teenager are not lost – the two with him now have both been at the yard for about 12 years.
‘There used to be boat yards all over this area but there are hardly any now so I have always helped younger people,’ he said.
‘I do my own drawings and designs, make a model and agree on a design with the customer, then build the full size version. Depending on the size and style of the boat, it can take anything from three months to three years.’
And among the projects underway at the yard is a 19ft launch he helped build in his late teens at the boat yard in Freckleton. ‘It’s just a bare hull at the moment but I’ve been trying to work on it for years and I’m determined to get it back in the water as it looked originally,’ he said.