Hi Cameron

I had a boatyard called Shearwater Boatyard in Knysna, situated at the east end of Union Street, next to the lagoon. I built four, 12 ft dinghies, and an 8 ft ‘pram’, using marine ply for the hull, and ‘wit els’ from the Knysna forest for the frames and trim.  Building these are a lot of work (just joining 2.4 m sheets of marine ply end to end with a long scarf joint is a mission in itself) and construction needs a lot of time.

Shearwood Boatyard Knysna

Anyway, Sue and I started the boatyard in 1983. I wanted to build crafty wooden boats, but most of our energy went into restoring and repairing or modifying existing boats that had fibreglass hulls – people didn’t want wooden boats – they want fibreglass boats, no maintenance needed. We struggled financially and happily put the boatyard into an early grave in 1986 following an attractive offer by the FitzPatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town to do an extended project in the Karoo.

Sue, in the boatyard years, had done a pioneering study on harvesting seven weeks ferns (used as evergreens in the florist industry) from the Knysna forest, and I had managed to keep publishing, so we still had at least one foot in Academia, and something to offer as scientists, but even more importantly, we were wanted as scientists, and not, obviously, as boat builders.

Shearwood boatyard Knysna

This short piece on the Acorn pram was something we got published to attract more business. The price looks ridiculous now!

Cheers, Richard

Dr W. Richard J. Dean,
RENU-KAROO Veld Restoration cc
Research Associate,
DST/NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick
Institute of African Ornithology,
University of Cape Town,
Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa