Can you tell us a little about your background?
When I was growing up our family always had boats and I have been boating, camping and fishing in around the bay all my life. Dad wanted to build his own boat at some point and always talked about Norman Wrights and how beautiful and well-built their boats were, so I’ve always had an interest in building boats and knew of Norman Wrights.
Dad’s cousin Lex Baddiley mentioned that there were some apprenticeships on offer at Wrights, so I pretty much went straight from School in January 2002 into a Boat Building apprenticeship at Norman Wrights, where I completed my apprenticeship and then left in 2008 to experience other activities outside boat building. I started working in the coal and gas mines where I did other trade based jobs like sandblasting and industrial painting.
Then in 2014 I re-joined Wrights as a sub-contractor, eventually becoming Leading Hand. In 2017 I became refit and repairs Works Supervisor and the role I’m still doing today, which involves major refits through to annual maintenance and repairs. Day to day I’m responsible for coordinating and managing staff and contractors, lift requirements through to relaunch and handovers. Every job regardless of the size or importance receives the same attention to detail, something I’m very focussed on and proud to say our team are as well.
What’s the most exciting or rewarding project you have worked on and why?
To be honest it’s not so much a specific project it’s more the types of people. I love working with the mum and dad owners who are so proud and passionate about owning a classic boat. It’s so rewarding seeing owners happy with the work we complete on their boats and it makes me so proud that all of our guys feel the same way too.
If there was one highlight project though, for me it would be Laura J. Laura J was 30 years old and we undertook a major refit, gutting the engine room and repowering her, all new wiring and engineering, new wheelhouse and systems upgrades and external paint job. It was my first project as Leading Hand and basically lead me to becoming Works Supervisor. The project took us about 1.5 to 2 years and one I find very satisfying and that I’m still very proud of today.
How have you seen boat building change over the years?
When I started boats were strip plank timber hulls, then fibreglass inside and out. Above decks they were timber framed and fibreglass on the outside. All build and repair works were completed on slipways rather than in undercover sheds.
These days all of the new builds are composite, very little timber used. The skills or processes used are similar but the new technology not just in the builds but also in the equipment such as engines, stabilisers, electronics means the boats are lighter stronger and quicker to build.
One of the biggest changes I’ve noticed for us, and its only really been since we moved into the new shed and facility where we have access to travel-lifts and shed etc, is how and where the boats are stored when being built or repaired. When I started we worked out of the Byron street factory in an old shed with three slipways. We had to work around the tides then and regardless of what times. If high tide was in the middle of the night and we needed to move a boat then that’s when we did it. We’d have to then chock up boats and remove the trolleys so we could move other boats. Now with the travel-lift we can lift and move boats in any tide and they are so much easier to work around as there is so much more access away from chocks and slipway trolleys. The younger guys don’t know how easy they have it these days.
How has Norman R Wright & Sons changed over the years since you have been with the business?
It’s really still the same to me, apart from the way we work with the ease of the travel-lifts etc. It’s so much easier and more efficient than it used to be.
What has been the highlight of your career with Norman R. Wright & Sons?
As I mentioned Laura J was probably the highlight for me as it was a great project to work on and really helped to progress my career with Wrights.