A long term, out of work, time served plater, born and bred in Wallsend has swapped his sofa for the slipway and hand built a 50 foot long steel canal narrow boat.
After many years of chasing shipbuilding work up and down the country, Peter Wylie from Howdon and his friends found themselves out of work last year due to the decline in shipbuilding in the UK and the impacts of the oil and gas slump on the industry locally.
Between them, they had amassed over 130 years experience of shipbuilding and after some discussion; they decided to bring boat building back to Tyneside. Peter decided to form a company and NE Narrowboats was launched.
In just four short months, with financial help from friends and his skilled worker friends donating their time for free, the first narrow boat has been completed and is now ready for sale.
Peter’s short-term goal is to build and sell boats for other people, this will allow him to build up the company and employ local people. His mid term goal is to be able to build a fleet of boats for holiday rentals, with an additional fleet to provide free respite holidays for terminally ill children and adults.
“In our family we’ve lost a lot of people to cancer and we’ve see the pain and suffering it brings to families. We’d love to support our community by bringing jobs to the area at the same time as helping those less fortunate than ourselves who are suffering from terminal illnesses.”
Locally the support for Peter’s ship building project has been overwhelming with friends and strangers coming to offer help with the building process. Local companies and friends have donated portacabins, specialist tools and scaffolding but unlike the towering titans of Swan Hunter’s, there were no cranes used during the building. Everything was lifted by hand.
Peter is now hoping to sell the 50-foot narrow boat soon. It needs fitting out internally but that allows the new buyer to customise the boat to his or her own designs.
“We are looking for investment in the business but also in the community of the north east, “said Peter. ” We have centuries of experience in quality boat building and the know how to put our skills to good use once again on the Tyne.”
Previously, the Royal Fleet Auxillary Service vessel, Largs Bay was the last ship built on the Tyne. It was built by Swan Hunter in Wallsend, and launched for sea trials in November 2006. It has now been renamed and is in operation with the Royal Australia Navy.