Cement-clad boats being built at Northam

A new dimension in boatbuilding

on the banks of the River Torridge was rapidly taking shape on Friday in a workshop at the bottom of Limers Lane, Northam.

Two ferro-cement sailing and motor cruisers are being built by Mr Len Cooper of Weare Giffard, and a family partnership of Mr Andrew Cox and his father, Mr Cyril Cox who are builders. Mr Cyril Cox lives near the workshop.

 Cement clad boats being built at Northam

A group of about a dozen began making and applying a continuous supply of cement to the first of the two frameworks. The cement was applied about an inch thick over a framework of reinforced steel rods and seven layers of chicken wire. For six weeks the cement has to ‘cure’, being allowed to harden gradually. When it comes to launching the boats, they will be rolled to the nearby shore. Mr Cooper’s boat, being constructed in an upside down position, may present a problem but will be gradually floated on a rising tide, the plan being to right it in the course of this using the air pocket.

There has been much good-humoured chaffing about the buoyancy of the boats, but the builders are quietly confident. The work represents an application of principles developed by an Italian professor, Professor Nervi, who has specialised in the construction of thin concrete domes. Shortly after the first world war concrete trading vessels with sides about four inches thick were built on the River Taw at Barnstaple but were not very successful.

Gazette article 4 May 1973


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