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The Duchess of Cornwall: Diary Entry 2

17 October 2007 — 14 August 2008

Stage 2: Lofting Out

“For many, the process of lofting out is a black art – whenever you mention it to an old boy, they will suck their breath in through their teeth and shake their heads in dismay”

So says Mash Derrick, the in-house designer from Cockwells Boatyard in Falmouth.

Lofting out as described by Dave Cockwell, owner of Cockwells “is a method of converting information from a design or model into a full size template or pattern.  It is called lofting because it was originally done in the loft as it did not require headroom and one could take advantage of light from the roof.    To many it may seem a mysterious art but it is simply a skilful task which requires accuracy and diligence.  It is essential to make sure that all the figures tie together and all the lines are fair.  It is done as near to the hull size as able to make the template as accurate as possible”

The drawings are made on huge white boards and in the case of the new St Mawes Ferry; some were drawn to full scale and some to half the scale.

The new ferry, which will go into service next May, measures a whopping 60ft in length, 15ft 9ins at the maximum beam (the widest part from side to side) and has a draft of 2ft 9 ins (the depth of the ferry from the waterline to the bottom of the keel)

“There are a couple of special attributes which are needed to make a successful loftsman,” Mash explained. “One is a dedication to fanatical accuracy. The other is a ‘good eye to a fair line’ – the ability to distinguish fair curve from an infair one, not only individually but when grouped with others. However fair the drawings are, scaling up to the full size will magnify errors.”

Overseen by Dave Cockwell, thirty-one-year-old Craig Chad was responsible for the lofting out, which took just over two weeks to complete. “I had completed the lofting out of a 12ft boat at college, so to be given the job of the new St Mawes Ferry was amazing – and something which does not happen very often nowadays. Boat building terms are quite unusual and the lofting out is really like sorting out the DNA or the body plan of the vessel.

“For years to come, I’ll see the ferry going to and fro from Falmouth to St Mawes and will be able to think that I had a major part in the design and make up of her,” he said.

Once the design had been transferred, plywood templates of the vessel were made up ready to be used in the choosing of the wood.