The Traditional Boat Builder

The view across Plymouth Sound from No.1 Covered Slip, the home of Stirling & Son Traditional Boat Builders in Plymouth, England. © Scott Ramsey

Stirling & Son

Traditional Boat Builders

Day 3 Photographers Eye Road Trip 

Will Stirling is the type of man that they make films about. Whilst traveling across the Alps to Turkey on a 50cc moped, the then 25 year old Will, designed his first 37' wooden boat, which he later named Alert. Why a moped? Well previously, he had attempted to cross France in a canoe via a derelict network of canals, but unfortunately the canals proved impossible to navigate so he swapped the canoe for an old moped. After his road trip he returned to England and bought a vintage fire engine, crashed it, bought another (after several months of physical therapy) and starting living in it. He managed to find a free place to park his new home at the Morwellham Quay heritage site on the Tamar River in Devon. From his new home, Will spent the next 18 months working 15 hour days, six days a week, single-handedly building Alert, a replica of an 1835 smuggling lugger. On his one and only day off each week, he studied for an MA in Maritime History at Exeter University. In February 2017 Alert was finished and in true Stirling Style, Will made some makeshift wheels and launched the boat into the River Tamar. Next up Alert needed to be tested out at sea. Most people would probably opt for a quick sail on a friendly stretch of water, but not Will. In May, Will and his crew, started a 2,500 mile maiden voyage to Iceland and back. And they succeeded.

As Will's boat building adventures continued, he found fame, love and finally his own boatyard. Of course, not just any old boatyard. No.1 Covered Slip is the oldest remaining covered slipway in the world. Located in Devonport, Plymouth, England the slipway was built in 1763 (the roof added in 1814) and is listed as a ancient monument. Even more surprising is that Will has a family connection to the slip. In 1798 his great, great, great, great grandmother, Eliza Barlow, launched Nelson's flagship, the Foudroyant, from the slip.

As I packed up my cameras and shook Will's hand, I thanked him for his time and for allowing me to be part of his world for a morning. My photographs are dedicated to Will, his wife Sara and their highly skilled team of shipwrights that repair and build beautiful traditional wooden yachts and boats in Devonport, Plymouth. 

Postcards From Plymouth

Prints of my photographs are available to buy via my online photography gallery. Every sale helps me continue to document stories like this and fund future road trips. 

During my visit I also filmed an episode for my YouTube channel which you can watch below. If you would like to find out more about Stirling & Son please visit 

Photographing A Traditional Plymouth Boat Builder - On a recent 10 day photography road trip to Devon I visited Stirling & Son, a traditional boat builder in Plymouth. Join me as I show you inside one of their current projects and explain how I create my photographs and document a story.