Boat building gets modernised

Boat building gets modernised
Kaylah Joelle Baker

Boat building has always been an intricately detailed process but for passionate business owner of The Wooden Boat Centre Nicholas Atkins, now is the time for a modernised change in production.

Essentially growing up on Victoria Harbour, due to the centre being his grandfather’s, Nicholas saw the centre move from the middle of the harbour on Central Pier to its current location in Shed 2 at North Wharf in 2005.

A recognisable location due to their red roller doors at the end of the wharf, The Wooden Boat Centre has a long history in Docklands as a welcoming and supportive space for boat builders and like-minded builders of innovative projects.

But despite loving the time spent in the workspace, Nicholas never saw his future there until suddenly the passion reignited unexpectedly.

“No-one else in the family was working with my grandfather and so because I spent all my time growing up there I decided to at least go back for a time,” he said.

“I just focused on doing the work and then without me realising, in the span of three weeks, it transitioned from being the business we were building together to now me running it when my grandfather said, ‘Right, it’s your problem now’.”

Advancing on the problem-solving steps he was taught by his grandfather, Nicholas said he would be “forever indebted” to his grandfather for his mentorship, and it is a reason behind why he wants to continue to grow the space and find better ways of doing things.

A self-defined “nerd on the computers”, Nicholas used the most of the downtime in COVID lockdowns to re-evaluate exactly how business was done and how they were shaping the surrounding area.

“COVID was an interesting period because although it destroyed the business run time it meant I was spending a lot of time on the computer and improving skills and designs, building the algorithms that design the boats and making things much better,” he said.

“We have the computer design and cutting facilities here, full sheet routers, laser cutters and 3D printers.”

The added additions of using parametric design have not only seen Nicholas share his innovations as a guest lecturer for RMIT’s Landscape Architecture course, but also allow the space to become a safer environment for first-time boat builders.

Hopeful this is only the beginning of what they can do for the local Docklands community, The Wooden Boat Centre continues to provide a glimpse into what makes the area so special with classes for amateur boat builders and quick build classes in the school holidays.

For a change of pace, the centre has also opened up its doors to a short-term activation project by international artist Leeroy New in preparation for RISING’s The Wilds festival which will be taking place at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in early June (read more in the June edition of Docklands News).

It’s left Nicholas hopeful that the centre can continue to provide their modernised technology and facilities to various new projects in the near future •

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