It was in 1997 during a discussion between me and the Director of Patterdale Hall that the concept of building an offshore sail training vessel was formed. I had suggested the possibility of the boys building, in their technology lessons, a large craft for use on Ullswater. What Patterdale really wanted to do was develop offshore sailing for the pupils of Bolton School, another area of sailing altogether and a much greater challenge. There was no point in building something they did not need so I went away to research the feasibility of this enormous project. Most hull construction methods, on the size of hull that would be required, were beyond the capabilities of school pupils but there was one method, often used by amateur builders, that could possibly be used – that of ferro-cement. A search came up with a number of designs which could be used with some modifications to suit our needs.
The next stage was to present this to the Head and Governors as a possible project for celebrating the millennium within School. Luckily we had at that time a most visionary headmaster in Alan Wright who told me to come back with a financial plan for the building and running of the boat. This took nearly a year, in which we contacted many companies, Old Boys, parents and other members of the School family asking for support and sponsorship. The response was fantastic in every way. Offers came in to support us with the loan of a temporary building, a lorry load of cement straight from the works in Clitheroe, ferro-cement research advice and quality control, production of components too large to produce in School, discounted materials, electrical wiring and components, paint systems and volunteer labour in and out of school hours. The willingness to support the project was a testament to the generosity of so many people to provide educational experience, with a difference, to the pupils of Bolton School.
Armed with this initial plan, and the backing of the Governors, we started work on constructing the hull in a temporary shed outside the workshops. Once the frames had been hung on the centre line of the shed it was time for the Year 10/11 pupils to construct the armature. Working in teams of three or four they tied the rods into the frames to form a grid in the perfect shape of the hull lines. This was then covered in six layers of wire mesh creating a most spectacular sight with sunlight shining through the steel mesh. It took three years to complete this stage, with regular checks from the Lloyds appointed surveyor ensuring we met the stringent standards required to register the vessel as a commercial sailing yacht. Only when this stage was completed could we plaster it to complete a seagoing ferro-cement hull. Yet another sponsor in the form of a local construction company provided the professional staff for the plastering. The whole hull had to be plastered continuously from start to finish, a job that began at 5.00am and finished at 6.00pm the same day.
Suddenly we had a hull to fit out and, after 28 days of wet curing, she was passed by the surveyor for completion to be carried out by the boys and volunteers. Whilst the older boys had been working on the hull, younger ones were making fittings like port holes, guard rails, bulkheads, bunks etc to be installed when the surveyor was happy with hull. The project continued with boys working for a maximum of six weeks in their technology lessons and very many hours in their own time. A parents and retired staff volunteer group worked one day and two evenings a week throughout the whole construction period, such was the commitment of so many people.
Headmasters came and went, but the project carried on until finally, on 14th March 2007, Tenacity of Bolton was ready for the move to Glasson Dock for her launching. It was a spectacular moment to see a 46ft ocean-going yacht lifted high off the playground onto a transporter, knowing that over a thousand boys had played a major part in her construction. Within the year she had completed her sea trials and was registered as a fully operational commercial sailing vessel with a skipper, mate and ten trainee pupils. We had achieved what we had set out to do: to construct, in School with the boys, a sea-going vessel for sail training for all the pupils of Bolton School.
Patterdale Hall have run it for seven years and from this year it will become part of the Tall Ships Youth Trust Fleet for use by the pupils of the future. It is the largest vessel we know to have been constructed in a school and the success has only been made possible by the massive support from the School and business community and the tenacity of all those who played a part in its construction.