|Pioneer in winter - with an on-board workshop|
Aiden studied cabinet making at college after he left school. That convinced him that he loved working with his hands and specifically working with wood but the jobs available in the furniture industry were mainly machine based. He spent two years restoring donated furniture for the charity Emmaeus until someone gave him a 'kick up the arse' (his words) and convinced hm to carry on developing his skills. Boats are wood, boats have curves (unlike most modern furniture) – learning to build boats offered a possible way forward.
After a false start with the Mayflower Project in Harwich (then only at the workshop-building stage) Aiden found his way to Brightlingsea and Harker's Yard. He fell for the place and the work and the atmosphere immediately “I need to be here,” he thought. Aiden was interviewed and accepted, then found himself spending his first fortnight on board Pioneer scraping her decks. This was two years ago in February 2013. It should have been enough to put anybody off. There was snow and a bitter wind, whipping down the creek ….
Aiden filled his big boots with socks – four pairs, he recalls + two pairs trousers, T-shirt, jumpers, two coats, hat, scarf, gloves – and carried on scraping,. He met John Yarr, then first mate and Jim, the skipper. He asked them whether there was any chance he could try a sail sometime. As soon as the smack was ready to go back in commission they got Aiden setting up her rigging with them. He'd never sailed before but was often out on Pioneer during that first summer, and also sailed on board the smaller Brightlingsea Smack, Iris Mary, CK105. It was an extraordinary moment when his mother suddenly discovered that his fifth great uncle, Joseph Alexander, had been master and owner of Pioneer sometime in the late c19th.
| Aiden is using one of Liam's oars|
as his model (3rd from left)
|Aiden at work|
|A hollowing plane|