Mirror WORKS: Plane Sailing; HOW LANDLUBBER NAT CARVED A CAREER IN BOATBUILDING
Byline: EDITED BY TRICIA PHILIPS
DOING a mate a favour and helping him build his boat was all it took to change the course of Nat Wilson's life.
From that moment, the lad who had never even sailed before has devoted almost every waking hour to crafting wooden vessels.
And today he owns and runs the training college where he first learned his skills 20 years ago.
With such levels of passion you could be mistaken for thinking Nat grew up around boats. He smiles: "Not at all. I grew up in Northumberland and Shropshire. I liked the outdoor life but boats didn't feature at all."
At university Nat studied geography and visited the remote west coast of Scotland. "I fell in love with the dramatic landscape and the sense of freedom it gave me. After that I focused on figuring out how I could base myself there and managed to land a job in salmon farming."
It was here that Nat started to help a colleague build his own boat. "I was 28 and from then on I was certain what I wanted to do. My research led me to the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) in Lowestoft, Suffolk, and I went for it."
The fees of pounds 10,000 for an intensive 47-week course were paid out of Nat's savings, supplemented by part-time jobs.
"I was a lifeguard, picked leeks, laboured on building sites. Once I was a fair way into the course I worked on other people's boats, doing repairs at weekends to earn money.
"It was worth all the hard work though. As soon as I walked into the workshops I couldn't stop smiling all the time."
After the course Nat headed back to Scotland. "I worked in a boatyard for a year and then decided to go it alone. I was married to Gill by then with two small children but I wanted to be my own boss. …