Behind the scenes at Noakes Boatyard

Noakes Boatyard was established in 1979 as a rigging company. It is now a maintenance and repair facility on the Australian east coast. The Australian owned and operated business has two facilities based in NSW, North Sydney and Nelson Bay, as well as the Tasmanian yard at The Kermandie. Noakes Group Managing Director Sean Langman is known for his love of sailing, he owns Team Australia, Orma 60, and raced the beautiful Maluka of Kermandie in the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. In his spare time, he races an 18 Foot Skiff with his son Pete Langman. Australian Sailing spoke to Sean about Noakes and his love of the sport.

How has the industry and the methods of restoration changed throughout the Noakes life?

The marine industry, when I began, had its roots vested in hand made and little was mechanised. Thankfully most wooden boat restorations still hang onto the older handmade work ethos. When I began as a rigger our fields were narrow and we all specialised. Today having a boatyard, an individual is expected to cover all bases from carbon, GRP, mechanical electrical and rigging. Those that have these broad skills do best in today’s industry. Work health safety has been in recent times the biggest and most welcome change.

What is the main area of repairs for boats at Noakes?

Noakes main business is being a Defence repair and maintenance provider. To be this provider we must perform all tasks to the same standard. So a yacht refit is handled the same way with quality assurance as a destroyer! The implementation of a robust quality and safety system has vastly improved our yacht services which range from wooden boat through to carbon restorations. In fact Noakes built the Ritchie 38 with a wooden shell covered externally in carbon cloth!

How do you remain environmentally friendly while ensuring the work is carried out properly on the boats?

The marine industry has come a long way environmentally. Noakes was the first to have a purpose built EPA approved facility. All water on site is captured and treated. Nothing goes back into the water way. The enclosed sheds also have air scrubbers as well as the team wear breathable air apparatus when using paints and resins.

Noakes is known for restoring old classics as well as new boats, do you have specialised teams for the two areas or is there a cross over between?

Noakes shipwrights and painters love the wooden boat restorations. However we all work across all facets of the business. Being able to do so means the company remains economically viable.

You have had a huge youth presence for years, including apprentices and sponsorship, why is this so important to the company?

It is important for Noakes to refresh our workforce with youth and especially apprentices. I’m pleased that many past employees have gone onto enterprises around the country and the world. Passing on skills is the best way for an industry to survive and also to keep the older tradespeople engaged and a sense of worth not only with the pride or workmanship but also the sense of giving something back. Noakes Youth principally started to assist young people make their way in the world. I called it opportunity and choice. My daughter Nicki was our first youth coordinator we did many regattas with Youth of the streets and Colony 47. Sailing is a great leveller and team sport. Our regattas used our Noakes training boats and just having three means that everyone goes home with a medal! Nicki has broadened her coverage with work overseas as well.

You have brought your son in to work with you, what is it like passing on your knowledge to him and working with him?

Having Pete Langman in the business has been very uplifting for me personally. He stuck steadfast to getting his trade and also challenging me in my ways. Each generation should improve on the last. With Pete I can guide him as to what I’ve learnt in over 35 years in the industry. But yet again with the internet he’s looking at what others are doing as well. In all, other than just pride of having family in the business, its also good practice if you can keep respect but also stand up to be counted with fresh ideas.

You are involved with Rosman Ferries as well as Noakes, what is it about classic boats that keeps you so involved with them?

My love affair with wooden boats some may call an affliction. I’m lucky I can both maintain and have many beautiful boats. Rosman is part of Noakes Group. The fleet of five ferries are a challenge to keep up to scratch but we have found that using more modern materials on them, we are getting on top of their maintenance. Again working on the rebuild of Radar has been a great opportunity to teach our younger staff.

You sail trimarans, classics like Maluka of Kermandie and an 18 foot skiff, is there one type of sailing you prefer over the other or do you enjoy all different aspects of the sport?

I seriously love all aspects of sailing. The ORMA 60 is the most pure machine I have ever sailed. My Vagrant (Maluka's little sister) is the one that I cherish the most. Racing wise it’s very hard to go past the 18’ skiff.

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