BOAT builder Gail McGarva of Lyme Regis is set to be recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and awarded a British Empire Medal for her work.

Gail, 48, was a qualified sign language interpreter, but living on a boat in Bristol changed her life.

Despite her lack of woodworking experience she started repairing her houseboat before a journey to the Thames and discovered a passion for boats.

In 2004, with help from the City & Guilds bursary, she enrolled on a level three boat building, maintenance and support qualification at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis, completing her course in 2005.

She has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to Heritage Crafts and Clinker Boat Building.

Gail told the Lyme Regis News: “I am truly honoured to be awarded the British Empire Medal and the whole thing has been overwhelming; I still really can't believe it.

“A huge thank you must go to the Heritage Crafts Association for nominating me and their determined efforts to give focus to the traditional crafts of Britain.

“I hope this award will shine a light on the craft of traditional wooden boat building, helping give vibrancy to the life of this craft for future generations.

“I endeavour to be a passionate ambassador for my craft and for the work of the association.”

Gail won the Marine Federation Trainee of the Year title in 2005 after building a replica of an 1882 Shetland boat, the oldest remaining one of its kind.

She then became an instructor at the Lyme Boat Building Academy before becoming an independent boat builder.

Gail also won a £13,500 Queen Elizabeth Scholarship in 2009 presented to her by Princess Anne.

She has recently worked on the builds of a 38ft Bantry Bay gig, three Cornish Pilot gigs and a Cornish Skiff for the Lyme Regis Gig Club, and replica of a Lerret, a Dorset boat in danger of extinction.

The Birthday Honours are awarded as part of the Queen's Official Birthday celebrations and will be fully announced tomorrow, on June 14.

'A boost for the heritage crafts sector'

Gail has been recognised as an outstanding craftswoman but also for bringing her crafts to an audience that would not otherwise be involved.

She was nominated for her award by the Heritage Crafts Association.

Association vice-chair Patricia Lovett, said: ‘This is great recognition for the skills and expertise of traditional craftspeople and a boost for the heritage crafts sector.

“Interest in heritage crafts is growing and these honours show the important role and value that heritage crafts bring not only to people’s lives, but highlight the huge contribution traditional crafts make to the economy.”