A waterfront museum charting the history of boats in set to open in Cardiff Bay this summer, in the hope it will become a major visitor attraction over the next five years.
World of Boats will open in July on a site next to the Doctor Who Experience in Porth Teigr, displaying historic vessels alongside major maritime restoration projects.
The charity behind the development, Eyemouth International Sailing Craft Association (EISCA), started building work in the last few weeks on the site where almost 40 historic boats will go on display.
EISCA, which has a collection of around 200 boats at its headquarters in Scotland, came up with the idea after it began restoring a replica 18th century armed topsail schooner in Roath Basin four years ago.
The charity believed it could build a major exhibition around the restoration and the rest of its collection, and signed a five year lease with Cardiff Council for the land at Porth Teigr.
EISCA spokesman Stephen Walters said the museum will consist of 38 boats, ranging from some of the earliest reed and papyrus boats to 19th century vessels.
Almost all of the boats will be the last surviving example of their kind anywhere in the world.
Mr Walters said: “We will be telling the story of man’s use of a plank of wood to get on the water, how he turned it into a paddle boat on the river, a sail boat on the sea, and a cargo boat or a warship to take him all over the world, to the point where in 1860 we have developed a steam engine, fitted it into a boat and driven it with propellers. Our exhibition stops where steam power is invented.”
The boats will be displayed in a 3,500 square foot building with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the waterfront.
There will be a section on restoration and shipbuilding – known as the Boat Lab – where visitors will be able to see restoration in action of at least one boat at any one time.
The first boat to be fully restored at the site will be the Elena Maria Barbara.
She is a replica of an 18th century armed topsail schooner – a type of boat originally used by navies to pass messages between ships.
Replica Elena was built in Russia in 1995. According to the boat’s website, she was designed by naval architect Andrey Ahkmeton as part of a fleet built to celebrate St Petersburg’s tri-centenary.
Mr Walters said once completed, she will be the first 100 per cent replica ship built in the UK since 1958. It is hoped she will be launched in the summer of 2013.
World of Boats will also include an education block, and an entrance hall with space for retail and refreshments.
The project will cost in excess of £500,000 to get off the ground. The majority of this will come from the charity’s private backers, with small contributions from other partners including Visit Wales.
Mr Walters said a further £500,000 is expected to be spent on restoration projects over the next 18 months, and while 38 boats will be moved to Cardiff initially, it is hoped the new visitor attraction can be developed further in the future.
Mr Walters said: “Our aim is to be such a success people will say why have you only got 30 boats down here, why don’t you make your HQ in Cardiff. That’s what we would like to see happen within the five years. Prove we are worth inviting, and set up something that is in the top international spectrum of this kind of operation.”