Pasaia (Basque Country)

Boatbuilding school


The Lance Lee International Boat Building School

The training model for Aprendiztegi is based on a method that is innovative in Europe. It is based on the school conceived by Lance Lee, father of the teaching of traditional shipbuilding in the USA, in 1972. This model  relies on individual motivation to produce the best results possible. This learning system is based on experiential education, tackling riverside carpentry tasks from the very beginning of training and focusing on the areas in which the person shows the most interest. The school takes place in an atmosphere centred on the recovery of our maritime heritage. There is also the possibility of gathering knowledge through participation in Albaola. The international character of the school provides a context of cultural diversity in which living together and respect for  each others differences are valued. At the same time, apprentices learn how to work before an audience, adding value to the school’s work. The training program lasts three years, during which students can take part in every phase of traditional shipbuilding. The school’s program is aimed at 18 apprentices, men and women over 18, coming from anywhere in the world. It is a trade school and the applicant’s motivation is especially important in the selection process. To facilitate admission, we recommend that applicants participate in Albaola’s volunteer group for a time, taking part in the school’s work. This process enables us to confirm the applicant’s interest. APPLICATION IS OPEN!

What´s about Aprendiztegi?

1 Introduction

2 Training

3 Professional opportunities

4 Payment: Labor for training

5 How does the School work

6 Admissions

7 Contact

1 Introduction

The concept of this boatbuilding school is innovative in Europe; it´s based on a learning system developed in 1972 in the United States by Lance Lee, a pioneer of the teaching of traditional boatbuilding.

The Aprendiztegi educational methodology is based on experiential learning in an international environment. Students are dealing with hands on carpentry tasks from the very beginning and are encouraged to confront problems and come up with novel solutions on their own, in a safe environment. Throughout this process, students don´t only gain the traditional knowledge needed for the construction of any wooden vessel, but also gain the confidence to use their knowledge and problem-solving skills and apply them in real-world situations. The international nature of the School also provides a place immersed in cultural diversity, where human values like cooperation, collaboration and respect find a place.

The School is located within Albaola, The Sea Factory of the Basques, an active naval museum and maritime heritage facility. The Factory is a dynamic place, very active in the construction of replicas of historical boats and ships. The activities of the school are directly related to Albaola’s mission of the recovery and preservation of maritime heritage. The museum provides students access to many traditional crafts and Albaola also has close ties to a local sawmill, forests, pine tar producers, hemp farmers... These relationships enrich the environment of Aprendiztegi, and students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of Albaola’s activities by taking part in them.

The International School of Boatbuilding is an important part of Albaola; the activity of the School has a direct and positive influence on the everyday functioning of the Factory and, as an active museum, students learn to work under public scrutiny, giving an added value to the work of the School.

 1.1 What are the distinctive features of the “Aprendiztegi”?

  • It is the only school which offers a complete, advanced trade school degree in three years.
  • Students learn to carry out each of the steps in building a boat.
  • Every day, students work with boatbuilding professionals.
  • It is the only school where they build large ships.
  • Students work on the San Juan whaleship, the only vessel in the world which enjoys UNESCO sponsorship.
  • They learn to build all kinds of boats: boats considered of culturally important as well as modern wooden boats. They also learn traditional boat-building techniques in addition to modern ones.
  • The curriculum is based on "The Apprendiceshop" model, designed by American Professor Lance Lee.
  • The school provides excellent references for students.  Albaola is internationally recognized in the world of wooden boat building and in the preservation of cultural heritage.  It has an extensive network of relationships with organizations and is appears in media throughout the world (See, for example, the August 2018 issue of National Geographic).
  • Albaola Itsas Faktoria welcomes 63,000 visitors a year, so students are working before an audience and learn to be a part of an economic activity focused on tourism.
  • Aprendiztegi is an international school located in a culture with a deeply rooted maritime identity and history. At present, together with some local students, we have students from Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Greece and America.
  • Students have the opportunity to sail historically important vessels.

2 Training

2.1 Formation process

Aprendiztegi is a three-year training program with a total of 18 apprentices. Each year 6 students graduate and a new class of 6 students, or apprentices, enter the program, thereby creating a rotating system of entry, distributed in three classes. This cycle allows the School to maintain a constant level of workload and quality where the recent arrivals will benefit from the knowledge of their more experienced fellow apprentices.

2.2 Program

During the three years of the program at Aprendiztegi, apprentices participate in a wide variety of boat building projects right from the beginning. The training system focuses on practicing essential skills; apprentices enter into tasks progressively, as they develop new skills and search for excellence in the quality of their work.

The apprentices participate in the building of different kinds of traditional boats. Thus, they learn different building techniques, such as carvel or lapstrake planking, sawn or bent frames, and they build bigger boats of historical interest, often equipped with decks and complex rigging, basic boat interiors based on current projects.

The School’s projects are not predetermined; they are defined during the progression of the courses. Throughout the program the apprentice, depending on his/her interests and objectives, can acquire skills in ironworking, rope making, sail making, and other trades related to boatbuilding.

If during the training you need medication from us, but such medications as Viagra, you will have to buy it yourself.

Additional skills which the students work on during the learning program may include:

  • Safety at work
  • Use and care of machinery and tools
  • Restoration and repair of wooden boats
  • Lofting
  • Taking lines (Hull shape documentation)
  • Making of masts, spars and oars
  • Rigging
  • Boat maintenance and care
  • Maritime history in different cultures
  • Knowledge of hull shape, design and purpose (seaworthiness)
  • Seamanship

2.3 Diploma

At the end of the program, the apprentices will receive a certificate which shows that the apprentice has fulfilled the formation in Aprendiztegi. It must be noted that this certificate has no official value.


3 Professional opportunities

The high level of technical and problem-solving skills required in wooden boatbuilding allows the graduating boatbuilder to excel in a wide range of professional areas, such as:

  • Wooden boatbuilding

Benefiting from numerous projects related to the preservation of maritime heritage, this activity is expanding in many countries in northern Europe. The important growth in sailing activities linked to maritime heritage, increases employment in the boatbuilding sector.

  • Modern shipbuilding

Modern shipbuilding is characterized by the simplification of production and use of modern building techniques and materials such as fiberglass, metal and marine plywood. Even though these materials differ greatly from wood, the basic knowledge and skills of the wooden boat builder are easily adaptable to modern building methods. In addition, traditional wood carpentry has its place within modern naval construction, both in the interiors of vessels and in decking.

  • Conventional carpentry

The graduate will be well prepared for a job in building carpentry having mastered measuring and cutting wood, but more importantly, having learned how to face construction problems and find solutions. While solid wood has mostly been substituted by materials such as plywood, particleboard, PVC and others in conventional carpentry, the use of these materials and the making of conventional structures hold no mysteries for the wooden boat builder, accustomed to complex structures and volumes.

  • Restoration of historic architectural heritage

The progressive decline of woodworking craftsmanship is leading to a lack of qualified workers specialized in restoring wooden elements or structures of historical interest. At present it is extremely difficult to find qualified workers for the restoration of architectural heritage, which requires very skilled craftspeople, and wooden boat builders are some of the best trained people for such jobs.

  • Construction of unique buildings

A wooden boat is one of the most complex structures to build. The lines of boats are rarely straight, and the concave nature of their shapes requires a confident approach to three-dimensional spaces, as well as in-depth knowledge of load-bearing structures. Therefore, boat builders are better prepared than anyone to work in the building of unique structures such as domes, vaults, etc.

  • Underwater archaeology

Within the field of archaeology, the study of ancient shipwrecks is increasingly becoming more important. Several universities have recently included wooden boatbuilding as a complement to underwater archaeology. Although these efforts are just beginning, the increase in the study of old watercraft, leads us to predict the necessity for shipbuilders of this kind.

  • Naval industries

The profile of a wooden boat builder fits in perfectly with the many activities undertaken in the naval industries’ sector. The boat builder understands many aspects of the nautical industry and is familiar with seafaring activities, which allow him/her to work in ports, aboard vessels, in the maintenance of ships etc.


4 Payment: Labor for training

Albaola is committed to preserving traditional maritime skills. To achieve this goal, it is fundamental to transmit them to future generations. In order that Aprendiztegi reaches a broader spectrum of people, the school program will be free of charge and no school fees will be required for Aprendiztegi other than the deposit, refundable at the end of the three-year apprenticing period.

In exchange, every six weeks the apprentice will dedicate a week (from Wednesday to Sunday, coinciding with the opening hours of the Albaola Factory) to fulfill tasks related to the maintenance, operation and general running of the School and of the Albaola Factory. Such as, customer service, communication tasks and the maintenance and cleaning of boats and of the facilities of Albaola. Some flexibility will be necessary, as there will be times when extra help will be accepted.


5 How does the School work

5.1 Start of the school year and schedule

The school year starts on the first Tuesday of September and ends on the last day of August. Students are allowed one month of vacation each year, at staggered times. The weekly schedule will be five working days, Tuesday through Saturday, with Sunday and Monday off.

As part of the spirit of the School, all apprentices are encouraged to start the day with a rowing session on board the traditional boats managed by Albaola.

Daily schedule:

8h-9h: rowing session.
9h-14h: apprenticing. 15-minute break at mid-morning.
14h-15h: lunchtime
(subject to changes due to the activity of the Factory).
15h-18h: apprenticing.

The School closes on the following dates:

  • 24th and 25th December
  • 31st December and 1st January
  • 6th January

5.2 Languages

Euskara (the Basque language), Spanish, French and English will be the accepted languages used in the School. The apprentice must be ready to coexist in a multilingual and multicultural context.

5.3 Accommodation

Students can lodge at the School’s residence, in Albaola. The facilities include a shared dorm for 18 people, laundry room, showers and a kitchen. Residents of the dorm are required to make a monthly donation of 200€ for the use and maintenance of the residence. Students who choose to live elsewhere are free of this contribution.

The use of these facilities is submitted to the fulfillment of the rules and conditions established.

6 Admissions

6.1 Admission to the Program

Six new first-year apprentices will be admitted to the program every year. Applications can be submitted at any time, but it should be submitted by February 1st in order to be able to begin the program in September the same year.

This is the process to follow in order to be admitted as an apprentice in Aprendiztegi:

INSCRIPTION (3 steps):

1.- Complete and send the following application form:

2.- The following documents should be sent to

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation letter, explaining your reasons for applying and your personal/professional goals.

 3.- Personal interview

Once the application form, the CV and the motivation letter received, Albaola will get in touch with the candidates and personal meetings will be arranged, either in person or on Skype.


The accepted candidates will receive a Letter of Acceptance from March 1st onwards acknowledging their admittance in the program; two other documents will be also sent:

  • A Document of Acceptance of Terms and exoneration of responsibilities,
  • and a Deposit Agreement. Both documents should be completed, signed and returned to Albaola (see the ‘Submission of documents’ section below).

A list of tools needed will be provided as well. New apprentices can use the tools available in Albaola or bring the tools they already own, but they will eventually have to get their own professional toolkit, as they progress in their formation.

  • Volunteering

It is strongly recommended that candidates spend a minimum of two weeks volunteering in Albaola, so they can get to know Aprendiztegi from the inside; all candidates must be sure that Aprendiztegi is the right place for them before making a three-year commitment.

6.2 Information for Accepted Students

Once candidates have received the Letter of Acceptance, they should proceed as follows:

  • Getting a visa (if needed)
    Students resident out of the European Union must get a Spanish visa (see section 6.3).
  • Payment of the deposit

Accepted apprentices must make a deposit of 4000€ at least one month before starting the first year of the program, that is, before the 31st July. This deposit will be fully refunded only and exclusively at the end of the three-year apprenticing. There will be no claiming without fulfilling the three-year apprenticing period. Apprentices who leave Aprendiztegi before the end of the three-year period will lose the whole deposit. Also, apprentices who don’t comply with the rules of the school and are expelled will lose the whole deposit.

Important: place reservation payment

Once they receive the admission notification, apprentices must pay 10% of the deposit (400€) within the following 15 days. The remaining amount of the deposit (3600€) must be paid before the 31st July. In case the apprentice changes her/his mind and doesn’t come to Aprendiztegi, she/he will lose the 400€.

The bank receipt of the 400€ deposit must be sent to

The details of the bank account for the payment of the deposit are:

Bank account number: ES86 0081 4252 5100 0106 9616 / BSAB ESBB 
Bank account owner: Albaola
On the ‘Concept’ field, please write the full name of the student.

  • Accident insurance policy
    All students must pay a variable amount for an accident insurance policy; this insurance policy covers any damage that can occur throughout the first schoolyear as a consequence of the activity in the Aprendiztegi. This policy must be renewed every year, at the beginning of the formation. The amount to be paid may vary, but usually will be around 220€; the staff in Albaola will tell you the exact amount each year.
    The payment can be done on the aforementioned bank account.
  • Submission of documents

Copies of the following documents must be submitted to :

- A bank receipt of the second part of the payment of the deposit (3600€) before the 31st July.

- The Deposit Agreement and the Document of Acceptance of Terms and Exoneration of Responsibilities (sent to the candidate by Albaola together with the Letter of Acceptance), both signed.

- Proof of payment of the accident insurance policy.

- Full-coverage medical insurance policy. For students coming from the EU, a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will be enough.

- A copy of a legal identification document. This can be either the passport and/or an identity card.

6.3 Documents required to students coming from countries not included in the European Union

  • Visa

Students coming from countries out of the European Union should get a visa. That applies to students coming from Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, United Kingdom (once Brexit is enforced) or Switzerland.

How to obtain it?

Before arriving in Spain, students should apply for a visa at the Spanish consulate in their home country or country of legal residence. Students will have to show the documents required, including the Letter of Acceptance from Albaola, in order to demonstrate that they have been accepted to the School.

Visit the consulate webpage for your local Spanish consulate for details on what is required. To find your Spanish consulate, consult the following web page:

  • All foreign students

All non-Spanish students will need to obtain a NIE (Foreigner’s Identification Number) in order to do everything, from opening a bank account to renting a flat. You must obtain it at a Policía Nacional Station, once you are in Spanish territory. It is important to get it as soon as possible, as the NIE number is an essential requisite for your accident insurance policy; just having paid the required fee is not enough to be insured.

To apply for the NIE you will need your passport or Identification document and two appropriate photos. Usually it’s quite straightforward, so you get immediately.

7 Contact us


Albaola Itsas Kultur Faktoria

Ondartxo Pasealekua 1, 20110 (Pasai San Pedro) Gipuzkoa.

(+34) 943392426