Leselle Wiltshire: Boat Builder


In “Leselle likes to rock the boat,” Kimberley Cummins (Barbados Nation News) features 19 year-old, Tobago-born Barbadian boat builder Leselle Wiltshire:

[. . .] “I might look girly but I got the strength of a man,” she boasted, and laughed, during an interview with EASY magazine at Pelican Craft Village. Growing up in Tobago, Leselle was always the type who shrugged her shoulders and turned her back to stereotypes. That was mainly because of her father, popular boat builder, Clinton “Boy Boy” Wiltshire. From a young age he introduced her to the beauty of the sea and the art of boat building, all the while encouraging his daughter to follow her dreams no matter what they were.

Reminiscing about the adventures she, her older brother and dad would have at sea, Leselle made it clear that they prepared her for the world. “My dad always said, ‘Leselle, you got a mind to do all you can do. Don’t let nobody get you down’. I remember how I learnt to swim. He took me out on a boat and throw me off and tell me to get shore how I can. I get to shore slowly but surely,” she said with a smile. “I didn’t know how to swim [but] first thing I tell myself was to do some little doggy paddles. When my hands got tired I turned on my back and paddled. All of a sudden when I was [trying to swim] I got tired using my hands and I used my feet just like that. I always said I might not have much hand power but I got most of my power in my feet, so I used that power to get shore,” Leselle said, as she giggled.

In 2008, Leselle and her family returned to Barbados and Bayfield, St Philip. A year later her mother died. This was a difficult time for the then 12-year-old. “The transition was kind of difficult because to leave Tobago and come here and then you have to look for new friends, it was hard because everybody used to make fun at my accent. Every time I said something they were always repeating and I did not like anyone fretting me. . . . Then when my mum died it was hard because Bajan schoolchildren had a habit of using your mother when you were in a fight, and that would really hurt.”

Wiltshire attended the Princess Margaret Secondary School and though she admitted academics wasn’t her strongest asset, she refused to let that daunt her possibilities. “In school I wasn’t all that good in my books but I said I would use my hands as best I could. So I did art. Received a grade 4, but I still didn’t let that or anyone bring me down. I left school, joined the [Barbados] Youth Service because I wanted to join the army, but after I went to the [Samuel Jackman Prescod] polytechnic for two years studying mechanical engineering I really enjoyed it and made my decision from there to be a boat builder.”

[. . .] “Even in Tobago, he always took us out on boats. There were times when we would not go back home to mum because we would stay down on the boat and sleep . . . . It used to be fun,” she said. Leselle is adept at constructing miniature replicas of boats. This started as a school project but quickly mushroomed to another love. “When I was having problems with the construction I took it to my daddy and every time I made a wrong cut he made me start all over again, but otherwise it was fun. At the end I saw all the results of the hard work I did from scratch,” she said, adding that it helped with her confidence in boatbuilding. That confidence is what helps her to believe she can hold her own against the likes of anyone. “I’m not intimidated at all even though when I go out there and do my work people would come around and look at me working. I feel good, though, when they encourage me. Sometimes I don’t even look at myself as a girl in a ‘man’s job’.” [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/88305/leselle-likes-rock-boat

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