Scottish Coastal Rowing Project

20 December 2011


The Scottish Fisheries Museum is supporting an initiative to re-start the inter-community rowing competition that for many years was a strong feature of life in the coastal communities of Scotland. 

When first mooted, this initiative was intended to cover the Kingdom of Fife alone.  However, as the project was discussed, and word of its existence spread, there has been considerable interst from outside Fife.  Hence, it was re-titled the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project and it's hoped that in time, the sport will become a major part of the life of Scotland's many coastal communities.

The project was officially launched in November 2009.


The guiding principal is that fast, safe, attractive boats should be available for building at a relatively modest cost, and that interested groups should not have to purchase boats from professional boat builders.  Therefore, the boats are available as kits that can be built by the groups that will be rowing them.  Indeed, the very fact that the boats should preferably be built by their owners and operators is intended to increase the pride and cohesiveness of the communities and groups in their boats.

The Boat - The St Ayles Skiff

The internationally renowned small boat designer Iain Oughtred has been commissioned by the SFM to design a suitable craft, which will be based on the Fair Isle Skiff.  As this project is backed by the SFM, the name of the design is the St Ayles Skiff, St Ayles being the name of the old Chapel in which the SFM is partially housed.

The St Ayles Skiff provides a desired mix of tradition, seaworthiness, speed, and ease of build.  These boats take a crew of five - four rowing and a coxswain to steer and coach the crew during racing and training.

Development & Competition

It was envisaged that these boats could be built by any kind of group close to the coast with an interest in the sport.  In smaller communities, it may be that the community council will take a lead in constructing and racing the boats, with other primary candidates being fishing and sailing clubs.  The SFM have been especially keen that youth groups are involved as a constructive means of competition.

Boat Construction

The boats are designed to be built with Clinker Ply construction method.  This form of construction marries the traditional and the modern.  Hull planking is from marine plywood, with all other parts made from solid timber.  The Hull is glued using exposy resin, together with stainless steel and silicon bronze fittings where appropriate.  The boats can either be built from scratch, or from a kit which will be developed and cut by Jordan Boats of East Wemyss.

They are 22ft, with a beam of 5'8".

The concept has been a remarkable success.  More than 40 boats either were use, or being built throughout Scotland, this time last year (May 2010) and now the latest figures is that more than 80 kits in total have been sold to date. 

International attention

The project has now attracted world wide attention with many being sold to customers in Germany and the Netherlands, and several other European countries.  The building of five St Ayles Skiffs were confirmed last year in Maine, USA, with others expected, and the kits are also sold under licence in Australia.

The kits are supplied by Jordan Boats who have been producing kit boats since 2002, for a variety of designers.

Next Steps

If the project has caught your interest, please contact a member of the Steering Group (details below) to let them know.  You will be added to a mailing list which will keep you updated of progress to the project, and membership of an internet forum on which the progress of the project will be discussed.

David Tod - 01333 310421

Robbie Wightman - 01620 895664

Alex Jordan - 01592 560162


December 2011

The St Ayles Skiff Project: Report on the boat builder training scheme 2010-2011

Background: This boat builder training project is an entry-level training scheme for young persons with little or no experience of boat building or of working with wood.  The scheme is based on the form of a traditional North Isles yawl, commissioned by the Scottish Fisheries Museum (SFM) and designed by Iain Oughtred (see above). The principal techniques involved in building the skiffs are thus mostley within the competence of beginners (under supervision), with only the final stages of fitting-out dependent upon the presence of skilled craftsmen.  This is the second year of the training scheme at the SFM.

Among the advantages proffered by this scheme, the following are counted:

-  Trainees can evaluate their interest in and competence at wooden boat building of this simple type without the lengthy training period required to gain proficiency in traditional clinker boat building.  Upon completion of their skiff they can decide whether or not to proceed to higher levels of training.

- In addition to assessing their competence in working with wood, the scheme also encourages an interest in and understanding of maritime heritage.  The concept is barely three years old, but already there are skiffs racing at regattas throughout Scotland, fostering in numerous coastal communities a strong sense of their maritime heritage.

Management of the project: The project was based at the SFM and was overseen by a Steering Group.  Day-to-day supervision of training was in the hands of Sandy Boiling (Training Officer) assisted from time to time by experienced boat builders from the SFM Boats Club.  National Historic Ships UK and the Headley Trust have supported the project too.

Students: There were five students enrolled in the project, all on release to the SFM Boatyard from the Waid Academy, the local secondary school in the East Neuk of Fife.  All were volunteers for the programme, selected by Mr Ken Brown, SFL Teacher at the Academy.

Curriculum: Following an initial period of 'Health & Safety at Work' training, the students were given basic instruction in the care and use of wood-working tools.  Each student then embarked upon the manufacture of a layered half-model of a fifie herring boat, an exercise in simple wood-working and construction which accompanied tutoring in basic nautical terminology.  Finally, the students progressed to working on a new-built skiff, involving hand-finishing planks and frames, assembly and gluing of the structure, fitting out with metal-work and finally painting the finished hull.  Upon completion of the skiff, the second to be built at the SFM, the boat was launched in the outer basin of Anstruther Harbour.  The trainees were subsequently given opportunities to row in the skiff under the supervision of experienced members of the SFM Rowing Club.

In addition to the above curriculum, opportunities were taken to have the trainees working alongside the skilled craftsmen of the SFM Boats Club, carrying out basic maintenance and repairs on the Museum's fleet of vessels.

Outcomes of the year: The main achievement was the completion and the launch of the second St Ayles Skiff, which has gone forward to have a succesful racing record with the Scottish Coast Rowing Project.  

All five students completed the year and two have built upon their experience by progressing to further training positions (one by enrolment at Elmwood Technical College, Cupar, and one by accepting a journey apprenticeship with the Estates Department at the University of St Andrews).

The SFM Steering Group hopes to build upon this second year of their training scheme by the construction of a third St Ayles Skiff in the coming session.

Report compiled by RGWP, Anstruther, December 2011



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