The Scottish Fisheries Museum

Situated in a spectacular location opposite the harbour in the fishing village of Anstruther, in the East Neuk of Fife, the Scottish Fisheries Museum is a National Museum, telling the story of the Scottish fishing industry, its boats, harbours and communities.

The Museum Fleet

The Museum has 19 boats, three of which are in the National Historic Fleet: Reaper - a restored sailing Fifie; Lively Hope - a 1930s ring-netter; and Research - a first class Zulu.  Of these three, only Reaper remains operational today.  As the flagship of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, she is berthed in Anstruther harbour outside the Museum and is now equipped as a floating museum of the herring industry.

Crewed by the volunteer members of the Museum Boats Club she visits ports around Scotland and Northern England on cultural tours and as an outreach for the Museum at Harbour Events.

In recent years Reaper has visited over 50 separate venues as far apart as Portsmouth, Glasgow, Stornoway and Lerwick and during these visits has taken aboard over 180,000 visitors from 120 countries in addition to those from the UK.

The Scottish Coastal Rowing Project

Since 2009, the Scottish Fisheries Museum has supported 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 was growing interest from outside Fife from Scotland's many coastal communities. 


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 was commissioned by the SFM to design a suitable craft, 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 with more than 80 kits in total 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 was confirmed 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.

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).

NEWS - Stories, Stones and Bones: Scottish Fisheries Museum celebrates £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

The Museum has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Stories, Stones and Bones grant, it was announced today. Together with a grant of £3,500 from Fife Council’s Strategic Events Investment Programme, the funding will support an exciting exhibition and programme of events, “East Neuk Unearthed”.

To celebrate the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology we travel through time to discover the history that lies hidden all around us and in the earth beneath our feet. Using objects from our own collections, plus local finds borrowed from National Museums Scotland and other collections in Fife, the exhibition will provide lots of opportunities for visitors to get hands on with history.

This exhibition brings together, for the first time, a range of objects found on or near the museum site, once itself an important hub within the town, to illustrate the themes of Food and Drink, Customs and Beliefs, Trades and Occupations, and Frontiers, that shaped the lives of those who were here before us. These unique travellers from the past will be our guides through the fascinating history of this place.

The exciting events programme will involve Pewter Casting Workshops, Medieval Re-enactment Days and Minecraft Treasure Hunts, with plenty of opportunities for people to get involved in uncovering local history. The exhibition will also evolve through the summer and we are very excited to be working with ImmersiveMinds who will be revealing Anstruther and the museum site in Minecraft, with opportunities to get involved with the build and in some very special events on site.

Commenting on the award, Linda Fitzpatrick, Curator said:

“It’s great that we have been awarded this grant and we can’t wait to get started. It’s wonderful to be able to bring all these fascinating objects back “home” and to share them in such fun and innovative ways with our visitors. There’s so much more to discover about our past and we would love to hear from people who would like to get involved in sharing these stories.”

Source: Press Release, Scottish Fisheries Museum, 4th April 2017

NEWS - Upcoming Exhibitions 

Each year the Museum organises a programme of three or four temporary exhibitions on topics related to fishing.  These are generally held in the Exhibition Room and entry is included in the normal Museum admission charge (free to members).

In addition we host monthly art exhibitions in The Merchant's Room, our community gallery off the tearoom (admission free)

Visit their website here to find out about current, forthcoming and previous exhibitions.

Source: Scottish Fisheries Museum, 23 November 2016

NEWS - Lady Campbell of Pittenweem rededicated the WHITE WING at Anstruther harbour after two years of restoration work by museum volunteers, staff and trainees.

The rededication was watched by Museum Trustees, members of the Boats Club, staff and well-wishers with St Ayles Rowing Club giving a salute. It was followed by refreshments in the former Sun Tavern where a small exhibition outlined the history of the boat and the restoration process.

The 33 foot Baldie, sailed & maintained by the Museum Boats Club, was surrounded by club members & friends while Lady Campbell provided a poignant & very appropriate few words then splashing the bow with whisky provided by Club President, David Tod. The Museum Rowing Club took a short break from their weekend training regime & raised their oars to salute the occasion. It was a touching moment with Coull Deas MBE, the elder statesman of the Boats Club & skipper of White Wing, supervising proceedings from the refurbished deck of the boat.

Everyone retired to the Museum for a hot coffee and Lesley McConnell’s delicious cake with David Tod saying a few words of thanks to the Boats Club team, headed up by Winston Stewart, Harry Montador, Sean Dooley, Donald McDonald, Bob Flann & Coull Deas MBE who, accompanied by Leonardo Bortolami and his boatbuilding trainees, have worked tirelessly over the past two years on White Wing’s refit. Coull presented Lady Campbell with a magnificent bouquet of flowers & she commented on what a lovely morning it had been – and a first to launch or rededicate a boat in the family!

Thank you to Lord & Lady Campbell, Museum Staff, Trustees & Rowing & Boats Club members for attending & adding to the memorable day. There were several photographers with these pictures taken by Museum Trustee & Boats Club member Alaistair Ramsay.

Source: Scottish Fisheries Museum, 26 October 2016

NEWS - Reaper: Masts Out

Members of the Museum Boats Club went to assist with taking the masts out of Reaper in preparation for her going onto the slip in Mackay Boatbuilding, Arbroath.

A wind free day in Arbroath on the 14th September was greeted by the big gathering of members of the Museum Boats Club who went up to take the masts out of Reaper in preparation for her going onto the slip in Mackay Boatbuilding for assessment of the damage following her recent accident in Johnshaven.

Skipper Mike Barton brought Reaper round to the outer harbour where, under the guidance of David Tod and watched by an interested audience,  a 35 tonne crane carefully lifted out first the mizzen mast and then the 65 foot fore mast onto the quay allowing their rigging to be removed for later storage down in Anstruther.  

The masts were then lifted over the wall into the boatyard where they will remain until lifted back onto Reaper for transport down to the Museum. Reaper then returned to her temporary berth in the inner harbour until she goes up on the boatyard slip on 23rd September for a comprehensive hull damage assessment and further repairs before she makes passage home to her berth opposite the Museum.

Source: Scottish Fisheries Museum


NEWS - Creels and Baskets Week

Between Thursday 11th and Sunday 14th August the Woven Communities Project will be running a series of exciting events at the Scottish Fisheries Museum.

The Woven Communities Project is made up of a group of basket-makers working with the University of St Andrews and the Scottish Fisheries Museum to learn about the Museum’s basketry collection and local knowledge of fishing creels, sculls, ropes and nets. Such objects were central to Scottish fishing: without the help of handmade back creels, arm creels, lobster creels, bait baskets, fenders, traps, ropes, nets and snoods, fish would not have been caught or sold in the East Neuk and beyond.
As part of their work, the Woven Communities team will be running a series of practical demonstrations and a Fender Making Workshop at the Museum. In addition, they are looking for individuals who know about the use or making of creels, sculls, rope, and other similar items, to share their knowledge with them at a Reminiscence Afternoon on Saturday 13th August.
For more information about these activities take a look at the museum's Events page.

NEWS - White Wing restoration complete

After many months of painstaking work by volunteers, staff and trainees, the White Wing is once more on view at Anstruther Harbour.

White Wing, one of the two historic fishing vessels maintained in seaworthy condition by the Scottish Fisheries Museum has now been moved from the museum boatyard onto the West Pier in Anstruther after an 18 month restoration by the Museum Boat Club volunteers, assisted by apprentice boatbuilders Ryan Sibbald and Jordan Westwate.

After such a long period under cover the timbers have dried out and shrunk and  so for the next few weeks White Wing will be hosed down daily to soak and expand the planking to provide a watertight hull.

It is hoped that White Wing will be ready to be returned to the water within the next month or so to resume its role as a living example of the boats that were so essential to the  life of our coastal fishing communities.

Source: Scottish Fisheries Museum, Press Release, 28 June 2016
 NEWS - Open Day, 4th June 2016. FREE entry to the museum! 

Make the most of this bank holiday weekend with lots to do in and around the museum. 

Family fun in the museum with a Fisher Lad & Lass Ceremony, model boat exhibition, activities in the galleries, a chance to visit the Reaper and much more, plus free entry to the Museum.

Like last year there will be a combined event with the Anstruther Harbour Festival to create an even bigger fun day based around Anstruther Harbour with lots of things to see and do.

To find out more visit

NEWS - WW1: Britain’s Surviving Vessels

From dramatic sea battles and rescue missions to transporting vital supplies and equipment, ships played a vital role during the First World War and now the stories of some of those surviving vessels that played their part during this historic event are being brought to life in a touring exhibition produced by National Historic Ships UK.

The exhibition will be on show until 28 August at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther, to support our current display The Forth at War.

The WW1: Britain’s Surviving Vessels project was grant aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2013 and tells the forgotten stories of more than 60 ships and boats of all types, shapes and sizes, ranging from humble barges to fishing boats and impressive fighting ships, all of which played a vital role during the First World War.

These vessels include SS Nomadic, a passenger tender for the Titanic that was pressed into service as an American troopship; HMS Caroline, the last surviving British warship that took part in the Battle of Jutland; the Stour barge John Constable that was scuttled for fear she would be used to transport German troops in the event of an invasion and the topsail schooner Result which was converted into a so-called ‘Q’ ship with concealed armament to lure U-boats into battle.

The WW1: Britain’s Surviving Vessels project has its own dedicated website at: which tells the detailed stories of these vessels, along with images, documents and links to more information.  It also details the ships that kept Britain supplied with goods and important food supplies including the Museum’s own Reaper at

Exhibition produced by National Historic Ships UK Exhibition dates: 11 June – 28 August 2016

Open : Mon – Sat : 10 – 5.30, Sun : 12 – 5, last admissions 1 hour before closing

Entry : included in museum admission, accompanied children FREE

For further information please contact Linda Fitzpatrick, Curator

 A : St Ayles, Harbourhead, Anstruther, Fife KY10 3AB T : 01333 310628

E :

 W :

Source: Press Release, 11 June 2016, Scottish Fisheries Museum


NEWS - Boat Building Traineeship Opportunity - May 2016

The Scottish Fisheries Museum is offering a wooden boat building and restoration traineeship to develop the skills for young people willing to deepen their knowledge of traditional boat building. The Museum has been sucessful in a grant application to The Coastal Communities Fund for a Wooden Boat Conservation Project. This project will enable the Museum to carry out conservation works on its collection and to start a course designed to offer both hands-on experience and theoretical knowledge to enhance expertise in working on maritime heritage. The course will follow the Traditional Maritime Skills framework (for more info visit: to enable the trainees to learn in an effective way using valuable learning material.

Closing Date: 27th May 2016 (5pm)

See the post descripion.

For more info email:

NEWS - White Wing, update on refit, Jan/Feb 2016

Progress on the White Wing major refurbishment continues with work being carried out on the hull frames, deck beams, decking and other external and internal timber to maintain White Wing in A1 sea-going condition.

The work started last year and is now continuing into 2016.  It is hoped that the boat will be back in the water in Spring to support her big sister FR958 Reaper (moored opposite the Museum) in the Boats Club’s Outreach Programme.

White Wing is a 10m (33 feet) “Baldie” – a small version of the “Fifie” herring drifters found along the east coast of Scotland, built in 1917.  The vessel is currently listed on the National Small Boat Register.

See more on the Scottish Fisheries Museum website.

 NEWS - January 2015

Coastal Communities funding for Wooden Boat Conservation Project

The Scottish Fisheries Museum has been successful with a grant application for £166,857 from the Coastal Communities Fund (administered by The Big Lottery) towards a £194,000 project for boat-building and conservation work.

The project will enable the Museum to carry out work on its own important collection of nineteen boats, including Reaper and White Wing, community projects like the James & Mary Walker and look to develop the project sustainably in the future with outside work. The project is vital in helping to keep traditional skills alive as well as maintaining the strong tradition of boat-building in Anstruther. Past companies included the East Fife Boat Building Co, Alex Aitken, Smith and Hutton, Walter Reekie and J.N. Miller and Sons.

Region news headlines

New display on Fishermen at War opens

New display on Fishermen at War opens to commemorate fishermen and their role in wartime

Plans for Reaper forge ahead

Tarbert Traditional Boat Festival 2017

15th & 16th July

Read all our news »

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