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Above: Launch Day. Alec Jordan with a crew of Sea Cadets from TS Ajax try out the very first St Ayles Skiff in Anstruther harbour.... Facing: ... followed by an adult crew, rowing past the Scottish Fisheries Museum which initiated the Scottish Coastal Rowing project.
many well-kent faces and most importantly to discuss the design face to face with Iain O. Robbie Wightman also paid a visit and persuaded a group in Portsoy that they would really like to build and race one of these boats. The numbers had started to build up.
While Robbie has been working his magic along the south coast of the Forth, the other member of the Steering Group, SFM Trustee David Tod has been pressing the case around Anstruther. A short talk to the RNLI crew at one of their training days took little effort to persuade them that this could be ‘a good thing’
Then came Lifeboat Day at Anstruther. With the decision having been made earlier that the design of the boat should be based on a Fair Isle Skiff, the Museum's example was wheeled out to our location on the quayside and banners attracted a steady stream of enquirers. This included a gentleman whom I took to be in his late 60s who told me about how he had rowed in the miners’ regattas in the 1930s. A quick bit of mental arithmetic told me that there was no way that he was less than 90; he later confirmed that he is indeed 95. Just shows how rowing keeps you fit!
Startingthe kit The kit development was very straightforward but with the prospect of committing several hundred pounds worth of plywood to the router and many hours of building before success, I decided to make a model of the boat before going the whole hog. This took two evenings work and though when the model was upside down on the moulds, it looked OK, it was only when I took it off the moulds and looked at her from every angle that I realised that Iain has created in the St Ayles Skiff what I think is his most beautiful design.
If nothing else, this gave me great encouragement and as Gavin Atkin of intheboatshed.net had asked for details, I sent the pictures of the model down to him. With publication of these pictures, an email came from Chris Perkins asking for a model kit. I replied that he could come and build the real one if he wanted.
At that point, we had the building frame up and I had just cut the moulds. The stems were laminated from larch strip,
and I was trying to encourage the East Wemyss Angling Club to help building the boat. To my complete surprise, Chris's response was: “Yes, I'm bored; I'll be down tomorrow”. And he was. And he kept coming back for four more weeks and without his help, I would probably have walked away from this project in a major sulk! His record of the essential elements of building the St Ayles Skiff follow this introduction.
Chris was not the only person interested in the model – so far, I have had seven requests – so once the prototype is safely on the water and the production kit is set up and available, I will also produce the model kits. I chose the scale of the kit at 1:6 for two reasons: with 1/16” (1.5mm) thick planking, it would have something approaching scale stiffness and would be thick enough to be able to cut decent looking gains, and maybe more importantly, I would be able to position five Action Man figures in it to give potential buyers a better idea of the boat.
With Chris P beavering away in the workshop, I was able to turn my attention to other matters. The students from Adam Smith needed to be selected. Four students were to be drawn from the construction department of the college as the elective part of their course. We interviewed five candidates, ranging in age from 15 to 17 and I found them incredibly mature in their attitudes. The biggest surprise was to find that two of them had applied for their course specifically because there was the chance of boatbuilding. After we had seen all five, we decided that they should all help build the skiff at the Museum.
Around this time, The Times newspaper heard what we were up to and I had to make some time to deal with their interest but an article in 'The Thunderer' would give the project some good publicity. In fact, the time spent digging more on the background of Coastal Rowing in this area did have the benefit of unearthing the wonderful picture of the 'regetty' in which everyone in the pict had the same sutname and was related.
Eventually, Chris Perkins' time in Fife had to come to an end and I was left on my own with the boat. Fortunately for the project, unfortunately for my bank balance, the rest of the business was very quiet over this time, so I was able to spend most of my time working on the boat and while glue