Coastal rowing is growing in popularity around Scotland and Arch Henderson was delighted to have an opportunity to support a community project in Catterline to build a second rowing boat for the club that will enable more people to take up the sport.
Eleven years ago, an initiative was launched to encourage more Scottish coastal communities to build a boat and to take up rowing. Catterline was an early follower and the community built its first St Ayles skiff for 4 rowers, from a kit. There are now over 200 St Ayles skiffs in Scotland and another 50 around the world. The appeal of coastal rowing has seen the Catterline club grow to over 30 members. The attraction is getting to exercise with others, whilst being able to view the dramatic coastal scenery (steep cliffs, caves, arches and Dunnottar Castle) and the wildlife (seals, dolphins and thousands of seabirds). The club also occasionally competes in regattas and races against other local clubs. Last year, in recognition of the rising number of members and to help train those new to the sport, the club decided to build a second boat for 2 rowers, which is smaller than the St Ayles skiff. Arch Henderson kindly provided financial support for the purchase of the kit which is now being built by club members.
The design for the Wemyss Skiff was a follow on from the St Ayles Skiff, for a one or two seat rowing boat that could safely handle a bit of wave action. The name came from where the designer, Alec Jordan, lived at the time, the coastal village of East Wemyss in Fife. It has proven its versatility as it performs well with a single rower, can be used for two rowers, and is also able to take two rowers and a cox/trainer. It can be rowed as a double scull, or as a sweep oar pair, with or without a cox. See the banner photo for an example of what it should look like when completed.
The construction of the boat started at the beginning of September, as the rowing season drew to an end. The kit arrived in two large cardboard boxes consisting of a number of bits of pre-cut plywood that needed to be joined together to form the boat.
The first task was to build a frame, to support the boat during its construction, which is done upside down. Onto the frame, go the moulds, which determine the shape of the boat. These have to be lined up with a lot of care to ensure that the boat is built to the right shape. Clamped to the moulds (which will be removed later) are attached the ribs of the boat. The ribs then hold the hog, the solid piece of wood that runs along the centreline of the boat, which is a single piece of elm.
The curved bow and stern (front end and back end of a boat) have been formed by bending thin strips of solid wood (elm) around a mould. These are then glued together using epoxy by a group of anxious boatbuilders, who only have a limited amount of time to spread glue, place each laminate and clamp into shape, before the epoxy glue sets (irreversibly).
The curved bow and stern pieces have now been glued onto the hog and are being shaped so that the planks can be glued in place. As plywood comes in 2.4 m lengths, and the planks are somewhat longer, as the boat has a length of 5m. There is a slightly complicated procedure to join together the component parts of the planks. These parts are pre-cut by a computer controlled machine to a precise shape. They are joined by carefully planing a scarph joint, which is glued and held in the correct position by aligning critical holes with pins and string.
When the boat is finished it will be named after a bird, which has only been sighted a handful of times in Scotland. One of these sightings was in 1913, close to the farmhouse, where the boat is being built. This bird was only identified after it had been shot and taken to Edinburgh. It was a Little Bustard. And hence the name of the new boat.