John Glover, Boat Builder, Gourock

We learned at the weekend of the sudden death of John Glover, on 17 April, due to a heart attack.

 John will be known to many rowers because he built the two St Ayles Skiffs for Royal West in 2010/2011, whilst working for the Inverclyde Community Development Trust (The TRUST) in Port Glasgow.  He also built two other skiffs, one bought by the Lochgilphead Joint Campus in Argyll.  The fourth is remains for sale with Inverclyde Community Trust.   He advised several clubs who were building skiffs at that time.

 John served his time as a boatbuilder with Adams’ yard in Gourock.   At the same time as building the skiffs he became an enthusiastic rower, and rowed, mainly in skiffs, taking part in regattas at North Berwick and Glenarm, before moving to Mull.  In August 2012, he got engaged to Mhairi Douglas on Mull.

 John was a perfectionist, as all who knew him discovered, and only the best workmanship was good enough for him, as can be seen from the Skiffs. He was single minded and put himself into his projects wholeheartedly. A good natured, friendly character, he will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

Ian Clark, Royal West of Scotland Boat Club.

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NZ 2 Launched

The second New Zealand St Ayles skiff was launched on 3 April. The as yet unnamed Skiff was launched  at Westhaven Marina, Aukland,  and quickly joined NZ01 “Wee Tawera” for a light hearted race out onto the Waitamata harbour before returning to celebrate  at Swashbucklers with a suitable cold beverage.  When did two skiffs ever go out side by side without at least one person considering it to be a race of some sort?

Murdo MacLeod, rower with Row Porty and instigator of An Eathar Againn Fhìn (the return of community coastal rowing to Siabost and the Westside of Lewis) happened to be visiting New Zealand at the time, met up with the rowers and builder, and took some great video .  A report can be found on the New Zealand Coastal Rowing Association website, where the locals describe how it  was great to talk to Murdo about the latest trends in rowlocks and technique and favourite ales and other important topics!

The third NZ kit is currently being built on the South Island, and the fourth has recently been purchased by Summit Construction.



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Boatbuilding and Rowing in Kinghorn: Meeting 22 April

There is still a  substantial section of the Fife coast between Pittenweem and North Queensferry with plenty of coastal communities but no St Ayles skiffs!  A group is being formed in the town of Kinghorn to try to remedy that, and bring the benefits of community boat building and rowing to the town. Kinghorn is a town of around 3000 inhabitants between Burntisland and Kirkaldy, and is historically a bad place for members of the royal family to go riding.  Stick to building and rowing skiffs.  There is good access to the beach, both in Kinghorn itself and in neighbouring Pettycur.

The inaugural meeting for the proposed rowing team will be held on the 22nd of April at 7:30pm at Kinghorn Sailing Club.  All are welcome.

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Boatie Blest at the Swellies

Boatie Lodge became the first St Ayles skiff to row in Welsh Waters.  Gareth Jones has sent us the following report:

In keeping with the St. Ayles skiff’s propensity to spread beyond Caledonia a crew from Port Seton’s Boatie Blest recently took part in the Castle to Castle Race in north Wales.  The race departs from the shore at Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey’s south east coast and takes crews through 13 miles of the Menai Straits to Caernarfon Castle on the mainland.  Hosted by the Royal Welsh Yacht Cub this is, we think, an open event although all but two of the entrants were Celtic or Pembrokeshire Longboats.  We also think that this is the first time a St. Ayles Skiff has visited Cymru, but perhaps you can tell us otherwise?

bb wales 1

After spotting the post on this site Boatie Blest decided at fairly short notice that it would try to get a crew and Boatie Lodge down to Wales for the race weekend.  Six members volunteered and accommodation was found at the slightly surreal Fort Belan, an American War of Independence fort near Caernarfon.  The crew stayed a scone’s throw from the slipway and dock but the uncharacteristic Welsh weather prevented them from making use of these on-site facilities.  Saturday morning dawned wet and windy and it seemed probable that the event would be cancelled but at the last minute race organisers confirmed that despite the marginal conditions the race would start, with a shortened race plan should conditions deteriorate further.

The start was something of a surprise, as all but 5 of the 25 or so boats were well ahead of the line as the cannon fired, clearly preferring the 2 minute penalty to being caught out behind their rivals.  From the start the crew knew they were in for a tough haul, as the sw wind and tide conspired against them.  With an extra passenger in the bow the nose of the skiff took several substantial dumps of water on board and all of the Longboat coxes were also baling enthusiastically.  Within a couple of miles things flattened out a bit as the tidal flow subsided and by the time Boatie Lodge reached the beautiful Menai suspension bridge it was, mercifully, high tide slack water.  Beyond the bridge lay the Swellies, the notorious rocky section of channel, where the tide can run at up to 10 knots.  The organisers had timed the event well however and all of the boats were able to pass in reasonably clear, if windy, conditions.  Boatie Lodge was by this point falling behind the leading pack of Longboats but was still well in the field, with several boats behind her.

Conditions in the straits changed significantly as the race progressed: the wind rose and tide built making the cox’s job a challenging one.  The crew were certainly grateful to have club captain Stuart at the helm as the final few miles saw some nasty, short waves and more water spilling over both the bow and its passenger.  Caernarfon came into sight suddenly as a sheltering headland was cleared and the crew put in a final burst to overtake one of the longboat competitors as they sped past the harbour mouth.  The Royal Welsh Yacht Club cannon fired from the town walls as the skiff crossed the line, indicating that a prize had been won and the crew headed for the beach to compare their aches, pains, bruises and blisters.  With the boat finally bailed out (Stuart thought that he had bailed over 50l) she was loaded back onto her trailer and the crew headed for the impressive club house, where club Commodore Brian Roberts presented the Certificate to Boatie Blest as winners of the coveted Mixed Super-Vets Skiff Class!

The arrival of a Skiff at the event drew a lot of attention and many complementary comments were passed on the fine looking boat and its very creditable performance amongst the faster fiberglass longboats.  There was clear interest in the whole idea of community-building and who knows, perhaps the next Castle to Castle will see at least one local Skiff taking part?



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St Andrews Launch for “Sandbay Century”

St Andrews had a windy day on Sunday for the launch of their first St Ayles skiff, with  20 – 30mph NW winds gusting off the beach.  However the rain held off and the sun came out, so a crowd of about two hundred people gathered on the East Sands to watch the launch.

A great day for St Andrews, and a significant one for SCRA, since the kit from which she was built was the one-hundredth to be sold!  The name obviously refers to that, but also describes her home water, while its sound suggests St Andrews without making it obvious – altogether, a very clever piece of work from the pupils of Lawhead School P7!  The pupils performed the official naming ceremony and wet her bow.   After the naming she went into the water to a celebratory fanfare from the young members of the Fife Horn Union who had earlier been playing in visitors to the launch.

In the water Sandbay Century was welcomed by a flotilla of five Fife skiffs – from Anstruther, Pittenweem, Crail and Newburgh, who all rowed up the bay to the harbour in line ahead and back again, before well-earned refreshments in the St Andrews Sailing Club.

Sandbay Century was slightly hampered by having  no rudder , but brought in an experienced cox from Anstruther, who was able to get round this slight disadvantage with polite guidance to the rowers.  The Skiff builders had required to vacate from their first floor building premises (see post below) so that it could revert to its normal use as a sailing club clubroom,  so had necessarily got on with giving priority to finishing the bits that keep the boat  afloat!

Sandbay Century is the 56th skiff launched in the UK, so has been assigned number 56 on the St Ayles craft register.     Photos below are from Ian Mills of Crail.   More information on St Andrews Coastal Rowing Club can be found on their Facebook Page or on their website .

Further Fife news of a meeting in Kinghorn for a skiff build there will follow shortly.








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Skiffie Worlds Photobook and Coastal Rowing Guide Published

Two new publications have been launched which will be of interest to skiffies.  The first is a guidebook from David Sutherland, of Troon Coastal Rowing Club titled “The Alternative Guide to Coastal Rowing”.
This is a light hearted guide to the community boat building and rowing, and skiffies will recognise the character traits described by David in themselves and possibly in their club mates.  He describes the lengths crewmates will go to in order to keep their own feet dry ,and on a related matter everyone will find his chapter on How to keep the coxswain happy useful (although re-reading it it again, I think many coxswains would be happy with shortening it to sit down, shut up and do what you are told.  Now.
And who was it that left the chicken sandwich in the epoxy?  The booklet can be purchased from David Sutherland’s website for £5.25 plus p+p.

Secondly we have Chris Perkins glorious pictures of the SkiffieWorlds 2013 all gathered together in what Chris refers to as a “scrapbook”, but looks more like a glossy book to show off to your friends and relations.   There are more than 300 photos over 100 pages. Looks pretty good to us.  Click through the photo above to see a preview and get to the shop.  More information on the Ullapool Coastal Rowing website.

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Where is It? #13

This photo was taken by me at lunchtime on Saturday 11 April 2014, and I was home in North Berwick by teatime.

We must get some outside ones soon, but this inside one should get a few folk guessing.  It is deliberately tricky.  The blue is an undercoat.



Events in the South West for 2014

After a large expansion in its fleet this year, the South West of Scotland sees an expansion in its regatta circuit for 2014.   A list of the events for Scottish Coastal Rowing and the St Ayles fleet can be found on the 2014 Events Tab.

The first event listed for the South West next year is a new one, and an entertaining one at that.  The town of Annan, on the Solway Firth, close to the English Border will be launching  and naming their skiff in due course.  The Annan Raid on England  on 17 May 2014, will be a one of a kind skiff race.

This will be a raid on England, leaving 1 hr before high water from Annan Harbour, racing  the 3 miles over to Bowness on Solway, landing on the beach. At least 1 to 3 members of each crew will proceed to pub in the centre of village to recover a bell, the first crew arriving at pub have privilege of bringing bell back to Annan and the second crew will bring the stand stand.  Crews will start together for the return leg. At  Annan  (estimate return 1 hr after high water) the bell will be reassembled and rung by the winning crew.  The race partially recreates a  raid in 1626 when some men from Annan raided and stole the bell at Bowness which was the maximum insult in those days.  We do however hope that our skiffs do better than those historic raiders who sadly, due to a combination of heavy bell, small boat and a lot of alcohol lost the bell in the Solway  and has never been found.  Apparently its watery ring is still heard from time to time.  Note the Clash with the very popular Coigach Regatta, but it is assumed that many clubs from the South West will want to take part in the raid.  Please contact Roy Kerr for more information (roykerr(at)

Three weeks later, on 7 June 2014,  Royal West will host a regatta at Greenock which may not be restricted to St Ayles skiffs. Royal West have an extensive fleet of boats, including class 1 Jollyboats and coxed fix seat pairs, and they are looking at ways to make use of them for SCR competition.  Watch this space for more details in due course.

Troon Regatta is set down for 14 June 2014.  This was a popular event last year, featuring a medium length course, with crews from Queensferry, Firth of Clyde, Royal West and Carrick joining the two skiffs from the home club.  The beach at Troon is sandy and gently shelving and can handle a large number of skiffs.

Cumbrae  Sail and Oar Festival has been a fixture on the skiff calendar for the last three years.  This year the event will be on 9 and 10 August 2014 .  

The Exciseman’s Chase takes place on 20 September 2014.  This is a coastal long distance race from Maidens Harbour to Culzean Castle and back.  The following day Carrick Coastal Rowing Club are planning to hold a sprint regatta aimed at schools and juniors.

Crews will return to the Solway for the Nith Navigation Race. The race is a long distance time trial, racing up the River Nith into Dumfries Town Centre on 27 September 2014.   Last years race started at a cafe and finished in a pub, which seemed to go down well with crews.  Six skiffs  completed the 2013 event in around 1 hour.

Any other events in the South West (or anywhere else for that matter) should be intimated to Adam Graham  (adam_graham<at> ) for inclusion in the 2014 Events Calendar.

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Skiff Kit 100 Lift Out and Launch at St Andrews

The recently-formed St Andrews Coastal Rowing Club bought the hundredth kit in the early summer of last year, and has been building (directed by Nigel Ford and Les Hunter) over the winter in their upstairs clubroom by arrangement with the St Andrews Sailing Club (with oars being made by Clayton Hardisty in cooperation with the Fife Council Community Education Programme).  On Sunday April 6 came the great lift-out of the completed skiff, after much careful arithmetic to make sure it would clear the railing outside the picture window (already removed).













Virtuoso fork lift handling by Roger Coultherd (of Garden Mowers and Tools Ltd, St Andrews) lowered the skiff safely to the ground, and she lies safely in the Sailing Club Boatyard, looking beautiful, and ready for her launch.

The launch will take place next Sunday, April 13, at 3 pm  (high tide at the St Andrews Harbour Footbridge Slipway), with club members, friends and major funders (Fife Councillors and Staff, the St Andrews Community Trust, the St Andrews Midsummer Ball, the St Andrews Pilgrim Foundation) all present.  Welcoming our Skiff (her name chosen by pupils of Lawhead Primary School and to be revealed at the time) onto the water will be skiffs from St Ayles Rowing Club, which has given us huge moral and practical support from the beginning, and Pittenweem Rowing Club, which provided us with the indispensable building moulds. Maybe others? If you can, do come!! The more the merrier!!

On hand with a celebratory fanfare will be the children’s ensemble of the Fife Horn Union (directed by Margaret Douglass).

A landmark day for St Andrews and the Scottish Coastal Rowing project!!
Steve Spackman
St Andrews Coastal Rowing Club Committee

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2014 Racing Season for Scottish Coastal Rowing

The clocks have changed, crews can now get out on the water in the evenings.  More skiffs are hitting the water for the first time, and clubs are completing their winter maintenance on their well used skiffs.   Attention is turning to the racing season ahead.

There is no Skiffieworlds this year, and it is hoped that skiffies will plough their energies into attending and racing at local regattas, and ensure that these are well supported and that new skiffies get the chance to try out racing, and the new regattas get a chance to thrive.  There are not many places that could accommodate the entire fleet, so the best way of making sure that there is plenty of opportunity to race is to ensure that all clubs feel confident that they can put on a good event and that they will have some visitors.  Invitations are already out for some of the early season regattas and a complete list of the regattas for the year (at least those that have been notified to the Association) can be found on the 2014 Events tab above.

Do check in from time to time, as events will be added as the season proceeds.  We will always be happy to provide publicity through this news feed, if clubs want to send in information.

A quick look at the Events Tab  will show you that there are indeed more events than ever being put on, with new events listed at venues such as Tighnabruich, Gairloch, Blyth and Musselburgh, as well as many old favourites.  We have put a classification on to show where the regattas are.  It is hoped that clubs will ensure that they support their local events (they are split into regions: South West, Argyll, North, Fife, South East and England) although visiting clubs will of course remain welcome at many of the out of area events.  Some organisers are conscious that because of launching or other facilities there is a limit on the number of skiffs that they can welcome.  Some events are specifically marked as invitation only for this reason (although you can always contact the organisers and beg for an invitation to be sent!)

Some extra events are added in which are not organises by St Ayles clubs, but at which our skiffs are made very welcome.  These include the Great River Race in London, Ocean to City in Cork (see below) and the Dalriada Festival in Antrim.

With 16 skiffs our Freshwater Sprints at Loch Venacher were pretty well full last year, but were very much appreciated by those that attended.    In order to share this format with everyone, we hope that we can have regional freshwater sprints, and the weekend of 4 and 5 October 2014 has been set aside for that purpose.  We will however need clubs or groups of clubs who are willing to take on the organisation of these sprints, and find suitable sheltered freshwater on which to have them ( a supply of tea and cake is an essential for these October events).    If you would be able to be involved in the organising of such an event please contact the SCRA committee rep for your area.  Please do get in touch ASAP if you have any other events that you would like added to the Calendar.

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