Turning over a New Skiff for 2015

As we speed towards the end of 2014, it seems there’s more than one build group turning over a new skiff for 2015….

Following two years of effort by the New Jersey students and teachers of Lower Cape May Highschool, they were delighted to turn their St. Ayles Skiff on December 12. The skiff build has been funded by the Cape May Maritime Museum as part of their Youth Boat Building Outreach Scheme. Over twenty students have been involved in the build during that time and staff are so pleased with the learning outcomes that a second kit was ordered during the process and preparations are in progress for the build start. The students are planning a Spring 2015 launch.

Cape May Flip

Cape May Skiff 2

Meanwhile, north of the border, the Bay of Quinte’s second St. Ayles skiff has not only changed colour in the hothouse but also flipped over!  She will show reverse colours to ‘Sea Shadow’ and her naming has seen not just one, but three rounds of voting.


Finally, down under, the Living Boat Trust of Franklin, Tasmania, have flipped their Bendigo Bank funded skiff, and will be enjoying a well deserved Christmas break until 2015. Enjoy!

Bendigo Flip

Bendigo breasthooks

Thanks to Helen McCaffrey of the Cape May County Herald and Abe Weinstock (Franklin) for images used.

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A Skiffing 2014 for Down Coastal Rowing

At the beginning of 2014, Down Coastal Rowing Club was founded as part of an initiative to manage the area’s heritage and community regeneration, by involving as many communities on the Strangford and Lecale coast in the long established traditions of boat building and coastal rowing. Inspired by the dedication  and progress of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association and it’s member clubs here, no less than seven communitites have completed their builds and launched their skiffs, with two further skiffs in progress at Portavogie and Ballywalter.

‘Ardglass Lass’ was the first skiff to be built in Ireland, and is named for the community which built her – from the gaelic, ‘Ardglass’ translates as ‘green height’.


Next to launch, Killyleagh named their St. Ayles skiff  ‘Skart’, ‘skart’ being the local word for ‘cormorant’ and sure enough at the inaugural Narrows Challenges, she seemed to skim effortlessly through the water and secured the 2014 trophy.


Navigation into Kircubbin Bay is by means of a black nose (or ‘neb’) shaped rock – hence Kirkubbin’s skiff was named ‘Black Neb Vixen’, reflected in her elegant black hull and cream sheer strake.

black neb vixen

Donaghadee’s skiff ‘Ramharry’  is named for the notorious Ramharry Rock, which boasts a turbulent tidal race off the coast of Donaghadee. Her name alone and it’s associations imply hidden strengths and foreboding.

Donaghadee boat launch_8393 Donaghadee boat launch_7847

The Viking undercurrent runs strong through Down’s history, as reflected in place names and local dialect, and the school children of St. Joseph’s Primary School in Ballyculter decided that ‘Strangfjorthr’ was the perfect name for Strangford’s skiff. ‘Strangfjorthr’, or ‘turbulent fjord’ is how the Vikings referred to Strangford Lough and it’s challenging currents in the Narrows.

Strangford boat launch 8899

Both lyrical and maritime, ‘Danny Buoy’ gives us a lovely play on words from the Dundrum skiff building team, and a ready made chorus to sing as they row.

The launch of the Dundrum boat Danny Buoy. Picture by Bernie Brown

And with the recent launch of ‘Gilpin’ in Portaferry, Down’s current fleet consists of seven St.Ayles skiffs and still two more to come. With a long history of punts, currachs, cots, clinkers, venetians, ferries, schooners , Down’s St. Ayles fleet echoes a time long past when Vikings rowed their ancestral skiffs through the Narrows of Strangford Lough.

Thanks to Down Coastal Rowing Club and Bernie Brown Copyright,  held by Bernie Brown bbphotographic, for images used. Follow Down Coastal Rowing’s Facebook page for more information and the Christmas Races at Dundrum.

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Portaferry Proudly Launch “Gilpin”


Portaferry launched the seventh St Ayles skiff in Northern Ireland at the weekend.  She is named  “Gilpin”  a local name given to a young saithe,  a fish which comes from the cod family. 

This is one of nine St Ayles’ Skiffs being built along the coast, from Donaghadee to Dundrum as part of a community and tourism initiative developed by the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership (SLLP) with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Picture by Bernie Brown from the Down Coastal Rowing Club facebook page.

Hardy lot in Northern Ireland, clearly wrapped up against the cold in the photo above and delighted to say that there will be St Ayles skiff racing over the Christmas Holidays.  Dundrum will host local skiffs on 27 December.  Skiffies should contact Michael McGlennon to register their teams interest 07818 010 571.

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S.Claus: Skiffie

It was a case of ‘no reindeers required’ this week in Kircubbin; well, all except ‘Vixen’. With his sleigh in for pre-event maintenance, ‘Black Neb Vixen’ did nicely for Mr. Claus, on a timely reconnaissance trip through the village.



How lucky he is to have a ready supply of skiffs this year; ‘Coquet Spirit’ was recently looking lovely in Amble’s Christmas Parade also. That man gets around. Though it’s still quite a challenge to capture him on film.

'Coquet Spirit' of Christmas....

‘Coquet Spirit’ of Christmas….


You better watch out, he could be coming to a skiff near you soon, though I’m sure there isn’t a single skiffie on his naughty list. Right?

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Portaferry Launch 7 December 2014

Portaferry Launch

The eighth skiff in Northern Ireland (and more building is going on).  Get along to the launch and find out more and read about St Ayles skiffs in Northern Ireland on the Down Coastal Rowing Club facebook page.

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Robert Louis Stevenson: Skiffie


Recently Queensferry Rowing Club were involved in a photo shoot to promote Robert Louis Stevenson day. The organisers wanted to use the club’s skiff to depict RLS arriving at Queensferry with the Bridge in the background.  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote classics of Scots (and English) Literature including Treasure Island, Kindnapped and Catriona.  He was a big fan of St Ayles skiffs, or at least he would have been if they had been around before 2009.  Open boats similar to St Ayles skiffs appear in a few places in his works, including David Balfour being rowed from Limekilns across the Forth to Bo’ness by the Inn Keepers daughter in Kidnapped, and travelling by open boat in a day from the Bass Rock to Blackness Castle in Catriona.

Queensferry agreed to help with the photoshoot, so a hardy crew of five different Nationalities, Canadian, Dutch, New Zealand, Irish and Scots gathered at the Club House at 0600 in darkness.  They rowed down to the Hawes Pier with the light of the Bridges and head torches guiding the way.  Stevenson’s hero in Kidnapped leaves from the Hawes pier, having been in the Hawes Inn for a pie and a pint (we forget the exact details, but it is a great read).

The idea was that the photographs would be taken as the sun was rising. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day so that didn’t come off.  After 15 minutes of photographs the crew rowed back to Port Edgar.   Some headed to work and it was agreed that it was a great way to start the day.  The photographs appeared in The Scotsman and The Metro and the rowers received a donation for the club for their efforts.

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Winter Carnival Sprints at Foxlake

foxy turn meisters

Foxlake is a multi-sport venue between North Berwick and Dunbar.  The water bit of it is small compared to the Firth of Forth, where all four of the coastal rowing clubs present for the Foxlake Adventures Winter Carnival normally do their rowing.  However, this can make for exciting close up racing.

So it was when the rowers of all the East Lothian coastal rowing clubs (Dunbar, North Berwick, Boatie Blest and Eskmuthe) lined up for “pursuit” style spints at the Foxlake course on Saturday.   The water at Foxlake is normally used as a wakeboarding course and this  is definitely a regatta with a difference, especially at Carnival time.   The lake has swimmers and wakeboarders (the latter in their underpants, apparently for charity) then there’s the running dogs pulling owners along in liquid mud and the cycle races routed through the beer and crafts tent for entertainment.  With only centimetres to spare between the bank and fixed wakeboard jumps when using 14ft oars there was a real test of coxing skill.  It was great fun being part of it all.

foxy dumbar v esk


The rowing is on a short circular course, with the two crews in each race starting on opposite sides of the lake, trying either to catch the other up, failing which to complete two circuits in a lower time.  Although quite short, there is still almost 4 minutes of frenetic racing in each race, and crews were working very hard for their results.    There were 3 classes (men, mixed and ladies), with two heats, a final and a third/ fourth race off in each category.  Port Seton and Cockenzie’s “Boatie Blest” won the mens and mixed events, beating Dunbar in both finals.   North Berwick’s ladies came first in their category, with Dunbar runners up again.  New club Eskmuthe were not far behind,  and will continue to press the other clubs if they can get enough time on the water.








The overall winners were Boatie Blest, with Dunbar and North Berwick tied for second on points.  The prizes were tokens for use of the facilities at Foxlake, and the clubs decided to share them with all participants,  so hopefully a chance for an inter-club party in future.  The clubs also took out attendees at the festival for a “come and try” session at lunchtime.

Photos from Dave Lochead (with permission of Foxlake Adventures) and Jon Gerrard (of Boatie Blest).  Some more photos of the day (including the other entertaining activities) can be found here.

Boatie Blest having a go at the wakeboard jumps.

Boatie Blest having a go at the wakeboard jumps

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Fortune Favours ‘Chanonry Maid’


The sun shone in Fortrose this weekend, as ‘Chanonry Maid’ was officially launched into the Moray Firth, a stone’s throw, appropriately, from St. Andrew’s Walk. How befitting on such a day her white hull and blue sheer strake reflecting the colours of the Saltire and blue skies over the Black Isle. Mairi MacLeod enthuses how blessed Chanonry Sailing Club felt with the eyes of St. Andrew smiling upon their first launch, and grateful for the warm welcome the ‘Maid’received from Avoch’s Zulu and Ardesier’s Esther, as well as representatives from Burghead and Collieston clubs.


Lunch was held in Chanonry Sailing Club in conjunction with a screening of the ‘Chanonry Maid’ build, and rowing recommenced on calm seas, for all wishing to participate. Collieston members returned to the open waters back home, envious of the geographical good fortune that affords Fortrose almost ideal year round rowing conditions, in good company and rowing distance of neighbouring clubs.



Chanonry Sailing Club would like to say a special ‘thank you’ to Avoch Sea Scouts, who generously gave them use of part of their hall for the construction of ‘Chanonry Maid’. Thank you also to Chris Perkins of Ullapool for fantastic photos from the day.

Chanonry are currently in the process of building their second skiff and welcome anyone interested in the various aspects of building or rowing. Excited to be part of the ever growing skiff community, Chanonry are now eagerly anticipating next season’s calendar of events. And with a proposed ‘Moray Firth Racing Series’ scheduled for spring, they have lots to look forward to.

‘Moray Cup’ anyone?



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Hide and Seek

What could that be hiding amongst the ponsettias at Lockyer’s Country Gardens?  An unpainted skiff hiding from the chill which came with the first of Canada’s snow perhaps?   Read about it on the Ayle of Quinte Blog.

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Getting Busy in Norfolk

Since the launch of Hoi Larntan,   the town of Blakeney in North Norfolk has been a bit of a lone southern outpost for St Ayles skiffs and the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association in the UK.  The Coastal Rowing Association of Blakeney have been very active, travelling distances to attend the St Ayles skiff world championships in Ullapool, the SCRA AGM and long distance races in London and Cork.

Enjoying Winter Rowing on Barton Broad

The club launched their second skiff, Bluejacket, in 2014, and organised a very enjoyable cruise on the Norfolk Broads.  They are keeping rowing going through the winter, being lucky enough to be able to move inland to Barton Broad where they can enjoy sheltered and non-tidally dependant rowing in the shorter daylight hours that winter allows.  At the moment they are training for the Carrow Cup, a race on the River at Norwich which dates back to 1813, one of the few which sees divisions for fixed seat boats and fine boats on the same course.  Family relations may be a bit strained as one CRAB boat is crewed by female club members and the other by males (who are a bit worried about possible injury to their pride).

The great news for CRAB and its rowers is they are shortly to be joined by not one but two other Norfolk clubs, who are busily engaged in building St Ayles skiffs.

Kings Lynn  Coastal Rowing Club have turned their first skiff, a landmark that was reported extensively in the local newspaper .  The team of builders are now fitting out the inside of the hull with breasthooks now done, and gunwales and out-wales taking shape.  The plan is to launch in the spring.  Club members made a trip up to see their fellow skiffies at Blakeney in November.

Kings Lynn Breast Hook in Build


Kings Lynn Members Visit Blakeney

Team Guella in Wells-next-the-Sea  are at an earlier stage in their build.    They are building in a great British Bake Off style tent, so if their winters are anything like ours someone might want to think about making a collection of warm boiler suits and cloots to send south.  They have their frame in place, and have fixed the moulds.  Ribs are mounted on the moulds, and the skeleton of the skiff is starting to come together.

Guella Build Underway at Wells-next-the-Sea

All three of these Norfolk clubs keep good up to date blogs (from which the photos were taken), so do follow what is going on by clicking on the hyperlinks above.  Good luck to all the Norfolk Skiffies.  We look forward to seeing you together on the water.

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