Southampton Boat Show

A few weeks ago, Robbie mentioned in another post that a St Ayles would be on display, and another built at the Southampton Boat Show from the 11th to the 20th of September.

As we had just moved house from Fife to Somerset two weeks before, the build at the SBS was more of an undertaking than I would really have wished, but with the level of exposure available, it was an invitation that I could not refuse.

SBS has over 110,000 visitors, and we were to be right beside the main entrance – for most of the visitors, the St Ayles would be the first boat that they saw as they came through the gate. I was therefore pretty keen that we would tell the visitors as much about the skiffs as we could.

Katya Bacica of Rowporty was commissioned to put together a short video and brother Leo to do the artwork for a new leaflet. Knowing the beauty of Shieldaig, I had made my way up there to take photos specifically for the display boards.

Oarsome Chance provided one of their new Scottish Maritime Museum built skiffs for the static display, Jordan Boats provided the kit for the build, Robbins Timber the wood for the hull and the building frame, and Black Bear Boating the epoxy needed for the build. International Paint have promised the paint for the charity that will be completing and using the skiff.

When it comes to building in a restricted space, this must have been about the smallest space ever for a skiff’s construction. The tent was about 26ft by 13ft, and not only had to contain the build, but also the base for the Wooden Boat Trade Association who had invited us. Thankfully all of the timber from Robbins was cut precisely to size, and the stems were provided by Martin Hughes at the Scottish Maritime Museum. Our aim was to get the kit at least as far as getting a gunwale strip glued, so that the hull could be trailered to a store until the decision was made to where it will be going.

The Show opens on Friday for Press Day, this saw us building the strongback and getting the moulds and planks all cut out of the plywood sheets for storage as there would not be the space for cutting out later. This unfortunately meant that there was not much for the visitors to see, but OC1 drew much interest.

Show Entrance

On Saturday, the moulds started going up, and by the end of the day we had something vaguely boat shaped. It is not that easy to be building a skiff while having regular interruption from members of the public asking about them – and there were plenty. Ricky Le Bloas from Ardglass was there and fielded any of the questions from members of the public.

Ian R

With this being on the WBTA area, I was able to call on the skills of Ian Richardson from Orkney who has been building beautiful wooden boats for about 50 years. The scarphs for the hog were cut in one go. Ian will be “consultant” for the builds of the two kits that have gone to Stromness, so he was taking a keen interest in the proceedings. By Sunday evening the stems and the hog were glued, and after a long while baling the display boat, Monday saw us fairing the hog, frames, and stems ready for starting planking.

The main problem with Tuesday was the weather. With frequent showers, work was interrupted regularly by a sudden influx of people sheltering from the rain, but we had the benefit of an influx of volunteer helpers from Releasing Potential, the first charity to be supported by Oarsome Chance. With Milly and Steve in attendance the work started progressing faster, and by the end of the day we had the garboard glued. At that stage, I felt that we deserved a bit of a break, and had a slightly earlier finish. The shavings from the hog and stems also provided a very comfortable bed for Mollie the dog.Molly

Millie and Steve were back on Wednesday, and so was the rain. By 1pm we had Plank 2 on, and the crowds had all but gone. The rain came down continually with the wind; planking in such a confined space with many additional people was not easy, but in spite of this, we had the third pair on by the end of the day.

Monsoon Wednesday

Millie returned on Thursday morning, and with her help and the use of a horticultural heating element to heat the laps, pairs 4 and 5 were on by the end of the day.

The heating element made a big difference to getting the planks glued up and I would recommend it with reservations for groups gluing their boats in barns and sheds over the winter. The main problem of course is that it can get very securely glued to the hull if you are not careful, so before laying it out over the lap, make sure that all excess epoxy has been scraped off. They can be obtained in various lengths from horticultural suppliers.

Heating Element

Friday morning was a little more relaxed with only one pair to glue which was accomplished with the assistance of the RP volunteers, then the stems in the afternoon. As the sun came out and warmth returned, I was able to talk to more people. There was great interest from many, and I am sure that before long Skiff clubs will be appearing around the Solent and Portsmouth harbours, and further afield.

The last two days were far more relaxed with fewer processes to complete. The great moment of turning the hull was on Saturday afternoon, with the press in attendance (well, they arrived a few minutes late!).

The Turn

The first lamination of the gunwales went on on Sunday, and the hull was ready to be trailered to temporary storage on Hayling Island until it can be moved to the recipient charity.
I feel it was a great achievement to have built the hull as quickly as we did. It was at the cost of a couple of errors that will require some fixing, but one of my abiding memories of the week will be the number of people who came to the tent over the last weekend to say that they were amazed that we could have built such a large boat so quickly. Interest has been piqued in a big way.

Ready to go

In closing, I must thank:

Oarsome Chance – for the loan of OC1 for the display boat.
Releasing Potential – for the volunteers without whose help it would not have been possible to get where we did
Robbins Timber – for supplying the timber for the hull and the building frame.
Black Bear Boating – for the generous supply of Epoxy.
International Paint – for the paint that will be used to complete the skiff.
Wooden Boat Trade Association – for the invite to build the skiff at the Southampton Boat Show, and the assistance and tips from their members.

Alec Jordan

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