Above: Down from the Isle of Skye for the launch, designer Iain Oughtred studies details of the prototype. Facing: Iain's preliminary drawings for the St Ayles Skiff show the elegant simplicity of the design from the outset.
was setting or paint drying, dealing with the other issues involved.
Plugging away on a daily basis, the boat neared completion, and with only painting for a couple of hours each day, attention could return to other matters such as planning the Press Launch and otherwise publicising the project.ReadyforlaunchWewerefinallyreadytolaunchtheboatonSaturday 24 October but with atrocious weather in the morning, we abandoned the attempt for the day and tried again on Sunday
With the delay, more people had heard and there was quite a crowd at Methil Dock to watch her gently lowered into the water. As soon as she was down I clambered aboard, and knowing that Iain's double-enders can be quite tender, I was holding on tight. I didn't need to. The St Ayles is a very stable boat and feels rock solid. Robbie Wightman scrambled aboard from the safety RIB and the two of us rowed her over to the gathered crowd at the steps for the naming. A goodly dose of Highland Park went over her bow and a wee bit down the throats of those of us who had helped in her construction who were present.
The plan for the official launch was to have the boat entirely crewed by Sea Cadets from TS Ajax at Methil where I am a civilian instructor and the selected youngsters took their places to be the first complete crew of a St Ayles. Then it was time to try her with an adult crew; twice around the dock and there were some very big smiles from all of us. I knew then that all the work that I had put into it had been worthwhile and that we have a winner.
At that point, I had worked 9 weeks with only three days off and the body and mind said “Enough”. On the Monday and Tuesday I did nothing but walk the dog, sleep and then sleep some more. By Wednesday, things needed to be done to prepare for the Official Launch. There is no need to go into the detail but I was checking the Atlantic weather chart nervously every couple of hours; the end of October is not the greatest time to be going boating on the East coast of Scotland.
Come the day, I woke in the half light of dawn to see a silken sea and an almost clear sky. With everything packed in the car and the boat already at Anstruther, I had an easy drive up the East Neuk coast. Given how much is riding on the project for Jordan Boats, I was surprised how calm I was on the way up there. No sooner had I parked the car than PO Tolley drew up with the three cadets from TS Ajax. There was barely a ripple on the harbour. Before long, the required people arrived and Chris o'Kanaird made her way down the slip, oars and cadets were embarked and we had a good practice around the inner and outer harbours.
Almost exactly on the stroke of eleven, we bent on our oars and the first St Ayles made her way into official public view. A couple of times around the harbour and into the beach and then it was time for the introduction from Dr Robert Prescott, Chairman of National Historic Ships and Honorary Vice-President of the Scottish Fisheries Museum. With thanks given to all the people who had helped with her building, the first of many had a practice row. The blue sky and the warmth out there somehow made me feel that this project has had an incredible run of good luck. The last outing was a venture outside the harbour mouth into a very lumpy confused sea. Such is the stability of this boat that bow man Richard Pierce felt safe standing up to take pictures.
At the time of writing, one week after her launch, I am still busy as more enquiries come in about the St Ayles and tonight I received payment for the sixth boat. There are seven more communities where money is being raised, grants applied for and space being found to build. There have been enquiries for 17 other builds in varied locations, not all in Scotland: there is very positive sounding interest from a Dutch rowing club, from London and from Lancashire. The level of interest in the Project has amazed me, particularly the number of people – especially Chris Perkins – who have put in a lot of hours to help complete the prototype boat and make my little pipedream a reality.
It seems that we have struck a chord with the idea that you can have a beautiful and effective rowing boat for your community or club without having to raise a 5-figure sum. Time will tell but I earnestly hope that in a few years time when I am taking my dog for his walk of a summers’ evening, I will be seeing boats from East and West Wemyss out practicing and that the scene will be repeated in scores of places around the Scottish coastline, and far beyond as well.CONTACTSJordanBoats,OrrCottage,8SchoolWynd,East Wemyss, Kirkcaldy KY1 4RN Tel: +44 (0)1592 560162 www.jordanboats.co.ukScottishFisheriesMuseum, St Ayles, Harbourhead, Anstruther KY10 3AB Tel: + 44 (0)1333 310628 www.scotfishmuseum.orgIainOughtred,StruanCottage, Bernisdale, Isle of Skye IV51 9NS Tel: +44 (0)1470 532732 www.scottishcoastalrowing.org