Tag Archives: scaffie

Scaffie Obair-Na-Ghoal to feature in Royal Thames pageant

The scaffie Obair-Na-Ghoal built by Alex Slater and Sinclair Young is one of the many traditional craft to have been accepted for inclusion in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in London on 3 June 2012 organised to celebrate 60 years of Elizabeth the II’s reign.

Whether or not you’re a fan of state events, the pageant has shaped up to be the most conspicuous public showcase presenting traditional craft to the public I can recall – it will be amazing to have so many boats from around the country in South East of England, if only briefly.

Obair-Na-Ghoal – Labour of Love in English – is a good example. She’s a replica of an 18th century herring drifter, and a well-known veteran of many Scottish Traditional Boat Festivals, which are held at Portsoy on the North-East Scottish coast.

Slater learned boatbuilding at the Jones of Buckie shipyard, a few miles along the coast from Portsoy.

The story goes that he was asked to demonstrate sailmaking at the first Portsoy festival, and someone asked him what he was going to do with it.

‘I thought to myself, ‘Well, I suppose I had better build a boat,’ he says. And so he did, using drawings for the scaffie herring drifter Gratitude BCK 252, which can be found in the book Sailing Drifter by Edgar J March.

Gratitude was built in 1896 by George Innes of Portknockie and worked the inshore fisheries of the Moray Firth. Launched exactly 100 years later, Obair-Na-Ghoal is an exact replica of the older boat, 25ft in length, 9ft in beam, and a draft of 3ft, and has the original’s hallmark hollow floors and sharp turn to the bilges.

Unlike earlier boats, Gratitude was decked following rules brought in to reduce the heavy losses of fishing boats from Scotland’s East Coast.

Although parading in front of the Queen was not in his mind when he build his scaffie, Slater’s reported to be proud to be taking part in the pageant. ‘Obair-Na-Ghaol may not have all the mod-cons of some of the boats in the pageant, but she is a fine looking boat,’ he’s reported to have said. ‘Who knows, she might even overshadow the Royal barge.’

Indeed she might! I hope he has a great, grand trip to the South East.

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Still more on the iconic zulu

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Scaffie and zulus by Frank Mason, click on the picture for a large image

The recent post showing photos of Spindrift the surviving zulu reminded me that Frank Carr’s book Vanishing Craft includes some nice reading about scaffies, fifies and zulus, and the conditions in which they developed.

Carr reckoned that the three classes had canoe sterns because this enabled to boats to run well particularly when entering the narrow entrance of a harbour, because a sharp-stern boat type enables larger numbers of boats to crowd into the tiny Scottish harbours, and because the strength of the stem construction is particularly valuable in a tidal harbour where the boat will inevitably receive some hard thumps from the bottom of the harbour with every rising and falling tide.

As he says: ‘A sharp-sterned lugger can carry all sail until she enters the harbour, and on letting go the single halyard the sail falls into the boat  by its own weight, and is down in a moment. The boat then surges on with her own impetus and wedges her bows between the projecting sterns of two craft already berthed. There is no bowsprit or other projection outboard to carry away, and a good hard squeeze does not matter when the boats are strongly built.’

There’s a long and interesting exchange of comments following an earlier intheboatshed.net post in which fishing boat expert, journalist, author and kipper king Mike Smylie argues that the zulu was the pinnacle in British fishing boat design during the sailing era, discusses the correct nomenclature for a 50ft zulu-type, and calls into question the often-repeated story that the first zulu was a boat called Nonesuch – he says he has seen evidence that the first zulu was an 80-footer, herself called Zulu. I see from Mike’s book 2002 Traditional Fishing Boats of Britain and Ireland that he lists a number of small surviving zulus, if you can get hold of a copy.

I’d like to add one more quotation from Carr: ‘Big zulus up to 84ft in overall length and of 61ft keel have been built, and in such a craft the enormous fore-lug, rising to a height of some 70ft, is truly a wonderful sail. The zulu skippers were as particular about the cut and set of their sails as any racing yacht skipper, and these fine craft could easily sail 10 knots in a hard breeze. Six big zulus are still working out of Stornaway under sail, and Colonel C L Spencer, the rear-commodore of the Clyde Cruising Club, has told me that he has seen these craft come romping in from sea, passing the steam drifters and leaving them standing. A splendid sight indeed, to see sail beating steam in these days of mechanical efficiency. May they long continue to uphold the tradition of sail in such a magnificent manner!’

And, finally,  I have one more recent photo (below) of Spindrift to share, this time kindly sent to me by Adrian Perquage of Perquage Publishing, Beacette, Guernsey. Thanks Adrian! I think it’s useful to have this side-one view, not least because it shows clearly the striking stern of the zulu type.

Adrian is looking for information and history relating to RN45 MFV called Makalu, which I think is the boat discussed in this news story. If you have anything to share, please let us know using the comment link below of email me at gmatkin@gmail.com, and I will pass the message on.

Spindrift, clearly showing her sharply raked stern – my thanks to Perquage Publishing