Mike Lowson builds a ply interpretation of a Shetland fishing boat

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Aberdeenshire-based boatbuilder Mike Lowson has written to say he has just delivered his first commercial build, a 16ft 5in LOD double-ended dayboat, designed by Paul Fisher.

Built in Mike’s own yard known as Northboats, the boat is modelled on the traditional fishing craft of Northern Scotland and particularly especially Shetland.

Mike used to be a journalist, and unlike most boatbuilders is perfectly happy to write at some length, and since it’s all good stuff I’ve decided to give him his head – or almost! (I should add that if you’re looking for another recent post you might have to scroll down the page to find it.l)

Here’s what he says about the new boat:

‘Her hull is of marine ply on a framework of Douglas fir stringers. Her inner and outer stems are laminated from strips of utile, and the stern posts are made from solid utile. The gunwale and inwale are of Douglas fir and tradtionally nailed in place for a pleasing visual effect. The tiller is of ash and the cetreboard case top is of iroko.

‘She is rigged as a gaff cutter with sails by Jeckells of Wroxham and all the spars are Douglas fir. In a modification to the basic plans the boat has been built with shaped fore and aft half-decks to provide some covered stowage when on the water.

‘The main cleats, fairleads, rowlocks, bowsprit fittings and tiller head are in gunmetal and she has a pair of spoon-blade oars, also made by Mike.

‘All wood is finished in Deks Olje no1 while International Paints products were chosen for the plywood hull. She has four undercoats of Pre-Kote and three coats of Toplac top coat.

‘The boat’s new owner also happens to be a neighbour of mine. He was always very taken by the traditional look of these beautiful craft and spent many hours dreaming of sailing off the coast fishing for mackerel under blue skies and calm seas. We discussed a number of possible designs for his budget and agreed on the Selway Fisher Islay skiff. After he commissioned the build he was able to pop in to my workshop regularly and watch her grow from a pile of wood into a beautiful boat. That only heightened his dreams of superb sailing in her next spring, I can assure you.

‘The build progressed reasonably smoothly despite the time-consuming challenges of accurately steaming the 16 stringers – that’s 32 ends in total – to a snug fit on the stem and stern.

‘Planking was relatively straightforward, however, despite the huge amount of twist at the stern. Having the stringers as a guide meant the planks could be cut slightly oversize then finally shaped to fit on the hull, which removed the need for spot-on spiling.

‘Casting the 5lbs of lead for the centreboard was a new challenge, too.

‘Thankfully I had some old lead pipes stored in the shed I could use so I didn’t need to clamber on to the local church roof at midnight to get supplies of the raw material!

‘The boat, named Feadhanach (pronounched Fee-ann-ach, which means gentle breeze in Gaelic), was launched in the Moray Firth in early November.

‘Despite a sizeable swell and light airs she performed well under sail and crept up to 4.6kts in a barely discernible breeze. She was also a delight to row, cutting through the swell comfortably without too much roll.

‘Feadhanach is a modern plywood interpretation of traditional Shetland fishing boats such as the six-oared sixareen and the smaller fourareen. The sixareens were the key to Shetland’s deep sea fishing industry in the 18th and 19th centuries and were descended from traditional Viking vessels.

‘The fishermen of old knew what they were doing by choosing seaworthy boats of this design, albeit theirs were larger. The double-ended hull ensures that she can take a following sea in her stride and remain manoeuvrable on a difficult coastline in tricky conditions. She has a decent 5ft 6in beam, too, ensuring there is plenty of room inside.’

Mike was born and bred in the fishing community of Arbroath, Angus. A former railway operations manager who was the instigator of steam-hauled trains on the Fort WilliamMallaig line, and latterly a journalist with Scotland’s biggest selling daily broadsheet, he set up his boatbuilding and repair business in early 2009 after graduating with distinction from the Boat Building Academy at Lyme Regis in 2008.

During the 38-week course he worked on the restoration of a 50 year-old yacht tender and the build of a Paul Fisher-designed 12ft 6in Northumbian coble. He is a member of Loch Broom Sailing Club, Ullapool, where he sails his 1970s SeaHawk trailer sailer. He also owns a 1968 British Folkboat, which is awaiting restoration.

Mike reports that work is about to start on an Iain Oughtred-designed Norwegian faering for another local customer.

To read more about Mike’s boatbuilding see the Northboats website at http://www.northboats.co.uk or contact Mike at yard@northboats.co.uk.

5 thoughts on “Mike Lowson builds a ply interpretation of a Shetland fishing boat”

  1. I am now the proud owner of not only a very practical day sailer but also to my mind a beautiful work of art in wood and aye i can vouch for the inhaling of epoxy fumes alright, caught him manys the time with the boatshed door firmly closed singing sea shanties at the top o his lungs!!

  2. A very nice outcome, builder and owner are to be congratulated. Given the launch venue can I assume that she will be an addition to the eye candy on offer at the STBF at the end of June next year? I shall keep a look out for her. It would be very good to see her in the flesh.


  3. Thanks for the lovely comments. We do hope to be at the STBF at Portsoy with a stand in June 2010. It was a great experience having one there last year. I hope Mike, this boat's owner, will be able to bring her along for the sailing and I also hope to have at least one other boat on show, too. We look forward to seeing you as there is always a wee refreshment available for those in the know! Meantime, it's back to the wokshop, the glues and the unconscious sea shanties…….!


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