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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