Andy Wrate talks about owning, rowing and sailing the Ness Yole Aluna Ivy

This magnificent boat is a Ness Yole named Aluna Ivy and belongs to a lucky man called Andy Wrate. Here’s what he has to say about her, and the experience of owning and using her for many years:

‘The name Aluna Ivy more or less means Spirit of Ivy, as she’s a close replica of a Ness Yole built in 1905 named Ivy; ”Aluna” is the metaphysical layer which the indigenous Kogi people of Columbia believe underpins this physical world.

‘She is as nineteenth century authentic as possible – larch planks copper clenched and treenail fastened to grown oak frames, standing rig is Norwegian made tarred 4 strand hemp, rudder hangings are bronze. The writing style of her name plate mimics Ivy’s. Even the bung is a whisky cork with a copper nail!

‘The sail is made by Norway’s leading sail maker Frode Bjoru who has just made the silk sail for the huge Viking replica Dragon, Fairhair. It is flax and treated with birch sap and horse fat from below the mane, and hemp roped.

‘Re modern bits, about all I can think of is that the planks are fastened at the end-post rabbet with stainless screws – as it is stronger than bronze, and some of the running rigging is hempex rather than natural hemp. The hull was saturated in Deks Olje D1 oil for days before D2 varnish was applied on top. Originally of course they would have been tarred.

‘It’s no surprise that a Ness Yole’s ancestors are Scandinavian; indeed complete boats and later shaped planks for home construction were imported from Bergen from the seventeenth century. The half frames and flexible construction of the Ness Yole can be seen in many Viking Age boat finds.

‘We use Aluna Ivy for family holidays, explore remote places on the Scottish north west, and she has been to a number of traditional boat festivals, including various International Festivals of the Sea, Brest 2000, and Iceland.

‘How does she row and sail? Well, wonderfully actually. Of course she’s fast under six oars, and the need for velocity made good (VMG) often dictates this is how we should go upwind, but she’s pretty good sailing to windward also.

‘The sail is an asymmetrical square dipping lug, very powerful off the wind and points high, maybe 50 degrees, but drops at least 10 to leeward.

‘The fresher the wind, the higher she points. Windward performance is the first question I’m often asked (well, the first is actually the perennial ”is that an Ian Oughtred design?”)

‘That question about windward performance comes only from a modern perspective and wouldn’t have occurred to the old fishermen: they would have stuffed a bit of raw whale meat between their teeth and settled down to a long row home.

‘Stability? Although she has a narrow footprint when empty, a few folk in the boat sits her down in the water and stability greatly improves. In twenty years of ownership I’ve only reefed her once. That was doing 10NM in 70 mins on a broad reach, five up, and stamping in sound tradition on the floorboards to stop her going ”loose”.

‘While giving good tracking as long as she is sailed bolt upright, her 4in by 16ft keel allows her to skid safely sideways in the gusts when many a ballasted boat would have dipped a gunwhale.

‘In all, she’s a norse boat, and while like other boats of her type she would try to sail under as the speed climbs, her lugsail lifts the hull to perfect balance.

‘Aluna Ivy was made by Ian Best of Fair Isle, who trained in Norway in traditional boat-building, and is today regarded as the top uole builder, and I am privileged to use her. More than a boat, it has been a passport to twenty years of amazing experiences among boats and their people.’

Many thanks for a great story Andy!

There are more photos of Aluna Ivy on here and here.