Turnover day for the first St Ayles skiff designed by Iain Oughtred

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Chris Perkins’ photos used with permission. Click on the thumbnails for much larger images. Please do not repost on forums and elsewhere without permission from the photographer

The first St Ayles skiff currently being built in Alec Jordan’s workshop has reached an important landmark – turnover day. For more on the St Ayles skiff and the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project, click here.

Award winning amateur ply lapstrake boatbuilding specialist Chris Perkins has been involved, and here’s what he has to say about it:

‘Week three has passed with less visible progress: scraping and sanding the surplus epoxy eats away at the hours without appearing to advance the build significantly. Hopefully care at this stage will show in the finished result.

‘The “significant event” for this week occurred on Thursday evening when, after some delay assembling the strong arm bunch, the skiff was turned up the right way for the first time. She looked pretty good while on the mould but achieved a step change in the looks department when seen from a “proper” perspective for the first time. Iain Oughtred has produced yet another stunning design; I think she is a real beauty.

Cromartie Timber have produced some excellent larch for the thwarts and thwart beams, and it is probable that the internal fit out will be completed by the end of next week. There will still be lots of the interminable sanding and scraping to do but the boat should be painted and on the water in the first half of October. A few more volunteer helpers would be very welcome to move things along!



Thanks Chris! See Chris Perkins’ weblog here.

If you’re in the Fife area and feel like getting involved in an exciting project, why not contact Alec Jordan at alec@jordanboats.com?

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Alec Jordan’s beautiful model of Iain Oughtred’s new Scottish rowing skiff

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Alec Jordan’s model of Iain Oughtred’s new design, the St Ayles skiff. Note the liberal use of clothes pegs – Alec’s using pretty well the same building method he would in the real thing!

Jordan Boats proprieter Alec Jordan has built this model of Iain Oughtred’s St Ayles skiff, the boat at the heart of a project to bring competitive coastal rowing back to Scotland.

See an earlier intheboatshed.net post on the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project.

Jordan Boats is to supply cut-out ply kits for the project and like a good boatbuilder, Alec’s first step has been to make a model. Here’s what he says about it:

‘Hi Gavin

‘Attached are some pictures of the skiff model.

‘With the model having gone together successfully, I have now started on the
construction of the real thing in the past couple of days – I’m doing the donkey
work of laminating stems and frames at the moment. I will hopefully have
the moulds up on Saturday and start the planking next week.

‘The boat, I think, is absolutely sublime – I just hope that it rows as well
as it looks!

‘Best regards

‘Alec J

‘BTW, My Dad made the model of the Cutty Sark in the background, not me!’

Thanks for the pictures Alec – Iain’s design looks super and great good luck to all of you involved in this project.

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Iain Oughtred: a life in wooden boats – a searching biography by Nic Compton


Iain Oughtred: a life in wooden boats examines an unusual individual. Revered designer and small boat sailor Oughtred is an uncomfortable loner who has often felt at odds with many elements of his upbringing and his home country Australia, a wonderful designer’s eye and a clear sense of purpose. He’s also a man with almost incredible amount of determination and focus.

If you don’t already know Oughtred’s work, you probably should: he draws beautiful boats and his highly detailed plans have earned huge respect from those who have built them. One of a small group of designers and boatbuilders who pioneered the clinker or lapstrake approach to plywood boatbuilding during the 1970s and 80s, his designs borrow heavily from traditional craft, which he studies closely.

Yet there are some paradoxes here. Unlike other designers whose work draws from the tradition, almost all of his boats have a certain something that makes them instantly identifiable as being from his board. Another contradiction is that although Oughtred has over time drawn and re-drawn his boats with the aim of making them easier to build, few dinghy sailors building a boat for the first time feel confident enough to tackle one.

In fact, the home boatbuilders who seem most attracted to Oughtred’s work are at the most craftsman-like end of the spectrum of amateur builders. It’s certainly not always so, but these folks are quite often mainly interested in building a boat that seems to them a work of art – for some, actually sailing a lively small boat designed by a dinghy racing master is quite often a frightening prospect.

In writing Iain Oughtred: a life in wooden boats, author Nic Compton has explained much of this. He’s written a strikingly personal biography that shows clearly how Oughtred’s difficult childhood and dislike of a foreign and brash commercial culture led the boat designer to escape as far as possible from his Australian roots, becoming first very English and later very Scottish.

However, I’m less sure that he has managed to link the life to the boats themselves.

We expect biographies of composers or artists to link life events to their output – but the trick is difficult if not impossible when we’re talking about boats, and it’s perhaps harder to justify some of the public exposure Compton has included. Yet exposure is what we often ask from celebrities nowadays, and journalist Nic Compton’s instincts will all have been pulling strongly in the direction of more, not less disclosure.

Has he got the balance right? On balance I think he probably has, if only just. Reading this book, I find I’m glad to know more about this gentle man. I’m not remotely autistic, but I can identify strongly with his school life blighted by asthma and his sense of being different from other people, both of which I’ve also experienced to an extent. I’ve always respected his ability painstakingly to go on drawing more and more achingly beautiful boats, but now I know how he has struggled to keep going I have to admire him all the more. I just hope that publicising the sometimes difficult story of his life has not made the man himself uncomfortable.

Buy it or not? I say go ahead and expect to learn a lot about the wooden boat movement in general as well as an important boat designer. Iain Oughtred: a life in wooden boats

For more posts relating to Iain Oughtred’s work, click here.

Also, see 70.8% on the new Oughtred biography, together with a bundle of photos.