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.

Chris Perkins Macgregor canoe on BBC TV

Scotch Mist in Argyll

Remember Chris Perkin’s award-winning Macgregor canoe built to Iain Oughtred’s design? Well, it has turned up on a BBC series following largely forgotten steamer routes taken by Victorian holiday-makers, and pioneer canoeist Macgregor himself. (I’m sure they’re not forgotten among boating enthusiasts!)

It’s a wonderfully scenic part of the world and it’s great to see Chris’s immaculate little boat being paddled by the presenter, and I think the series will be well worth watching. Broadcast transmissions have been restricted, but it is available to many of us via the BBC iPlayer.

More photos of the boat can be found on Chris’s Flickr photostream.

John Macauley-built lugger Freyja needs a good new home in Scotland

Freyja John Macauley 16ft lugger

Freyja John Macauley 16ft lugger

My friend Ian Duffill is looking for a new home in Scotland for Freyja, the John Macaulay-built 16ft clinker dinghy seen at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show.

Here’s the story of Freyja, as Ian tells it:

‘In 2000 iconic traditional boatbuilder John MacAulay, who has his workshop at Flodabay on Harris was asked to build a boat suitable to sail across the Minch to the Shiant Islands.

‘The owner of the Shiants is Adam Nicolson, author and television presenter, grandson of Vita Sackville West and Harold Nicolson of Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.

‘After one epic voyage to the Shiants, described in Adam’s book Sea Room (see below), the boat Freyja was stored and not used again. She is an open16ft transom dinghy, clinker built in larch on oak with sea-kindly and dramatically tight turns to the bilge to make a good deep keel. With a single dipping lug she travels swiftly from A to B.

‘Through sheer serendipity, Adam came to give Freyja to me. We both hoped I would be able to get her sailing again and use her in her element – the sea. Although I cleaned her up and got her in the water, matters conspired so I never managed to sail her on the sea.

‘Now we have moved to North Norfolk, where I find that short tacking into Blakeney Harbour’s narrow, shallow channel with many sandbanks is asking too much of her. She now sits forlornly in a cavernous barn on a nearby farm and needs a new home where the local sailing conditions are more suitable for her.

‘I have spoken with Adam and we have agreed that a return to Scottish waters would be ideal. Most of all she wants an owner who can give her the chance to roam in open water. If she could be made available for youngsters to experience handling this traditional style of boat, so much the better. A youth organisation, club or private individual – it doesn’t matter. She just needs a chance to come alive again.

‘She was given to me and neither Adam nor I expect any payment – just to see her in action once more.

‘She comes complete – mast, oars, rudder, tiller, sail, floorboards and custom built road trailer but has been out of the water for too long and needs to be immersed for some time to take up again. I might be able to deliver – we can talk about it.’

Sea Room is published by Harper Collins, London and is available from Amazon.

For more on Freyja at, see our earlier post.

If you’re interested in Freyja, email me at and I’ll pass your message on to Ian.

PSFreyja’s future has been decided she is to return to Harris where she will be sailed by local groups. She will also be under the care of her original builder, John Macauley.