Scottish Traditional Boat Festival to see launch of youth training boatshed project

The boatshed, and photos from previous Scottish Traditional Boat Festivals at Portsoy

This year’s Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy is to see the launch of a project to create a new home for Portsoy Organisation for Restoration and Training (PORT), an organisation that teaches youngsters traditional boat building and restoration skills.

PORT is to refurbish Portsoy’s 18th century boatshed, currently a derelict harbour building, and turn it into a community centre to teaches traditional skills and boat restoration.

The foundation stone for the revamped shed is to be laid during the annual festival, which takes place this coming weekend.

Festival vice chairman and PORT founder James Crombie says that in teaching traditional skills to young people PORT provides a bridge between the old and the new, and that the festival provides a particularly good platform for the launch of the project, not least because it includes the inaugural North Sea Ring meeting, which sees countries from around the North Sea come together to share maritime traditions.

The rebuilt boatshed will give the local community a spacious workshop that will allow work on boats to be undertaken in full view of the public.

The PORT training programme takes participants from the initial stages of boat building right through to learning to sail the boats they have helped to create – which no doubt brings something special to the trainees.

As well as providing an outlet for training and restoration it is hoped that the boatshed will become an attraction for visitors to the area.

PORT was given the boatshed by the Portsoy Maritime Heritage Society in 2009; the renovation is a £420,000 project funded by Aberdeenshire Council, CARS (a collaboration between Aberdeenshire Council and Historic Scotland) and AEFF Axis 4 funding.


The 20th Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, 22nd and 23rd June

Portobello and Queensferry

STBF1 (1) Little and Large Skiffs tied up at Portsoy harbour 2

The 20th annual Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival will take place at Portsoy on the 22nd and 23rd June.

Amazingly, crowds in excess of 16,000 are expected – which is quite a thought for those who think traditional boats are a minority interest.

Traditional wooden boats from all over the UK and beyond will congregate in the historic 17th century Portsoy harbour. Visitors can learn how to paddle a coracle, hop aboard restored fishing vessels, and see the crews of the St Ayles Skiffs rowing regatta race on the open seas.

The music programme will once again feature the very best of traditional music. Popular Scottish folk singer and former presenter of BBC’s Travelling Folk, Archie Fisher, will headline the Friday Showcase Concert on the eve of the Festival – supported by the internationally celebrated shanty band Kimbers Men, and local group The Lennox Family.

Festival-goers should watch out for the opportunity to learn a shanty or two and perform a ‘maritime work song’ on stage on the Sunday.

For more information about the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival and to buy tickets visit

The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival goes all superstitious

Red-headed Scottish Traditional Boat Festival volunteer Vivien Rae with seafaring superstitions guide

Visitors to the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy (23rd-24th June) are being urged to observe centuries-old superstitions to help ensure the event is plain sailing.

The event’s organisers have been having a bit of fun: they have produced a ‘helpful’ online guide of dos and don’ts so that none of the 16,000 visitors unwittingly bring bad luck, including pouring wine over boat decks and talking to anyone you meet who happens to have red hair.

I’d suggest that last point could be a bit impractical – surely in a country like Scotland, which is supposed to have many flame-haired people, talking to all those red-heads could conceivably lead to missing a tide… And I don’t really warm to the idea of wasting wine in that way!

Many of the observances were to supposed to avoid angering the seas. Throwing stones into the sea was regarded as disrespectful, and would result in retaliation such as giant waves and storms.

Women were advised not to board any ships, as they would distract the men on board and that this would also anger the seas and cause bad luck for the vessel.

Animals had a part to play in all this – seeing a black cat was lucky, but no-one was allowed to say ‘pig’ when on board.

Even inanimate objects had a role… a stolen piece of wood built into a ship was thought to make a vessel sail faster.