A classic flattie skiff on the river Vilaine, Brittany


Here are a few shots taken from the water of what seemed to me to be a classic small working skiff built from what looks like solid timber we sighted on the river Vilaine in Brittany while on holiday a few weeks ago.

It’s crude, heavy, basic and all the rest, but its interest lies in the fact that in England, just across the Channel from Brittany, we don’t really have boats like this – to the extent we often think of them as being exclusively North American boats, thanks to the work of American language authors writing in English such as Howard Irving Chappelle.

But I’m pretty sure the American models, some elegant, light and nicely made and some heavy workhorses, some called just skiff or maybe sharpie skiff, flat iron skiff or flattie skiff or a range of other names, must have developed from European craft like this one.

PS – In answer to Doryman Mike Bogoger’s query in the comments below, here are two photos of the interior of a somewhat different boat local to the same area as the skiff above. These are used for tending mussel beds etc in the Vilaine estuary. I don’t know how closely these boats are related, but I think their construction is broadly similar.


Video: The Sea Bright skiff – working on the Jersey Shore

Seabright skiff building

Here’s a charming half-hour film about fishermen and traditional boat builders working with Sea Bright skiffs – and if you’re patient it comes with some very nice music on the melodeon, or accordion, if that’s what you like to call it, starting at about 14.40 minutes. If anyone knows what it’s called, I’d like to track it down.

While we’re at it, this shorter clip about a pirogue maker in Louisiana working with an adze is pretty good too. Is that a fretless banjo in the background? And who is that singer? Finally – here’s a video about the Cajuns by Alan Lomax. It’s not about boats, but you do get some real culture round here, doncha?

Thanks to Thomas Armstrong of 70.8% for pointing out the Sea Bright skiff video on Facebook.

Scottish Coastal Rowing – a reminder

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St Ayles skiffs Scottish Coastal Rowing

St Ayles Skiff Coigach Lass beating Ulla in the Ladies Open at the Loch Broom Sailing Club regatta. My thanks to Chris Perkins for use of this photo

Who’s having big fun this summer? All of you, I hope, but most of all I’m quite sure the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association folks are having a riot!

I’ve been meaning to write another post about the SCRA for a little while, but have been distracted by all sorts of busy-ness – with the result that a lot of people have beaten me to it. So this is just a short post designed to serve as a reminder that this project to create a new class of rowing racing around the coast of Scotland is proving amazingly successful with races taking place at Portsoy and at Eyemouth.

Apart from the main association website, photos and information can be found at:

PS – I’d also like to draw readers’ attention to Osbert Lancaster’s thoughtful and informative comment below. It’s well worth a look. Thanks Osbert!