Sephira the Musical Ark comes to Scotland to race – and to serenade whales

There seems to be no limit to the rapid growth of the Scottish Coastal Rowing movement – and perhaps there’s no limit either to its ambition and imagination.

A case in point is Sephira the Musical Ark – an Iain Oughtred-designed St Ayles skiff built by students and teachers at Moravian Academy, a school at Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.

Most of these boats are built by communities, but the difference in this case is that the boat is rigged with eight long piano wires from stemhead to stern with the aim of making it a kind of sea-going harp – the string lengths and tensions are said to be designed to play notes in the frequency range of whale song.

That’s the imagination bit. The ambition bit is that the school is raising money to transport the boat over the Atlantic to Ullapool for the Skiffie World Championship on the 8th-14th July – and it seems they’ve done sufficiently well that the boat has actually begun  its journey.

While in Scotland, the boat will also row to an area where whales are known to congregate, and play music for a while… It will be interesting to see how they respond.

The whole thing sounds like a lovely, exotic idea to me. If you fancy chipping a few dollars to help pay for the expedition, click here.

St Ayles Skiff World Championships – 8th to 14th July 2013


Photos by Chris Perkins

Scottish Coastal Rowing Association officials have chosen Ullapool for the venue for the first world championships for coastal rowing in boats built to Iain Oughtred’s St Ayles skiff design.

Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club is delighted to be at the centre of organising the event, along with partner organisations the Loch Broom Sailing Club, Coigach Community Rowing and the Ullapool Harbour Trustees.

The growth of St Ayles Skiff building and rowing by communities internationally has been astonishing. The aim of the new event is to provide an opportunity for rowers from across the globe to meet in friendly competition.

Set on the banks of a on the banks of Loch Broom, a large sheltered sea loch in the North-West of Scotland, Ullapool is an excellent location for such an event.  The local rowing club says it is also well equipped to cater for visitors and the area’s community is accustomed to running large cultural events, and that Skiffie Worlds will be well within its capacity.

A full programme of maritime and land-based activities and entertainment is planned, culminating with a prize-giving and a boisterous ceilidh on Saturday 13 July.

For information check the growing website at

Boatbuilder Adrian Morgan’s latest projects

Norwegian-derived 15ft boat designed by Adrian Morgan

Norwegian-derived 15ft boat designed by Adrian Morgan

15ft water ballasted small boat designed by Adrian Morgan for Loch Torridon

Stuck last week at home in the ice and snow like many in the UK, writer and Ullapool-based traditional boatbuilder Adrian Morgan got stuck into something he hasn’t done for a while – he sent some words and photos.

Naturally, I’m very grateful though I too could do without all that tedious white stuff.

In fact, it all got so bad for Adrian that he decided to start a very interesting weblog: The Trouble with Old Boats.

Here’s what Adrian has to say about the boat above:

‘This was launched in late summer for a client with a cottage on Loch Torridon. It’s built to my design developed from Norwegian original, but beamier and flatter-floored for more stability. She carries water ballast, so is light to tow and launch, but sits deeper for stability. She’s 15ft in length, and built of larch and oak with a standing lug.’

Guillemot rowing boat designed by Iain Oughtred and adapted by Adrian Morgan Guillemot rowing boat designed by Iain Oughtred and adapted by Adrian Morgan Guillemot rowing boat designed by Iain Oughtred and adapted by Adrian Morgan

Guillemot rowing boat designed by Iain Oughtred and adapted by Adrian Morgan Guillemot rowing boat designed by Iain Oughtred and adapted by Adrian Morgan Guillemot rowing boat designed by Iain Oughtred and adapted by Adrian Morgan

Oughtred Guillemot adapted by Adrian Morgan

And here’s what he has to say about this Iain Oughtred-designed Guillemot:

‘Built to replace a 12ft family dinghy that had been well used and loved for 40 years, this Oughtred Guillemot will be rowed on the choppy waters of the Firth of Forth. Stretched to just over 12ft from Iain’s plans for an 11ft 6in dinghy, she has enough length now to allow a rower forward and passenger aft, with another midships, or she can be rowed, swiftly, by one rower sitting centrally.

‘The planking followed Iain’s lines to the letter, once they emerged from below the waterline. Drawn for plywood, there was no way the garboards in larch could match the plywood’s width. I must admit to giving her a little more freeboard forward, as I was concerned she might dip her bow when fully loaded and punching into a head sea. I am not convinced I should not have stuck ruthlessly to Iain’s plans, but where’s the fun in building a one-off boat in solid timber if you can’t tinker a wee bit?

‘With her white-painted bilges, well protected against the rain water that is destined to fill her on her mooring, and varnished topsides, she is a simple, unpretentious little rowing boat of the kind once thrown up in their hundreds and thousands. The finish is smart, but not fussy. You can see your face in the transom, but a little wrinklier than for real. I hope she’ll last looking this good. If she lasts as long as her predecessor, then I will be happy – and in my 90s!’

Many thanks Adrian. I hope you enjoy your weblog as much as I enjoy this one!

If either of these boat tickle your fancy or even meet your needs, contact Adrian via his website: