The St Ayle Skiff is a rowing boat for four rowers and a cox, measuring 22ft (6.7m) long and 5ft 8in (1.7m) beam. Although the skiff looks traditional, it is a modern design conceived in 2009 and modelled on the traditional Fair Isle Skiff. It is a design that utilises plywood instead of solid, lapped timber planking as in the traditional clinker-built hull. Modern, high-performance adhesives are used instead of the traditional fixing methods; this makes them durable, light and less costly. They are easier to construct, and no great experience in carpentry or boat-building skills are required. This was the intention of the design, making it suitable for community building and for anyone and everyone to get involved, and that goes for the rowing as well. Building and rowing for all, friendship and bringing people together, skills development, improved mental health and well-being are all intended aims.
The Fair Isle Skiff was a boat that worked in the turbulent seas of northern Scotland. It is said to have descended from the design of the Viking longboat and it is double-ended, meaning the stern is the same shape as the bow. In the short time since the project’s inception, many skiffs have been constructed and rowed in community groups throughout the world, for example, in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, to name but a few.
The boat started its life at the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther, Fife. The museum was planning a boat-building project for local college students which was going to use the museum’s boatyard. Alec Jorden of Jorden Boats, a trustee of the museum and supplier of boat-building kits, was approached about the design. At an initial meeting, the idea of reviving the rowing competition around the Fife coast was suggested as an objective. Coastal rowing had been popular in Scotland, but interest had dwindled through the 20th century, and the final regatta was held by Fife coal miners’ teams in the 1950s.
Ian Oughtred was asked to design the boat, and Alec Jorden manufactured a kit. The St Ayle Skiff was born. The prototype was ready in 2009, followed shortly after by various communities in Scotland producing five more, one of these only being ready on the morning of the first skiffie fest in May 2010 at Anstruther.
Read more detail about the project in this article by Alec Jorden Read
Building and Measurement Rules for the St Ayles Skiff: Read