Tuesday’s painting session went well

Thanks to Ray Norris’s space heater and the bits of water pipe  some kind soul left in the shed  yesterday’s painting session went very smoothly  and the second coat of primer on the inside of the hull is (finally!) complete.

The space heater really warmed the place up and the paint went on very easily as a result. We put the tarpaulins over the waterpipe hoops, and I       don’t think the tarps are touching wet paint anywhere. We left a small tube heater inside to keep temps up a bit while the paint is  drying.

Total time including prep and covering up was 2 hours. Provided (Easter!) Sunday brings at least three people to the shed  it should be  no problem sanding down lightly, wiping with white spirit and  doing a coat of undercoat. Ray is going to bring  us another bottle of gas for the space heater.

Getting on with the Oars


When our build started like most of the Seil Skiffies I had no experience rowing with longer oars, only distant memories of Bingham’s Pond (come in number Nine your time’s up etc  etc) and in those days the oars were only long because I was short. Sculling about in my wee dinghy and occasionally wrestling with the odd spades that are supplied with inflatables is no comparison with the delights of skiffing.

Back in September I set out some preliminary thoughts about oar-making here:-


My thoughts were largely second hand, as that post shows. Since then a little experience has been gained, many more articles read and as a result the ideas modified quite a bit.

The basic choice is between shorter and longer oars and rightly or wrongly our first set is going to be short, at eleven feet three inches. This is in line with the views of our building team and the absence of any local feeling in favour of going longer. Once we’ve got some sea miles under Selkie’s keel we may treat ourselves to a longer set and we’ll be watching what our competitors are using, particularly if they beat us.

We’ve also decided not to be too clever with our first set, so we’re not making wooden copies of high-tech racing gear. Our oars will be solid rather than hollow, rectangular in section with a maximum width fore-and-aft of 70mm and depth of 30mm. To keep them light I’ve given them Western Red Cedar cores and for strength Douglas Fir front and back faces. What follows is a description of how they’re made, partly for the benefit of those even more amateur than I and also for constructive comment please.

The overall length breaks down into a solid Douglas Fir section forming a handle twelve inches long and the rest glued into the shaft, then an eight foot section with the light core and the final section solid Douglas Fir tapered to the outboard tip. The blades are 4mm good quality marine ply to this pattern:-


It’s been good fun doing these, getting the Great Hut full of wood shavings and gluing up with gorilla glue, in the hope that it may attract some of them to the team.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMarking the handle for shaping


Lovely smell of wood shavings


Handle roughed out


Looking better


Mark which way it goes


Glued in


Blanks for shafts assembled


Ready for finishing

To complete the oars I’ll be adding hardwood blocks to take the thrust against the pins and plates with holes for gearing.

Update 13 March

That’s the blocks and plates made and glued in now;-


The blocks are oak and the pads 9mm super-elite plywood that Captain Cormorant had accidentally left lying around in my shed. I’ll need to treat him to a nice eel for his supper to compensate.

The pads will each have three holes drilled to slot over the oak thole pins to give us three gears. The gearing is expressed as the ratio of the length of oar outboard of the pivot to the inboard section. The oars are 135 inches long overall, so a thole pin 31 inches from the inboard end gives a ratio of 3.35, 34 inches gives 3.00 and 37 inches gives 2.65. That gives a good range for varying conditions and strengths of the rowers.

These oars aren’t the lightest in the world, weighing in at about 4.5kg unpainted, but it’s easier to plane a bit off later than to put it back.

Update 24 March


That’s them ready for the final coat on the blades.

Man wanted to make footbraces

The oars and rudder are in hand, but there is still a vital part of the skiff to be constructed.

The stroke oar’s footbrace is fixed, though we will be able to use blocks for shorter people. or the remaining three footbraces the current idea is to make them in the form of a rectangle where the runners slot over the actual frames of the boat and the distance is adjusted by either moving the whole device so a different slot is over the frame or possibly moving the footboard in separate slots in the top of the runners. Making the footbraces like this means the rowers will be bracing against the strongest part of the structure of the boat and the footbrace does not have to be actually glued into the boat.

(If anyone understands what on earth I am on about and can send me a drawing I can post here that would be very helpful!!)

Each footbrace will be slightly different due to the curve of the hull. What is needed is for someone to make templates out of cardboard then take them away and make the three footbraces. We have some heavy duty ply to make them out of, and one of the building team will be happy to come jup to the shed and explain in more detail what is required.

Rowers wanted

The plan is to have Selkie in the water by 1st May at the very latest, so it is time to start putting together Seil’s rowing teams. You can register your interest using the small form in the right hand column immediately under the search box.

Ladies rowing

Age is no barrier. While it is unlikely that Seil could ever support this many teams, these are the categories that will be racing at the World Campionships in Ullapool this Summer:

  • Open Men
  • Open Women
  • Mixed Open
  • Under 17 Men Under 17 Women
  • Under 19 Men
  • Under 19 Women
  • Over 40 Men
  • Over 40 women
  • Over 40 mixed
  • Over 50 Men
  • Over 50 women
  • Over 60  Men
  • Over 60 women

So the more the merrier. Register your interest today.

Painting Progress

The first coat of primer was put on the inside today. Unfortunately the epoxy filleting done yesterday had not gone off properly, so it was not possible to sand these areas down . . .  and there are still a couple of places where more epoxy is needed. There is also the fixed stretcher board for the stroke oar, which Ewan glued in place this morning. We didn’t paint these bits, and in addition we missed out the underside of the seats, as by the time we worked out that someone would have to lie on their back inside the boat to paint these bits there was too much wet paint around  for this to be possible.

So –  more accurately – the first coat of primer was put on 90% of the inside today. We are going to get some more epoxy  this week and finish the filleting on Thursday. We can then sand the whole interior and put the first coat of primer on the bits we were unable to paint today.  Then it will be full steam ahead with the rest of the painting.

Nothing is ever as quick or simple as you think it will be the first time around . . .

Launching places for the skiff

With  the skiff about to metamorphose from  a project in a shed into a community asset there are a few practical issues to consider, not the least of which is where the boat can be launched.

When the Anstruther skiff came to visit they launched at Balvicar Boatyard, and in many ways this is the best and easiest option, particularly for visiting crews and boats. However, Seil is an island of two coasts, separated by the  potentially troublesome waters of  Cuan Sound. If people  want to be able to use the boat  regularly on the West side of the island – which is I suppose up to the rowers – it would be useful to have a place to launch on the West side.

Some of us had already discussed Ellenabeich and pretty much written it off because the slipway was too narrow and the launching spot in the SE corner of the wee harbour is too rocky with no vehicular access. The skiff is an unusual boat though, with a maximum beam of just 5ft 8 ins and is remarkably light for a 22ft boat.

With that in mind I went over to Ellenabeich to measure the slip. It is 6ft 5″ wide at the very top and a minimum of 6ft 6in wide for the remainder of its length. The metal mooring rings aren’t much of an obstruction, and it  seems to me that with the right trailer or a dedicated launching trolley and a few fenders this would be eminently manageable and would allow crew or passengers to embark dry shod.

The other advantage of the pier at Ellenabeich is that it is one of the few places on Seil where the public have easy access to the shoreline. For open days, regattas etc this would be a big bonus, though it is likely that the Bay and the Sound on the East side would still be the favourites for all-weather racing or training.

These are just one person’s thoughts on the subject. If anyone else has any thoughts or  ideas please leave a comment.

Islay’s Festival of the Sea

The 2013 diaries are filling up fast with events for 2013 and the following message has just arrived from Islay:-

Dear St Ayles communities in and around Argyll,

I am emailing to invite all of you to Islay for a St Ayles regatta during our annual Festival of the Sea which will be taking place on the 2ndand 3rd of August 2013. The event aims to celebrate the rich seafaring heritage of Islay and showcase the seafood, talent and sportsmanship the island has to offer. It is a fairly new Festival (this will be the third year) but coastal rowing has been an important part of the event from the very beginning as the first Festival of the Sea accompanied the Colmcille Rowing challenge between Moville, Co. Donegal and Islay (This is bi-annual and will be taking place on the same weekend). It is an important aim of the Festival to re-establish historical links the island had with Ireland but we are also keen to forge new connections with other communities close by.

The Islay Rowing Club originally started with two fibreglass skiffs based on a traditional design of a skiff from Moville and these are still used for many of our regular races in the summer. However, more recently Jack Glover introduced the St Ayles movement to Islay and the club now have two beautiful St Ayles skiffs based in Portnahaven. In addition, the Festival last year invited renowned Irish boatbuilder Donal MacPolan over to build a Currach during the festival using local hazel and some synthetic seal skin so that has been a proud new addition  as well.

Coastal rowing is really taking off on the island and we are keen to make the rowing activities a focal point of the events schedule for the Festival this year and we’d be thrilled if you could join us for it. Bringing boats over would be optional but obviously the more the merrier. We have invited Galgael Trust over to run events and they are happy to bring their St Ayles skiff over with them so we will have three to start with. We can’t offer accommodation as such unless you were booked in quite early but there is plenty of space to camp, shower and laundry near the pontoons and we can see about making arrangements for transport to the youth hostel.

There will also be plenty of other entertainment with ceilidhs on Friday and Saturday night, a food fair, sailing, Coasteering, kayaking, tug o’war, talks and exhibits, crabbing, beach golf and a range of others (we are just trying to confirm the programme at present).

To follow on from the Currach build last year the Coracle society are joining us and will offer the opportunity to build your own Coracle over the weekend. We’d have to fit in the timing but it could be a good opportunity for each of the teams involved to build one for their club and they could be raced at the regatta too if people were willing.

Please let me know if you think this is something your teams would be interested and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like more information.

We have a basic website at www.spanglefish.com/IslayFestivaloftheSea and there are lots of pics of last years event on our facebook page www.facebook.com/islayfestivalofthesea