History of the St Ayles Skiff

The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association was formed on May 29, 2010, to encourage Coastal Rowing & Racing around the Scottish Coastline and Lochs. The boat chosen for the project is the St Ayles Skiff, based on an historic boat, the Fair Isle Skiff, that originally existed only as a model in the Scottish Fisheries Museum.

The design of the St Ayles Skiff was commissioned from Iain Oughtred by the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther, Fife.  Jordan Boats has made a kit for the design.  The basic principle of this project is that the boats to be raced should be available at as low a price as possible.  The estimated cost of completion of one of these skiffs is around $5,000.

The concept has been a remarkable success remarkably quickly, with more than 40 boats either in use or in build throughout Scotland.  It has now attracted worldwide attention.  The building of six St Ayles Skiffs is confirmed in Maine, USA, with others in New York, Connecticut, and Oregon, and firm intentions expressed for at least another ten to be started in the USA in the Fall.  Two are in build in the Netherlands, and there has been strong interest in Australia.   Our kit supplier, Jordan Boats, is more than happy to deal with inquiries from overseas, as well as from any Scottish communities that wish to join those already involved.

The St Ayles Skiff is 22ft, with a beam of 5’8″.  The standard Crew is four rowers, each with a single oar, and a coxswain.  Other crew combinations are possible.  The name of the design comes from the former chapel which now forms the entrance to the Scottish Fisheries Museum.

In the USA, Hewes & Co. supplies the kits under license from Jordan Boats, and Gardner Pickering, head of the Hewes & Co. Marine Division has been a tremendous resource for all of the groups building the Skiff in this country.

The building of the St Ayles Skiff made its way to the USA through the efforts of WoodenBoat Publications, which is introducing the concept to high schools in Maine. WoodenBoat has dubbed their project the Boatbuilding and Rowing Challenge (BARC), and had 5 high school shop classes building the Skiff this last academic year.


The St Ayles Skiff, photo courtesy, Peter Nisbet

The Wind & Oar Boat School has now brought the St Ayles Skiff to the west coast with the first build of the skiff by an all women crew. Jann Lane recruited a 10 member group to build the skiff; a group that crosses generations and without any woodworking experience. The intent is to build a fleet here in Portland, OR, and to compete with local boats and boats around the country. Who knows, a trip to Scotland might even be in the cards.  Follow the posts for descriptions of the progress.