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Findochty Water sports Club
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Findochty St Ayles Skiff -The build

There was a meeting held at the village hall in Findochty on Thursday 5th December 2013 that was very informative. We were given an insight into what coastal rowing is all about. It appears to be the a very fast growing sport which, for a watersport, has a fairly low and attainable capital outlay. I think the stormy weather may have prevented more people attending but those that made it,made me come to the conclusion that there is an interest in taking this forward. Once the skiff is obtained you would have to be a member of Findochty Water Sports Club to become a rowing member. Therefore maintaining the Skiff would be covered by rowing members membership fees. It is possible that these members may also become involved with sailing activities as crew on other members sailing craft and by doing, reviving interest in club sailing races. Further information on St Ayles Skiffs can be found at www.scottishcoastalrowing.org
February 2014 The St Ayles Skiff project is progressing well. Thanks to funding by Glenfiddich Distillery and The Abbeyfield Society We have now enough funds to go ahead and order a boat kit. This has been done and has now arrived in Findochty. The kit consists of a lot of pre- cut plywood,the cuts not quite complete, making them look like a giant Airfix kit. There is about the same amount of solid timber which needs to be ordered from a list of recommended suppliers, this has also been done along with epoxy, paint, tools etc. Our next hurdle was a building in which to build the Skiff. This has also been resolved. The workgroup will now be contacting those members who have volunteered to help with the build and setting in place a plan for the build. It is expected the build will take about three months and it is hoped that we will be afloat by the Portsoy Boat Festival in July. (To find out how over optomistic this last sentence was read on folks!)
March 2014 Progress is being made essential tools have been obtained along with timber to build the building bench. The bench has also now been built. The search is now on for g-clamps as we will need a great number during the build.
1st May 2014 The big day was Thursday 1st May 2014. The word was sent out that if you were interested in helping with the build of the Findochty Water Sports Club St Ayles Skiff you show show up at the build site at 6.30pm. So it was 6.30pm on a cold evening in Buckie that a small crowd assembled for work. There was a slight delay as a prime member of the team thought we were due to meet at 7.00pm. So it was 7 o'clock when we started by making a list of those present and a short chat about what we planned to do. It was thought that it would help thinks proceed smoothy if we worked at regular times, as a group, so Thursday nights at 6.30pm would be the time. Once this was established we started the build by cutting out the building frames, which came as part of the kit. various saws set too, but an electric jig-saw was the most effective tool. On the same sheets of ply as the frames were numerous horse shoe shapes which will be used as clamps during the glueing stage of the build. As some were sawing others started sanding the results and by 9pm we had all the frames and clamps cut and finished. A good start. If you would like to be involved in the build it's not too late as we expect that the finish of the Skiff will be some time next year. For more information contact John Smith, Mairi Innes or any of the committee. Or just come along at 6.30pm on a Thursday night.
15th May Progress has been made, but we are still a bit away from actually building the Skiff. The building frame has been smoothed and temporarily assembled on the base frame. This made it easier to cover the building frame with parcel tape, to stop the skiff parts being glued to it during the build. It looked like a quick job but it took three of us a whole evenings work to get all the parts covered with tape. We then took the whole assembly to bits so it now looks like we have got nothing done at all. There is a reason for this though. When we come to laminate the ribs we use the building frames to clamp everything together, hence the parcel tape. This job is easiest done if the frames are laid horizontal, so it all has to be taken to pieces. With all the frames off the base we took the opportunity to add a bit of extra bracing and then rechecked that the base was absolutely level. We could play billiards on it now, it is so level. Well we could if we had a billiards table on it. When it next gets assembled it should have the ribs attached as well.
End of May 2014 Progress was seen to be made on the last two Thursdays in May. On the first Thursday we tackled the parts that make up the ribs. These are laminated so are made up of numerous parts which all need cutting out from a large sheet of marine ply. We soon got into a rhythm, two of us cut out the shapes and Bert finished them with a spokeshave. By the end of the evening we had a nice stack of rib parts ready to be laminated to the former. There was still a small of time left so we used the chop saw to cut a length of 4 X 2 into four inch lengths. These will be screwed to a sheet of thick ply to make a jig for laminating the stem and stern posts. On the last Thursday in May we started by completing the jig for the laminating. We laid out the blocks in the correct places before drawing around them. We could then move the blocks to drill two holes through the ply for each block. We then covered the whole sheet with polythene before screwing the blocks to the ply through the ply from the other side. Once this was done it was up to Bert's shed in Portknockie for the beginning of actual boat building. Bert had ordered some lovely close grained Siberian Larch in 8 x 2 and 4 meter lengths. The best of these was put aside for cutting into laminating strips, but first we used the table saw to cut the rest into side for use as parts for the keel and hog. What was left will later be used in the thwarts. The plank for laminating was then cut into 2 x 2 lengths, 2 meters long, which we then cut again on the band saw into 2 x 5/16th strips which will be used to laminate the stem and stern posts.
June 2014 Real "boat building " commenced in June. Up until now had just been preparation. The first assembly job was to laminate the stem and stern posts. We started with the inner sternpost which was to be made by glueing 4 strips of the Larch we had cut on the band saw and clamping them around the former which we made in May. Two of us spread the glue and passed the glued strips to a third who lined them up ready for clamping. When the glue was all spread we started clamping from one end, bending the strips around the former as we went. We then discovered you can never have too many clamps. It took all the clamps we had just to laminate one post, so once everything was clamped tight we called it a night as there was nothing more we could do. The following Thursday we didn't meet as everyone was commited elsewhere but the Thursday after we had a good group of people to do a bit more laminating. We once again used all of the clamps to laminate the inner Bow post but then, after members of the group heading off to search their own garages for more clamps we managed to find enough to laminate the first of the frames. We are now on the search for lots more clamps and have also decided to make best use of the clamps we have by having another laminating session on the monday as, by then the Thursday "laminates" will be able to be un-clamped and will also be available again by the Thursday.
July 9th Four of us dressed the stem and stern posts tonight then we set up the frames onto the base, including this time the bow and stern. Myself, George and possibly Rob will help Bert with cutting the hog and keel on Monday at his shed and then when we all turn up next Thursday at 6.30pm we will see the carcass of a boat! At last. Mairi
July and August 2014 There were a number of other commitments for the Skiff builders during July and August but we have started to make visible progress. We started by shaping the inner stem and stern posts. We had previously laminated these and dressed them "square" but we needed to plane them to shape. They needed to be 2 inches on the inner edge tapering to a half inch on the outer edge. This shape was needed as the planking will be fastened along this edge later in the build. It turned out to be a two person job as, due to the shape it is almost impossible to clamp the stem and stern to plane away the excess wood, so one person holds on tight as the other planes. The two ends were a nights work. They were then clamped back on the laminating former to help keep their shape. The next week we started by scarfing the stem and stern inner posts to the hog. The electric plane was a boon. Once the stem and stern was scarfed accurately glue was applied to stem, stern and all the frames, which were screwed to the formers and the hog was tightly clamped to all and was left to cure. A week later we then removed the clamps so we could shape the hog for the garboard. We also had to remove excess wood from the ends of the hog, where it scarfs into the stem and stern. This also needed shaping so that it would be flat with the garboard and subsequent planking. We made the mistake of removing all the clamps from the hog/rib joins and the vigourous planeing managed to break the bond of one of the rib/hog joins. Well I suppose it is better to find a weak bond at this stage than out at sea. The planing of the hog turned out to be more than an evenings work so before finishing for the night we re-bonded the broken rib and re-clamped it. We are now at the stage where if we could remove all the formers we would be left with something vaugely boat shaped. Progress indeed.
September 2014 The whole of September was spent getting the Hog and stem and stern inners correct. There was much discussion and pondering. It was important to get it absolutely correct as the next stage is the garboards which then shape the entire Skiff. Time was spent temporary fitting garboards and then taking them off again. A couple of nights we made no progress at all but by the beginning of October we were ready to proceed. We worked out the best way to scarf the planking so we then set to and produced a jig which we would use with a router to get an accurate scarf joint. So it was 9th October when we cut the first Scarf joint for the garboards and another Skiff building milestone was passed.
October 2014 October flew by. Our time was spent getting the Garboards just right. Much time was spent fastening, removing, fettling and fastening again. After consultation it was decided to fit the planking in full lengths, so, once the scarf joints had been cut, the three parts of the first garboard were bonded together with West System Epoxy using the side of an old staircase to clamp it to. The following week it was found that the parcel tape on the stair plank had done it's job and the first Garboard was ready for fitting after sanding the excess epoxy from the scarfs. The same proceedure was followed for the other garboard, which was left clamped until the following Thursday. With both Garboards assembled we moved on to trial fitting. Once we got over the thought of putting holes in the pristine ply-wood we set to with a box of pozidrive screws and fettled away until we got a decent fit. On the Thursday 30th October we jumped the next big hurdle. We, finally, permanently fitted a plank. Before we had removed the screws for the temporary fit we drew around the inner side of the garboards to see which parts needed epoxy. We then removed the planks and taped up the bits not needing glueing. It was a bit of a guess how much epoxy we would need but we mixed up 200ml between two pots which was applied to the hog and garboard as a "wetter" the remainder of the mix then had filler added to make a filler paste and the whole lot was painted onto the plank. Starting from the middle we then clamped and screwed the garboard to the hog, stem and stern. The screws will be removed once the epoxy has cured and the holes filled with epoxy filler mix. With one garboard glued in place we immediately set to attaching the other side, so now we have the garboards well and truely stuck.
November 2014 Things progressed quicker during November. We were managing either preparing or glueing or both a plank a night on our Thursday night two hour sessions. It's not possible to scarf joint and fix a plank on the same night so it sometimes felt likenot a lot of progress was being made but by the end of the month we had something resembling a hull. It may even have floated, if we were crazy enough to try, although there would be very little freeboard. We had one set back when the second plank "sprung" on the starboard bow when we were fixing the port bow second plank. This was corrected by copious amounts of epoxy to re-bond it. It is now secure. We also removed the temporary screws during bonding the next plank and the excess epoxy/filler mix was used to fill the holes left behind.
December 2014 By the end of December we had something resembling a boat. Other comitments meant that the Build crew changed every week but progress continued. Time was spent scarfing planks and then glueing them to the planks already secured. All we need now is for severe frost to stay away so we can continue to epoxy. To help this we have purchased a gas heater which will also be used for quick heat in the Howff when we are not boat building.
January 2015 The cold dark January nights did not slow progress on the Skiff. There were a couple of extra Monday sessions which meant that by the end of the month the final plank was glued in place. We now have something that looks like a Skiff and it would be easy to convince ourselves that we are nearing the end. This is far from true. before we can turn the boat over we have to attach the stem, stern and keel. We then need to fair up all the holes we made during planking. I expect this will see out February. We then need to sort out Gunwales, seats, foot rests a rudder and dozens of other things. It may be a good idea to make some oars as well. I would like to think we would be ready for Portsoy in July but you never know.
February 2015 February comprised a lot of scraping and sanding. At least that was how it felt. There was quite a bit of other work taking place though. The first major job was to attach the stem and stern posts. Final shaping took place first, planing down to the correct width for the regulations. The top of the stem was left broader and square though to give a bit more ability to absorb bumping into quays andother boats during crew transfers etc. Holes were drilled through inner and outer stem and stern posts and once copious amounts of epoxy mix were applied bolts were inserted to clamp everything together until everything had set. Once the epoxy had cured the bolts were removed. The holes left were then drilled a bit larger to take dowels. These were then epoxied in place with wedges to tighten the fit of the dowels. Next it was time for the keel. This was first shaped so it blended into the stem and stern and then it was fitted the same way. Whilst this was going spare hands were weilding scrapers on epoxy filler used to fare up all the holes made during planking the skiff. When we started we tended to wait to be told what to do but now if we see something needs to be done we just get on and do it. In recent weeks this has includedstarting to work on the donated road trailer and constructing the rudder. If all else is being taking care of there is sure to be some scraping and sanding to do. We ended the month with something undeniably skiff shaped, almost ready for turning over. We even have a name now, although this will have to wait until the official launch to be announced.
March 2015 March was a momentus month. When the keel stem and stern were secure the whole hull was scraped and sanded. This seemed to be an endless job as we found that as soon as one bit looked perfect, another area caught our attention for more work. The more we sanded the better it looked. Some areas of the planking needed a small fillet of thickened epoxy on the joins, but in general we were happy with the planking and we called a halt on the sanding. Then someone spotted somewhere that needed one final rub before we finally agreed that it was good enough and the sanders were put away. We then set too with a couple of Dyson hand held vacuum cleaners and thoroughly cleaned the hull before giving it a coat of white primer. This transformed the hull and showed that we had got the sanding almost spot on. There was only one small area that needed a bit of fairing. The next job was to remove the formers from the boat and jig. It was eight months from the time the jig was trued up for the fixing of the stem and stern posts and just over a year since the first cut was made. A couple of bodies squeezed under the build bench to get inside the hull and set too with electric screwdrivers. One by one the jig formers were knocked loose and passed out from underneath. The time spent parcel taping the jig was well spent as none of them were bonded to frames or hull. We were then free to turn over the skiff. With half a dozen pairs of hands this was easily done although there was a tense moment when we found that the top of the bench and a roof beam was the exact distance as the skiff's beam. For a second it looked as if the skiff might jamb against the roof but it was coaxed past the pinch point and everyone was soon looking over the top planks inside the hull. The view we had was gratifying, we now had a boat. Our next thought was that there was a lot of parcel tape and excess epoxy to remove. We approached this task with gusto and in no time most was removed. One builder admitted that he had forseen a few more weeks ahead of us scraping but the tape had saved a huge amount of time. Things are speeding up now as, most weeks, we are working two nights a week so by the end of the month the outer gunwales were attached and the hull was really stiffening up.