Scottish Fisheries Museum - Museums Association

Scottish Fisheries Museum

In 2009, the Scottish Fisheries Museum commissioned a new kit boat, the St Ayles Skiff (named after the Scottish Fisheries Museum site), based on traditionally designed models within the museum. The boat can be purchased as a kit and can be constructed by anyone, with or without previous boat-building experience.

The commissioning of the design was carried out as part of a Museums Galleries Scotland funded project, and was developed in partnership with Jordan Boats, who manufacture the kits, and volunteer Robbie Wightman, who was keen on developing a coastal rowing association which could organise races and social activities. The prototype boat was taken into the Scottish Parliament building to get support from MSPs.

The project has met with huge enthusiasm. Over 140 skiffs have been built by communities around the UK, and the kit boats have also been built in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Holland. St Ayles skiff rowing has, in a short space of time, become a competitive sport with regular regattas and a biannual world championship.

The boat-building project inclusive and educational for all ages, and gives a focus for communities to come together and work towards a common goal.

An evaluation of the project by a student at the Glasgow School of Art demonstrated the extent to which the initiative had helped to build stronger community ties with marine heritage at a time when many ports around the country face a period of industrial decline.

In particular, it has helped numerous young people to gain new, transferable skills for the future. Participants in the study reported general self-esteem building and confidence building, motivation for fitness, and a positive effect on their community.

The project has been used in a number of films about providing a community focus, such as Afloat by Neville Gabie.