Traditional timber boats propelled by oar and wind have been used on the West coast of Scotland since earliest times with boatbuilding methods and design showing a clear Norse influence or vice versa.
There are many variations but fishing boats were generally double ended craft built of Larch and Oak with a Lug sail and in later years a jib and bowsprit. In Loch Fyne, small skiffs developed into larger boats up to some 37ft (11M) used for ring netting at the end of the 19th century. These boats had a distinctive underwater shape with a steeply raking stern post. Another very recognisable feature is the steeply raking mast positioned well forward in the boat to keep the main working area clear. This type of craft became known as “The Loch Fyne Skiff”.
Many of these crafts were built in Tarbert, Campbeltown, and Ardrishaig. A hundred years ago the harbour in Tarbert would have been full of similar craft and many original photographs exist. The larger Skiffs were used for ring net herring fishing but smaller craft would be used for line fishing and pot laying. Originally skiffswould be propelled by wind and oars alone but many were later fitted with engines. The design of the stern meant that the engines were fitted off center with the propeller on one side of the hull. Nets would normally be cast on the opposite side to avoid fouling.
Very few original hulls exist and none is in original sailing and fishing configurations. Families of the original builders hold some records of drawings and models but none of the original yards are in existence.
Loch Fyne Skiffs
were used between about 1880 and the early 20C with the Ring Net a fishing technique which has a history of its own. Herring were the principal catch this industry supporting the whole economy of the communities in the area. Boatsworked in partnership the lead boat shooting the net and forming an arc. The second boat picked up the end buoy and the fish shoal was encircled closing the “ ring”. One boat then hauled the net to a tight bag and both boats loaded the catch. Several tons of fish could be secured in a haul.
Wee Dooker Loch Fyne Skiff
The original project was managed by Tarbert Conservation Initiative and Tarbert Loch Fyne Yacht club it took18 months and involved over that period some 35 young people and 10 adult helpers.
A and R Way Boat Buildersprovided the main teaching and professional input and went beyond their contracted commitment in assisting the project. The project involved research into the history of the Loch Fyne Skiff, followed by measuring, drawing lofting and construction of a replica Skiff. Yerda, on display in Campbeltown Heritage Centre, is a small ( 6.1 M) skiff built in 1906 in Ardrishaig. The availability of first-hand information and the small size of Yerda fitted perfectly with the budget and scope of the project.
After initial publicity, the project was contacted by the family who originally owned Yerda and they provided information on the boat’s history. Ronnie Munro Grandson of D Munro of the Ardrishaig boatyard provided information for the research and also helped throughout the project.
During the project, visits were made by numerous individuals with a knowledge of fishing and boat construction. The information gained increased skills and was incorporated into the research and the skiffs construction.
The information on this page is displayed with thanks to trustee Robert McPhail and was taken from the original Loch Fyne Skiffproject journal.