Posted by: strathkanchris | May 8, 2011

Inwë – R.I.P.

I am moved to briefly reawaken this blog as I have just noticed  a post on my friend Graham’s blog, Port na Storm, giving the very sad news of the demise of Inwë, the creation of Richard Rooth , in a R.T.A. I first laid eyes on Inwë when she was entered in the Watercraft  Amateur Boat Builders Competition in June 2004, and expended quite a bit of 35mm film on her – where I wonder did those negatives go? Once I started hanging around HBBR gatherings like a plywood boat groupie I saw and snapped Inwë on many more occasions. I also got to know Richard, a lovely quiet man with a wicked sense of humour always willing to help out with advice when asked. I feel truly gutted that such a fate should have befallen such a gorgeous example of the home boatbuilders craft. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Richard, I hope that, in the fullness of time, a new build will emerge from this tragedy.  By way of a visual Valedictory here are a few snaps of Inwë from past years.

As usual click on the thumbnail for the big picture

Posted by: strathkanchris | January 2, 2011

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 3 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 21 posts. There were 69 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 23mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was January 4th with 294 views. The most popular post that day was Hilly snaps.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for strathkanchris, rowland hilder, st ayles skiff, scandinavian birds, and balanced lug rig.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Hilly snaps June 2008


End of the Road March 2010


Another day, another boat(cow)shed October 2009


A bit of a splash at Leckmelm February 2010

Posted by: strathkanchris | June 3, 2010

Wild @ Barton Broad

Last weekend saw the UK-HBBR (UK Home Built Boat Reprobates) assemble at Barton Turf for their third Rally on the Broad. Unlike last year the organisation failed to arrange suitable weather, since it is a non organisation that is perhaps unsurprising. Saturday was a bit on the Rainy side, Sunday was somewhat brighter with a strong and viciously gusty NEasterly although no doubt somebody will look at the snaps on the HBBR site and suggest that it couldn’t possibly have been more than a gentle breeze and those who deployed reefed flappy cloth above their boats were displaying invertebrate tendencies. Monday was wet and unpleasant until we were well on the early drive home when it turned very nice.

Sunday turned into a bit of a nature trail on the cruise down to the pub in Neatishead so I thought I would share a few of the pix garnered whilst CeeDubs piloted Rosie Mae through the gusts. Incidentally those same gusts made for some of the more effective boat snaps it has been my luck to take.

Some excitement was generated at the BTAC  when a large moth was spotted hunkered down in the corner of a dining hall window – probably the warmest place it could find. It was just like being back in the Strath.

A bit of trawling for identification suggests that this is a Lime Hawk Moth, a bit of a change from last years Swallowtail butterfly (none of which I saw this year). Had I not been concerned about keeping my pilot, CeeDubs, waiting his passenger I would have extracted the tripod and gone for a slow exposure at small aperture to get crispness across the full wing span.

This is CeeDubs and his lovely ‘Rosie Mae’, nicely stable although there were one or two gusts that caused her to tilt slightly from level. As promised she did keep the camera dry (apart from a drop of rain on the return – I can hardly blame the boat for that though). We sort of drifted out of the Barton Turf cut to the main Broad where we, I mean CW, picked up some wind and Rosie started to move. Grabbing on with both hands and trying to snap with anything free we hurtled across the water (it felt like hurtling to me) CW spotted a Great Crested Grebe and what looked like a bit of weed tagging along, getting the long lens on it revealed the weed was a chick. Only the one though which probably means the sharks have had the rest of the brood. I am reliably informed that there are no sharks but the water is dark enough to conceal all manner of monstrous creatures, not a bit like the crystal clear waters back north. Can anyone explain why water 20 ft deep where the bottom can be clearly seen feels much less daunting than a puddle of a Broad 5 ft deep where the bottom is quite invisible? Anyway the Grebe distracted my mind from being daunted and I grabbed a few shots one of which came out almost good

Further down towards the Neatishead turn CW realised that viewing Richard’s Oughtred Elf ‘Inwe’ and Tim’s Oughtred Acorn ‘Ardilla’ storming along with gunnl’s below the surface (I know that sounds illogical but that’s what it looked like and the snaps don’t say anything different) hadn’t improved my view of wind propulsion drew my attention to a largish bird in hunting mode above the adjacent reedbed 

This I think must have been a Marsh Harrier in search of (as we were) Sunday Lunch. Almost immediately, on the next tack, a fisherman was spotted – complete with own inflatable watercraft (almost qualifies him/her for HBBR membership 😉

Pretty soon after this we lost the wind and I volunteered to row into Neatishead Staithe which was quite enjoyable, certainly a bit less traumatic than being blown about. So enjoyable that it might be worth considering a rowing boat build for this kind of event – Graham’s Coot looked just about perfect although why he wants to spoil such a lovely boat with a sail is beyond me. The only excitement forthcoming  in Neatishead was one member trying to walk on water – unsuccessfully and an Otter playing around ‘Inwe’ while Richard was raising sail for the return, sadly I didn’t get to record that.

My thanks go to CeeDubs for providing a pretty firm platform for my snapping and for constraining his sailing by putting in a completely unneccessary reef for my peace of mind. He promised he wouldn’t tip me in and would keep the photo gear dry – both of which he kept. To Richard,Ewan and Wayne for posing for some cracking snaps and to Tim for the Stathe side entertainment at Neatishead – which demonstrated fairly conclusively how deep the water wasn’t. To Sheila and Simon whose hospitality is so good and self effacing that it is danger of being taken for granted Last but not least thanks to the rest of the HBBR faces (old and new) who showed up and provided a warmth of companionship that more than made up for the chill off the North Sea. Roll on next year 🙂 🙂 🙂

Posted by: strathkanchris | April 1, 2010

Ramblings pruned

Sadly, because some believe that everything on the web is public property, the Little Green Shed has been closed and Photoreports on Beale and Portsoy have had to be removed to prevent further image theft. Further ramblings may or may not occur, only time will tell.
My apologies to those who enjoyed the images, I enjoyed the interaction with you all – responsibility for the loss lies with those unprincipled individuals who are unable to respect copyright issues.

Posted by: strathkanchris | February 17, 2010

A bit of a splash at Leckmelm

17th February, almost what passes for a spring day up here, air temperature of 2.5ºC, occasional flake of snow in the air, water a bit chilly and a brisk easterly to prevent overheating. Adrian (MD Viking Boats ) decides to do a boatbuilders launch (low key, sans bagpipes and quaich) of his latest creation. She is a 15ft sailing sjekte destined for family boating on a Sea Loch a bit south of here. Not that far as the hoody flies but a fair old drive by road. Her build has been the subject of earlier rambles round the cowshed.

A few curious bystanders gathered to cast a critical eye over the results of his winter labours and I just happened to be around with the box brownie. The most significant omission seems to have been the wellies, I know the natives are a hardy race but paddling in Loch Broom in February takes a special kind of person. So hats off to Ron (of the  Coigach Lass Skiffies ) who discarded boots to help retrieve the boat after the succesful floatation test, not a drop of water was seen inside after recovery.

All in all a very pretty boat which seemed very slippery under oars. She is riding a bit high on her marks as the water ballast system has still to be fitted – once the 200kg of ballast takes effect she should float to her lines. The sail and rig have yet to be completed but I think she will look and perform brilliantly.

As usual click on the thumbnail to get the bigger picture

Posted by: strathkanchris | December 4, 2009

Summer Heat

Recent hypothermic evenings in a local cowshed brought distant memories of Summer heat to the surface. These recollections have been enhanced and illuminated by my friend Graham’s recounting of the HBBR Raiders Thames jaunt last June over on his recently resuscitated Port-na-Storm  Blog, four episodes so far with the triumphal entry to Beale yet to come.  And jolly entertaining reading it has been too. Now that he has realised that work is a greatly overrated occupation I expect much more from his keyboard. His words have prompted me to look back at some of the images that I gathered on the periphery of that event and add my contribution to that particular tale, it almost tempts one to partake next year – were it not for that nasty wet stuff under the keel!

Posted by: strathkanchris | December 2, 2009

Brass Monkeys in the Cowshed

The last couple of evenings have seen a fine gathering of unlikely lads (would have included lasses as well but for a severe case of nasal congestion – get well soon, Sue) in young Adrian’s Cow Shed down by Loch Broom shore at Leckmelm. This assembly represented the combined energy of the Ullapool 1 Skiff Syndicate building team. For me this was a revelation of the privations of the ‘professional’ boatbuilder, cold, damp and very, very dark. Adrian certainly earns every last groat of the pittance he charges his customers, I think  he has yet to understand one of the essential truths of the labour market. The less you charge the less valued are the results of your labouring, to the extent that from experience, when you charge zilch there is no value placed on ones output whatsoever.
The latest ‘real wood’ production from Adrian’s hand (nicely advanced since last seen ) was sitting glowing dimly in the gloom so I grabbed the opportunity of a few more shots – what these pics can’t convey is the delectable scent of freshly soaked Varnol  planking, gorgeous – and very good for clearing a slight headcold. The combination of Larch’s natural decay resistance and Adrian’s thorough Varnol soaking should mean this little vessel will have a long and fairly low maintenance life.
Back to the main agenda – which was to start getting grubby building ‘our’ skiff. We had decided that getting on with the stems while the kit was reworked to reflect the experience gained at Anstruther a month ago from the prototypes launch was doable. So we spent three hours on the last day of November getting used to each other and building the laminating jig ready for the first tangible output last night – the fore and aft aprons. Pleased to say that with no formal leadership from anyone the team is gelling and the laminating proceeded apace. Balcotan was used in preference to Epoxy, largely due to the ambient temperature in the shed, about 2ºC. Padded boiler suits evidenced those used to these conditions – the rest of us just shivered. The continuing build story is over on the Ullapool Coastal Rowing Website  – I dare say we shall also see the occasional report from our host on the horrors of watching amateurs build in the dreaded epoxy ply in his ‘Ullapool Outlook’ column in Classic Boat.

As usual – click on the thumbnail  for the bigger picture

Posted by: strathkanchris | November 6, 2009

Is Epoxy Ply Good for You!

Much has rightly been said on the allergenic risks of using epoxy in home boatbuilding, I think there is a less publicised health risk. The prospect of building a big boat in a group on the shores of Loch Broom has generated a need for substantial numbers of epoxy mixing pots. Now we could of course buy them but the project is already costing us quite a bit and bearing in mind that the build is going to take place in a cold and draughty cowshed in the depths of winter we are going to be burning quite a lot of calories just keeping warm it seems to me we can achieve two objectives in one hit.

We are told to avoid heavily processed foods for the sake of our health – however raw ingredients, even in these days of over packaging, tend not to come in anything remotely useful for boatbuilding. So, purely in the interests of the hobby, I have been researching various products that look as though they might suit our purpose. It’s a hard job but, so far , my system has stood up to the research. I have sampled a number of products and enlisted the aid of my grandkids to try those less appealing to my palate, far and away the best containers are supplied with a microwaveable sponge pudding filling.

05-11-09 018

A sample steam pud - other varieties and brands are available

A variety of flavours are marketed – my personal favorite is the syrup pud, sickly sweet and very good for my dentist’s future income – others may favour the chocolatey ones.

Product to avoid are the individual fruit trifle type – the containers tend to be indented with strengthening patterns which militates against a thorough ‘poxy mix. The ideal pot will be smooth on the inside, enough flexibility to allow for cured epoxy residue to be popped out easily for container reuse on a subsequent day,  strong enough to be capable of serial use and large enough to contain enough epoxy that one individual can apply it within the ‘poxy pot life. Consumption of its original contents should not require too great a sacrifice on the part of the builder – you don’t want to be discouraged from building your boat by having to swallow something abhorrent. Yoghurt pots tend to be made from a styrene plastic which is only good for a single use.  For larger mixes I have found that the 500gm Glace Cherry containers ideal, luckily if you bake the Lemon Cherry version of the extreamly healthy HBBR Rally Cake  you will have a good supply. Experience has shown that however many you may think you need the reality will be at least double that number with a big boat like the St Ayles Skiff.

05-11-09 020

A small sample of the tested containers - illustration does not imply endorsement of content

The downside of this cheap-skate approach is the serious risk to your waistline and health. Granted once the boat is built most people will work off the surplus during the training sessions – although I have just realised there is a potential health hazard waiting to trip me up there as well. If we get serious about competing we are going to have to analyze our progress, because of the scattered nature of the  population building this craft the logical place to indulge this analytical process will be a local Hostelry immediately after a training session, it would be ungracious to avail ourselves of the cosy hospitality without properly supporting their Bar sales – yet more calorific consumption. For now though I guess I am just going to have to live dangerously and get used to a diet of instantish steamed pudd. I hope my colleagues in the project are equally prepared for self-sacrifice. We might have to be quick, with only a small supermarket locally and a neighbouring community  embarking on another Skiff there might be a run on the pudding counter, that should cause alarm and despondency amongst the health statisticians in whatever ivory tower they inhabit. The far Northwest Highlands prefered diet of Steamed Pud puts the local population on the road to obese ruin 😉

Posted by: strathkanchris | October 28, 2009

Surrounded by Scandinavian Birds

Fieldfare, 28th October 09

Did I detect a momentary flutter of interest there? Sorry, birds of an ornithological variety – our annual influx of Redwing and Fieldfare has happened. I noticed a few a week or so ago then over the last weekend they appeared en mass. the Rowan trees which had been leafless but heavily berried are rapidly being stripped. So far no Waxwings which is disappointing, if they don’t arrive soon there will be no berries left.

Redwing, 28th October 09

Posted by: strathkanchris | October 21, 2009

Ullapool is going Coastal Rowing


The Prototype St Ayles Skiff

Interest has been sparked in Ullapool by the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project. The first Syndicate has been formed and a St Ayles Kit order placed with Jordan Boats. I suppose it was inevitable that having had a small part in the Prototype build that I would sign up. It is certainly going to be easier popping down to neighbour Adrian’s Cow Shed on the shores of Loch Broom than it was going down to Fife. It should also be interesting having a number of highly competent and experienced builders in the syndicate to keep me on the straight and narrow. We have, of course, got our very own Blog to record our highs and lows – it is intended to tell the full story warts and all – with luck blogging our mistakes will help others avoid making the same ones.

At the time of writing interest is strong over in Coigach (a little bit of paradise at the end of probably the best short drive in Scotland) and it looks as though a rival Syndicate is on the point of being formed. If we really move ourselves over the winter the first race might well take place in Loch Broom!

As a starter the fairly full photo record of the prototype build has been posted on the new Webby thing so if my therapy Ramblings have whetted your appetite why not pop over for a looksee – it’s early days yet but it will fill up with our own build over the winter months. If you are in the Loch Broom area and interested in joining a group please get in contact, if you just want to see what is going on then we will be happy to show you.

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