Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sgoth Arcach, ' Gobhlan Gaoithe' aka Swallow, an Orkney Yole on the Isle of Skye

"The rebuilding of an Orkney Yole from the 1920's. Work done in Camuscross from 2002 onwards, mostly by Fergus Walker between 2004 and 2007, with timely help from family and friends."


Good lines

Boat in 2003 after several planks put in by Gus MacLean

Lots to do

The boat would be ritually taken out every year to make way for hay into the hayloft. Sometimes she even blew over in gales.

Night light

This is the boat after I had spent a summer replacing the planks on the starboard side.

New plank

The work done here was as done at the end of the summer of 2006. New material was a while in coming - this is it having arrived in about May 2007!


Having been ill for two months, the arrival of Tjerand (fellow student from boatbuilding in Norway) and Paul - the both of them being students at the Chippendale furniture school near Edinburgh - was a godsend! Just about on the mend, the work they did was a real kick start

Celebrating a good day's work

Tjeand and Paul at the local

Hard at work

Tjerand removes most of the stem

One strake up

6th strake ( one full plank length of boat) all done

Not a patch on the old plank!?

Screwing patches onto joins (scarphs) of a strake made up of dodgy short bits stops it losing shape when you remove it


Sawn frames fitted on the port side.

Floorboards begin

Middle floorboard section resting on beams fixed to the sawn frames

Marking floorboards

Fergus uses skills learnt at Bunnpris, Coop and Rimi in Norway

Floorboards finished!

High speed tarring

Tar mixture is 1/3 pine tar, 2/3 linseed oil and a bit of turps on the inside.

The smell of tar

Susan and Malcolm

Getting tanned

Fergus and Jared

Arrgh the midges!

Jared scratches, Fergus sensibly has his shirt on


"The launch, on the 11th August 2007, turned out to be brilliant day, with crowds of people from Camuscross and beyond, as far as Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, coming to see the spectacle and join in in their boats. A dance was held with Fergie MAcDonald afterwords at Duisdale hall."

The boat sets off

Heave ho


Sea blessing from Carmina Gaedelica by Ian Urquhart. The boat is named "Gobhlan Gaoithe" - Swallow

Og båten går å hoooiiiiii!

Only the intrepid Fosen people remain in the water

Sailing well

Having come through the dornie, heading for Eilean Iarmain Pier


"All trips are sunny on Gobhlan Gaoithe. The camera never lies."

An Cuiltheann

An Cuiltheann is a sawtooth range of mountains on Skye (ed.)

Machiel and Fergus

Easy sailing

On watch

Gavin, Fergus, Machiel



Turas gu Loch na Beiste

Fergus with makeshift boom

Through the Kylerea narrows



Malcolm a streap

all photos, titles, headers and captions courtesy Fergus Walker except where indicated

Here's a story that 'warmed the cockles of me heart'. An Orkney yole restoration on the Isle of Skye . A young Fergus Walker is the main protagonist in this story, with supporting roles from his father and other members of his local community. The boat was purchased in 1997 by Fergus and his father from a man who'd been working in Caithness, said he'd bought the boat there. Built, he said c. 1920, rigged with a single lug sail and jib, but later Fergus discovered a mast step forward and figures she was originally rigged in the traditional manner of these boats, two masted sprit rigs with a jib tacked to a bowsprit. Fergus suspects she's a Stroma Yole. They sailed her, Fergus and his dad, for a couple of seasons, then the leaks got so bad they abandoned her ashore for a decade or so, until Mom threatened to burn the boat if they didn't do something with it. Moved into a shed, they had a local boatbuilder replace a few of the worst planks. Fergus then went off to Norway, attending the renowned folk/craft school Fosen Folkhøgskole, where he built the local craft (the Åfjords Boat) and learned traditional Norwegian boatbuilding skills which would prove useful in his endeavor to recreate his boat. Upon his return he commenced his restoration. As you can see from the photo essay, Fergus had lots of help from family and friends. The boat was christened 'Swallow' or Gobhlan Gaoithe in Gaelic, for the birds that took up nest in the shed during the rebuilding. The literal translation of the Gaelic is 'fork in the sky'. Fergus reports that as they launched the boat, a flight of swallows careened above the boat. You'll find more about his journey through this process on Fergus' weblog about the renovation accompanied by his photo log on Flickr. I've asked if there are drawings, did they take off lines, but have yet to hear from Fergus about that. I'll let you know.

Fergus pointed me to the Orkney Yole Association, where I found a new boat, Lily, under construction, and, surprise, it's been built in the traditional Norwegian way, right side up, though they did use molds.

Fergus has finished his course in Product design at Dundee University. His 'Degree Piece' , a sort of thesis project, is the Human Powered Flour Mill, found here.


uurchin said...

beutiful boat, place, and story! I like this a lot.

Dave Coulter said...


Unknown said...

That is a great sequence.
Nice story.