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May 11, 2010

Rekindling an ancient tradition

A unique project has captured the imagination of Scotland’s coastal communities stretching from the east coast havens of Dunbar and Anstruther all the way to Achiltiebuie and Ullapool on the west.  In sheds and bothies, in the glow of rigged-up lights, skilled elders are again at work teaching the dying art of traditional boat building to local youngsters. This week the first boat to be built for four decades was launched in Port Seton

Laura Cummings, Evening News

THE first boat to be built and launched in Port Seton for more than four decades has hit the waves.
Crowds of people attended the official launch of the boat, which will be used to compete in rowing races, at Port Seton harbour on Saturday.

The traditional wooden rowing boat took around four months to build and has been named Boatie Rows.

It is one of 20 boats being built across Scottish coastal communities – others include North Berwick, Dunbar, Newhaven and Portobello – as part of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project, which aims to encourage traditional boat building and racing.

Boatie Rows was the first of the boats to be launched, with the official “christening” having taken place at Port Seton on Saturday.

Yvonne Murphy, secretary of Boatie Blest – a voluntary association whose members helped to build the boat – said: “There was a strong boat-building tradition in this area in the 19th century but it died out. That’s why this was so important, because it’s about bringing the tradition back again.

“A launch used to be a huge event that the whole town would come out for so there was great excitement around the fact that this was happening all over again.

“It is the first boat to be built and launched in Port Seton in 44 years – the last boat launch was in 1966. Although it’s a working harbour here, it is much reduced now.”

She added: “The boat was built in the manner of a traditional fishing boat and it is based on a Fair Isle Skiff, but it will be used for rowing races.”

Ms Murphy said the boat was christened by Port Seton resident Ann Jarron, 93, who broke a bottle of champagne against the structure.

Ms Murphy, who lives in Port Seton, added: “The boat is very beautiful with gold, cream and burgundy – it’s very classic looking.”

A procession prior to the launch saw the boat being taken from Boatie Blest boatyard on the east side of Port Seton harbour to the west side of the harbour, where it entered the water.

Members of the community also sang The Boatie Rows song, which is a traditional fishing song from the area.

Ms Murphy said: “The women used to wave their white hankies while singing the song, bidding the fishermen farewell, so we waved our white hankies as the boat set off too.”

Local residents are being urged to consider joining the Boatie Blest rowing club and taking part in rowing competitions on the boat.

The inaugural race will take place in Anstruther on 29 May.

For more information on the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project or buying a kit, see