Enthusiasts for traditional boats gathered in Stornoway last night along with six examples of traditional sailing and rowing boats – and this previewed an event at midday today (Saturday) at Cuddy Point with the launch of the traditional skiff Blue Moon, built by the Staran Community Interest Company over the past nine months.

Last night’s event, from Tree to Sea, involved a talk by writer and navigator Iain Stephen.  The audience also heard from Iain Macleod, and his father, the Ness boatbuilder John Murdo Macleod, the last in a long line of traditional boatbuilders.  The event was held in the Old Beer Store on Inaclete Road where a variety of community projects are undertaken.

Iain Stephen and John Murdo Macleod

On display were the historic sailing boats, the Broadbay and the Callicvol; and also the St Ayles skiffs – the Saorso, the Yackydoola from the West Side, the Blue Moon; and the Madadh Ruadh. 
The audience heard about the role of the sailing boats in the past – with the establishment of the boatbuilders in Ness in the 19th Century and the possibility that the original of the Sgoth Niseach design was actually in Stornoway which was a major centre for boatbuilding for most of the 19th Century. There were differences in design, including variations in how the two types of vessel pumped water out of their hulls.

Mention was also made of the modern enthusiasm for building the St Ayles skiffs which was spreading across the world.
It is hoped that many or even all of the vessels will be afloat in the harbour to greet the arrival of the Blue Moon, glistening with its new varnish – seven coats are needed to get an effective surface protection.