The canoe yawl Islesburgh is the design “Eun na Mara” by Iain Oughtred. This name is Scottish Gaelic for “bird of the sea”. She can also be referred to as “Eun Mara” or “sea-bird”. Iain Oughtred is a world-renowned designer of small boats, who is Australian by birth but has lived in Scotland for many years. He designs boats based on traditional working boats but updates and evolves them for modern methods and amateur builders like you and me. I first read about him in the “Classic Boat” magazines of early 2000. I am one of those people who has “always dreamed of building a boat”, and I could see that here was a designer I could relate to. I had read many books about sailing ships over the years, and had built a few kayaks before, by various methods, culminating in a plywood stitch-and-tape sea kayak of my own design, built in 1982 at a boatbuilding course run by the Otago Polytechnic, in which I did many good canoe club trips on the southern lakes, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound, and had owned a Swampscott sailing dory since 1993, in which I did the same and other trips on the lakes, on my own or with a friend. I did not build the dory but restored it in 1999. Later I owned and sailed a Noelex 22 for a couple of seasons. I have also done the Coastguard courses up to and including “Coastal Skipper” - thoroughly recommended.
After work one evening in September 2000, I picked up a copy of the August issue of “Practical Boat Owner” magazine in Whitcoulls and stumbled upon the article by Kathy Mansfield, “Home Build Her and Head for the Water” (it sounds easy if you say it fast), with beautiful photos of the prototype Eun na Mara, Minna, being sailed by Iain Oughtred and the owner Bryce Avery who had instigated the design, on the Firth of Forth at Edinburgh, with the backdrop of the mighty Forth Bridge. It was “love at first sight”, as they say. Of course, I bought the magazine. I then discovered the web-site www.alistego.com , which inspired me even further. This is made by Dale Hymanyk in Alberta , Canada, documenting the building of his Eun Mara, Alistego, over about six years, as it is too cold there to work on the boat in winter. Needless to say, I followed his progress with great interest, and realised that I could do that too. He included photos on his web-site of other Eun Maras (I’m not sure of the correct plural there) in Australia, Canada and the USA. I got in touch with him and he offered to include photos of mine. As others have found, Iain Oughtred does not have a web-site, but I found that the Australian agent for his plans at that time was Duckflat Wooden Boats, near Adelaide. My wife Alison has a brother living in Melbourne whom she visits now and then, so I decided to go with her in August 2001 and we would go to Adelaide as well. I contacted Duckflat Wooden Boats and arranged to visit them. We flew to Adelaide, hired a car, and drove to Mount Barker to see the then manager of Duckflat, Robert Ayliffe. He was very encouraging, and told us of an Eun Mara being built by Frank Robson in Adelaide, which we then went to see. Frank was also very encouraging, and told us about another one being built by Bob Lewis in Portland, Victoria. We drove our car by the coastal route to Portland, and contacted Bob who was pleased to show us his boat which was all planked up but still upside down at the time. We then drove to Melbourne and visited Alison’s brother and his family for a few days.
Having decided to build the boat and bought the plans from Duckflat, we realised that our house and garage were not suitable, so we looked around for a place with a good workshop and found, in August 2002, an industrial property with plenty of space around it, a large workshop and quite a good house and double garage. However, the buildings were quite run-down, so I spent the next two years fixing them. During this time, in March 2003, we attended the South Australian Wooden Boat Festival at Goolwa S.A, the river port from where the paddle-steamers used to service the settlements up the Murray River. Here Robert Ayliffe put me into the group which was looking after the Eun na Mara which Frank Robson had built, which included Bob Lewis. Unfortunately Frank had died of leukemia not long before, and Robert had promised to take his boat to the show. Iain Oughtred had come from Scotland as the guest of the show, and Bob and I were privileged to sail Frank’s boat with him. I also met Richard Almond, of Canberra, who is also building one, called Skerry.
Later that year I was able to retire from my job as an Environmental Health Officer (previously known as a Health Inspector). In 2004 Alison and I went on a five month overseas trip (not having been beyond Australia before), during which I looked at lots of traditional small boats and large sailing ships. The trip was timed around the “Sail Caledonia” event in Scotland, where I met Iain Oughtred again and he let me sail and row with him for a couple of days of the event through the beautiful Caledonian Canal on the partly decked Ness Yawl, Alba (since renamed Albannach) - the boat featured on the cover of Iain’s current catalogue, and illustrated in the new book about Iain by Nic Compton. Alison was one of the “tow ponies” through the locks at Port William and Fort Augustus.
Finally, on 8th April 2005, I first put pencil to plywood, to make the moulds for my new boat. The same day, Bob Lewis and his wife, Morna, visited us, on a holiday tour of the South Island.
The building process can be seen on www.alistego.com, and Richard Almond’s site. I built my boat from “the bottom up”, rather than from “the outside in”.
My main references were the “Clinker Boatbuilding Manual” by Iain Oughtred, for the hull and fittings; “Boatbuilding” by Howard Chappelle, for general methods; “The Gougeon Brothers on Boat Construction”, 5th Edition, for use of epoxy; “Hand, Reef and Steer” by Tom Cunliffe, for rigging; and the English “Watercraft”magazine.
The plans specified which of the timber parts were hardwood and softwood, but not the species. I bought my timber and plywood from Timpan City Ltd in Christchurch (now Timspec). The hardwood they recommended was tatajuba, and the plywood was jequitaba, 9mm with 7 laminations. This plywood was good quality, strong material, but probably heavier than the designer had in mind. His stated weight for the boat was 680 kg, with a displacement of 1050 kg., but when we weighed the boat and all its gear, on its trailer, after one of our early cruises, it was 1670 kg. (including the trailer at 340 kg.), which necessitated modifying the trailer to take the extra weight. Toko Trailers were very obliging about it. Maybe the stated “weight” was just the bare shell.
The plans included a lines plan, two sheets of construction plans to 1:12 scale, full- sized drawings of many parts, full-sized half-patterns of the nine moulds and two stems, a list of timber parts, and a copied set of articles from the “Watercraft” magazine about building a Eun Mara at the Lyme Regis Academy of Wooden Boatbuilding in Dorset. However, this one was built with a cold moulded hull, so the article is not as helpful as might have been hoped for. However, it is very good on cold-moulding. My building sequence was not the same as described in these articles.
The first job was to transfer the shapes of the moulds from the full-sized paper half-patterns onto 9mm construction plywood, including the marks for the planking overlaps and waterlines. Some of the smaller moulds were cut from the insides of the larger ones. I had bought the construction plywood some time previously and it had warped a bit in storage, so I had to spend some time putting extra battens on the moulds after I had cut them out, to straighten them up. MDF board might have been better.
The first parts of the boat, to be made next, were the laminated frames at stations 3 and 4. The moulds were made for each station, 29” apart with an extra one at 14 ½” from each end. Moulds 3 and 4 were masked up with plastic parcel tape and blocks were screwed onto them at the inner line of each frame, to curve the laminated strips around. The blocks were also masked. I had cut strips for laminating from my tatajuba hardwood, but on putting them through my thickness planer a lot of them broke as the wood was very hard, with a wavy grain, so I bought some kwila locally and made the frames out of that. Five layers in the laminations is said to give negligible “spring-back”.
The next stage was to build the “ladder frame” building base and set up the moulds accurately upside down on that.
My workshop has a sloping floor to match the slope of the street outside, so I had to make sure my building base was properly level. This is the first photo on Richard’s website.
The sequence for building the hull was to attach the two laminated frames to moulds 3 and 4, set up the keelson (two layers) and laminated stems over the moulds, plane sloping faces on them to take the planking, make and install the garboards and plane a flat along the centre-line, then the outer keel and deadwood within the length of the garboards, followed by the rest of the planking, then the rest of the deadwood and the outer stems (laminated), then fillet all the laps and coat the outside of the whole thing with two coats of epoxy resin and rub it down with 80-grit wet sandpaper followed by no.1 grade steel wool to remove the amine blush and take the shine off the surface After masking off the areas where the bilge keels were to go, I then painted the hull with two coats of Altex grey primer/undercoat and four coats of Altex one-pot enamel, “Bengal Red”, brushed on.
The Turning Over Party came next, on 18th March 2006, with about 20 people, but turning the hull was fairly easy. I detached the hull from the moulds except the middle one, we rolled her over onto a couple of piles of old tyres, I set up the cradles for each end and we lifted the hull back onto them, followed by a small celebration. The next few days were spent adjusting and securing a steady level position for continuing the work. The rest of the boat took another two years to build, except for the spars and rigging. I made the custom metal parts at the Logan Park High School evening metalwork class, run by one of the Dunedin yachtsmen who was also an engineer. We launched her under power at the Otago Boat Harbour on 5th April 2008, again with a good turnout of spectators on a rather grey day. A friend came up from Invercargill for the occasion and the minister of our church ran a sausage sizzle. It then took another six months to complete the spars and rigging. Photos of these processes can be found on the websites mentioned.
The first launching under sail was on Lake Te Anau, just after Christmas 2008. We have had many adventures since then, cruising on most of the lakes, and at Riverton, Abel Tasman National Park, and on the Grove Arm of Queen Charlotte Sound. We have more trips planned for this summer. Maybe I’ll write about them some other time.