Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The St Ayles Project comes to Portland

Here's a homework assignment for you. If you haven't been following the progress of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project you have a lot to catch up on.

The concept of building the St Ayles skiff as a community effort is best described as an epidemic. If you have the time, please follow the links here and here to see what I mean.

The Scottish Coastal Rowing Project was adopted last year by WoodenBoat magazine with a new west Atlantic project called BARC or "Boat Building and Rowing Challenge".

Now - if you haven't drowned in internet links - behold, the newest St Ayles skiff - built in Portland Oregon!

One third of the globe away from it's birth, this project has incubated into an enthusiastic community project.

Peter Crim is the spark plug for this effort and it was my pleasure last winter to host him and some friends at our local Boathouse Youth Maritime Project to talk about the St. Ayles skiff and community boat building.

Mary and I visited the St. Ayles Project in Portland last weekend and we were mightily impressed. This project is unique in that it is the first St Ayles built entirely by women. The crew, recruited by Jann Lane is possibly the most enthusiastic group of boatbuilders I have ever encountered.

The pre-cut kits come from Hewes and Company in the US, on contract through Alec Jordan in the UK.
I've never built a boat from a kit cut on a CNC machine but the advantages are obvious. Every piece necessary to build this boat comes precision pre-cut, including wooden clamps, framing molds and plank scarf joints.

The teachers of this build are volunteers trained at the WoodenBoat School. If you want to learn to build a boat, how much better can it get?

I asked Peter how he got to this point and it was an interesting story:

"The idea for a school has developed over a six-year period. It started with a concept for a gap year school where students would live aboard a large sailing vessel for about nine months and they would learn everything from diesel maintenance to marlinspike seamanship, including biology, ecology, literature, ship repair and building a small gig. I did a lot of research on other similar programs but somehow it just didn't seem right at the time and it was probably fortunate that I didn't go there, given subsequent economic developments."

"My long-term goal was to go to the WoodenBoat School in Maine. In June of 2010, I called WB on a Thursday and by Saturday I was on a plane east. The first class was a two week course in small boat repair where we did major fixes on a Beetle Cat, a Herreshoff 12.5 and a Joel White Haven 12.5. I then took one week off and hung around various other classes. It happened to be a week in which Iain Oughtred was in residence so I spent a bit of time with him - a truly amazing and unique person."

"The next class was a design class taught by Graham Byrnes, who had just been awarded a prize for best design in WoodenBoat Magazine's design contest. It was in this class that I met Travis. He told me that he and his girlfriend were moving to Portland." [Travis is a volunteer teacher on this project. ed.]

"By the time I was done, I had become a friend with most of Brooklin, ME and the people at WoodenBoat. The atmosphere they create is transformational and watching week after week of students metamorphose from anxious city folk into a community of like minded maritime aficionados was inspiring."

It is obvious that Peter is interested in re-creating this transformational experience in his hometown. He has partnered with a new design studio, termed ADX, for space to build the St Ayles and the women are hard at work.

Doryman will be anxiously following this project and keep you posted.

I can't express how excited I am about this process and it's intrinsic impact. Anyone who has taught a group of former neophytes to realize their potential as boat builders will understand the satisfaction of witnessing the transformation. Imagine the impact of such community building on a global scale!?

The design space ADX Portland deserves mention. This is a private enterprise that promotes creative individual exploration.

New kids on the block, they have set up shop area for metal shop activities, a wood shop and a digital media station. The focus is on creative construction and teaching with an emphasis on design creativity, coupled with production.
Imagine a shop class for geeks.
There is no hype here. I felt perfectly at ease while visiting ADX. No one tried to sell me anything, yet I bought the whole truck load.

People in the Portland, Oregon area owe it to themselves to visit the old warehouse at 417 SE 11th Avenue.

Please tell them Doryman sent you.

St Ayles Skiff in Portland, Oregon from doryman on Vimeo.

If you are interested in how well these skiffs perform in heavy weather, visit the Scottish Coastal Rowing site for photos of last weekend's Regatta at Anstruther. Racing in force 4-5 winds!
Those skiffs are truly amazing ocean boats.


robert.ditterich said...

I'll be very interested to see your up-dates. A terrific project.

Anonymous said...

What brilliant news - thanks for the comprehensive report. Based on our Loch Broom experience once you have one they breed like rabbits ;-). Great to see a team of Girls building one, judging by the Ulla rebuild the girls are just as, if not more, capable as the boys. Look forward to the launch - then an international regatta?

doryman said...

We could be so lucky as to see the St Ayles go viral. And much of this is due to your diligence in getting the word out, Chris.

We'll have to set up a "record board" with time trials listed vs. distance + conditions that can be interpreted globally. It would be fun to see all the skiffs listed in one spot and their respective locations, races, etc.

If I remember correctly, Alec tells me there are a dozen boats here in the US under construction right now.

I recieved a note from Peter Crimm this morning that his "Wind and Oar Boat School" is now an official not-for-profit. Please watch for great things from these folks!

Brandon Ford said...

Another St Ayles skiff launch.

doryman said...

Thanks, Brandon
That was a pretty low key launch! Every one of these skiffs is a beauty.