The Aegre inspires a new build

Peter Matheson, builder of traditional Scottish boats, and his volunteer team have taken on a new project at their boatyard near Glasgow. A yohl inspired by The Aegre. The backbone of the yohl is already built. It is 22 feet long. The Aegre was 21 feet 6 inches, but according to boatbuilder Peter Matheson, this may shrink a bit when he fairs off the stem post and sternpost.

The keel is laid
Peter Matheson and Sandy Alexander volunteertrainee

Peter Matheson, the moving force behind Clydeside Traditional Boatbuilders, is a boatbuilder from the North of Scotland who ran a yard in Caithness just 16 miles from Wick, where The Aegre was built, before moving to Clydeside, near Glasgow. Over the last 46 years, he’s built many boats similar to The Aegre, from 16 to 26 feet long.

Man with boat
Peter Matheson

Peter read ‘The Voyage of The Aegre’ book, and wrote to me saying he couldn’t put it down, and it inspired his latest project at Clydeside Traditional Boatbuilders.

According to Peter, although a Shetland man built the Aegre, he sees those of a Stroma yohl in her lines and believes the builder was inspired by these boats.

Peter says, “There’s a story that a Scandinavian fishing boat was washed ashore on the beach of Stroma island [in the Pentland Firth] and that this wreck inspired the Stroma men to build their boats. They built many of them, and they were the Rolls Royce of fishing boats back then. I believe these boats are the most seaworthy in the world, and The Aegre has proved this.”

Map
Stroma

In building many yohls and other boats, Peter Matheson says that like The Aegre’s Shetland boatbuilder Tom Edwardson, he never uses moulds. Just a string line, a level to make the boats symmetrical and a plumb line to make sure the stems are plumb. This, he says, is a lot easier than lofting and making moulds to someone else’s drawings. “We knew the best shape for a boat, these boats having evolved from Viking times. Clearly, Edwardson, the Shetland boat builder, had got his ‘lines’ right. Some of my boats have been working the Pentland Firth for over 35 years, winter and summer without mishap. People rely on them for making a living in safety.”

Boy Peter Photo Tommy Kirkpatrick

“Unfortunately the British government is doing their best to destroy the industry with their bureaucracy and ‘Safety’ regulations and ‘Stability’ tests etc. The old boatbuilders knew all about safety and stability and navigation in the fog, etc. Even though some of them couldn’t write.” 

Peter has all the photos of The Aegre being built and has promised to keep me updated on progress. See below for updates.

Aegre
The Aegre under construction

Latest updates:

18 February 2024: Peter Matheson has received the wood for the new boat. It is a big log of larch cut through and through 12 feet long by 7/8 inch

21 February 2024: Peter Matheson wrote: Thank you very much for the pictures of the building of your boat [The Aegre]. It is almost identical to the boats that we build. The only difference that I can see is that when we plank them up, our garboard is the widest plank going up the stem. We then gradually reduce the planks’ width on the stem so that the top or second top plank is the narrowest. The reason for this is that it means that the strakes are more straight and as our logs are straight this saves wood. 

As for the double enders, we always put a bit of a bend in the stems of them, but not always in the sternpost. They tend to be beach boats and get dragged up the beach over logs and seaweed. Also it is less of a problem fitting a rudder to a straight sternpost. The working fishing boats generally have a fairly straight stem post. About 2 inches in 6 foot bend and a rounded forefoot which is sheathed in steel as is the keel 

Because of the licencing our boats tend to be rather ‘dumpy’ as they must come under 10 metres or 8 metres for the stupid rules that the fishermen must now follow. Extra beam gives extra capacity.  We also fit what is called a ‘cat-catcher’. This is a framework added to the stern to hold fish boxes etc and is not included in the boat’s length. When I was at sea at the fishing there were no rules and probably less casualties than there are today.

The ‘Flower of Caithness’ and the ‘Hope’, The ‘Hope’ was considered one of the best boats on the coast. She had been owned by my old skipper . I think she was about 20 foot O.A. We have the larch now so should get started soon on the new boat soon. I intend to rig it like the Aegre. Incidentally how did you fix the 7 CWT of lead ballast. We seldom use any ballast as the engines act as ballast. 

More to come.

Learn more about Peter Matheson and Clydeside Traditional Boatbuilders

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