Traditional Oban Skiff is oarsome

Sail away in a Skiff

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A celebration of what was once a common sight on the West Highland lochs of the 19th and 20th centuries takes place next month.

Four traditional Oban Skiffs will be joining a number of other West Highland wooden sailing boats at Tarbert, Loch Fyne, on September 4-5.

Spectators will be able to step back in time to the days when they were used up and down lochs along the West Coast for fishing, transport and ferrying people.

Traditional wooden boat builder Adam Way, originally from Mull, runs a yacht builders and restorers A & R Way Ltd at Lochgilphead, alongside wife Rosalind.

His firm has recreated traditional Skiffs having found drawings for the ‘Oban-type’ Skiff in the National Maritime Museum.

Adam has now made four beautiful full-sized replicas from local larch and oak and  constructed Loch Fyne Skiffs too.

Two of the latest Oban-style boats were launched recently and the new owners will meet with the other two to make a fleet of four Oban skiffs joining the other West Highland wooden sailing boats at Tarbert.

The boats are regarded as a significant part of the cultural heritage of the Gaelic west of Scotland, having now been almost entirely replaced by factory-produced glass fibre boats.

Adam has described the Oban Skiff as an ‘outstanding and eye-catching boat’.

‘She is based on a boat built in Oban in the 1880’s but is similar to other fishing boat types which were common on the whole of the west of Scotland,’ he wrote.

Stan Reeves, a skiff owner based in Edinburgh, sails in his regularly and has carried out extensive research into their origins.

He said the Oban skiff – ‘Gylen’ – was an 18.4ft West Highland skiff typical of the area and built in 1886 by the MacDonald’s, formerly of Kilcheran, Lismore.

The family was forced off the island in 1850 amidst the potato crop failure and eventually established a boatyard at the top of Port Beag, adjoining the Manor House,  where the lifeboat is now stationed.

‘The design had been perfected over many incarnations to best suit the conditions in the Firth of Lorne,’ wrote Mr Reeves in a potted history.

‘The MacDonalds will have brought tools, measurements and perhaps moulds from Lismore, but mostly they will have brought the design in their heads, passed on down the generations.’