Pupils build skiff to show off rowing skills at regattas

Alex Weatherhead with Jack Brown, Michael McKirdy, Kathryn Berg, Rachel Connachan and Neil Wylie
Alex Weatherhead with Jack Brown, Michael McKirdy, Kathryn Berg, Rachel Connachan and Neil Wylie
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NOT many pupils can boast that their school has its very own private rowing boat – built by them.

But pupils at Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans can do exactly that after receiving a kit to assemble the boat from a group of retired fishermen.

When the craft is completed later in the year, pupils will show off their rowing skills by competing in annual regattas across the country.

Port Seton Harbour Commissioners, which consists of mainly retired fishermen, supplied the school with the kit, believed to cost around £800 to £900. The pupils have been working hard to build the boat during their free periods since October.

The St Ayles skiff is thought to be the first school rowing boat in the Lothians.

Brian Frost, senior technician at the school, said: “As far as I know, this is a first for a school in the Lothians. There is a boat being built at Eyemouth High School in the Borders.

“A number of rowing clubs have sprung up and most of the East Lothian coastal towns have got a boat now.”

Around 20 pupils from third to sixth year at Preston Lodge have been helping to build the boat, which is made mainly from marine plywood and is around 22 feet long by six feet wide, in the school foyer.

Mr Frost added: “The foyer was the biggest place with easy exits for the boat. We didn’t want to build it and then find we couldn’t get it out of the door.

“The boat has got a long way to go. It’s not just building the boat, we have got oars to make, too. I wouldn’t envisage it being finished until September at the very earliest.”

It is likely to be next year before the pupils compete in their first regatta with the school boat.

Craft design and technology teacher Colin Cruickshank added: “The pupils have been really enjoying building the boat because a lot of them come from the fishing community – their grandfathers and uncles came from that. It will be the Preston Lodge High School boat and pupils in the school will be able to take it to regattas and compete.

“We will have a competition as a school to try and decide a name for it.”

The boat has space for four rowers and a cox and, when complete, it will have a value of around £7000 to £8000.

Coastal rowers launched the Boatie Blest at the Boat Shore harbour in Cockenzie in November 2010, the first vessel to be launched at the natural harbour in living memory.

The Boatie Blest group launched its first rowing boat, Boatie Rows, in May of that year, and the first regattas were held during summer 2010.

Alex Weatherhead, 68, lives in Aberlady and is a member of the Boatie Blest rowing club. He helped to build Boatie Blest after Port Seton Harbour Commissioners provided the kit.

He said: “The Commissioners thought it would be a good idea to start coastal rowing again for people of all ages.”