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The Invergordon Archive

Invergordon Boat Yard

Boat Yard History

My earliest recollections of a boatyard were from 1965-1967. George Thomson had premises on Shore Street opposite the West harbour. He had an apprentice Eric Douglas and they built boats up to salmon coble size.
1967 - 1969: Tom and Ian Edwardson started a boatyard adjacent to the Port Authority building in nissen huts. These were part of a fuelling depot for landing craft. The fuel tanks and associated pipe work were in earth bunds where the Port Authority building now stands and, with the steep sandy beach in front of it, would have made an ideal spot for beaching the boats. These fuel tanks were there until the late 1950s as I remember.
(The depot might have been built there during the last war for the large naval and military exercise for the D Day landings, when they cleared Inver village of its people to make the exercise look more realistic.)
Shortly after, the council built the Edwardsons a new building over one of the dockyard’s old slipways. They built a small number of boats, but unfortunately the business folded in 1969.
1970 - 1975: the yard was re-opened in a joint venture by Barnard Hanky, an estate owner from Cannich near Beauly, and John MacKenzie of Herd and MacKenzie boat builders in Buckie. Tom Edwardson was taken as yard foreman. In 1975 the yard closed due to lack of orders.
(Please note that I could be slightly out with the dates.)

List of names of employees over the years:
Tom Edwardson, Ian Edwardson, Eric Douglas, Peter Mavor, James Henderson, Peter Hermitage, Ian Clark, Eddie Malicki, Max Malicki, David MacKenzie, John MacAulay. Adam Gunn, Angus Ross, David Brown, James Campbell, Angus Campbell, and the yard secretary was Ishbel MacInnes

David MacKenzie provided the following details regarding ship constructions and launchings:

10th June 1971 - “Jasper” - 30 foot long - Larch on Oak
20th September 1971 - “Ferindonald” - 19 foot long clinker built - Larch on Oak
4th October 1971 - “Moraldie” - 36 foot long - Larch on Oak

23rd August 1972 - “Girl Shona” - 40 foot long - Larch on Oak - for Flet, Stromness, Orkney

7th February 1973 - “Bellemar” - 36 foot long
17th February 1973 - “Marsali” - 36 foot long
11th September 1973 - “Minkle” - 30 foot long

30th September 1974 - Eilidh” - 41 foot long - built for Mackenzie Brothers, Apple cross - Larch on Oak

1975 - “Jasper” - 40 foot long - built for George Forman of Peterhead - Larch on Oak

The timber for our boats came from Munro’s sawmill in Dingwall. Many other yards used them as well, as Mr Munro was a master of his craft. He would travel all over Scotland to the various estates to seek out the best trees. At his sawmill he would cut the oak, the keel and hog would come out of the centre of the tree, being the most dense and strong, and the rest of the tree would be cut into 3” slabs for making the boat-shaped frames out of. Next he would cut up the larch trees into inch and a half boards for the boat’s planking (“boatskin” we call this). The decking for the boat was Oregon pine in boards 4” wide x 1½" thick; these had to be imported as the name suggests. Mast spars and oars were made from “clean” (large knot and split free) sitka spruce.

There were no cranes or forklifts at the yard, nearly everything was manually handled. It was very labour intensive, the only thing we had inside was a mobile steel gantry with a block and tackle while outside there were 2 two-wheeled trolleys for taking the timber inside to be worked on.
Woodworking machinery and tools: a large circular saw, a large planer/thicknesser, a large bandsaw, a chainsaw replaced an old 2 man crosscutsaw which made a big saving in time, electric hand planers, drills, sanders, angle grinders with chipper heads for fairing off, the adz, - or “each “ as they called it - was very much used for this job too, drawknives, compass planes, the maul - a 7lb hammer with pointed end for nailing up the planking with cut nails - and finally the caulking mallet and set irons for feeding the oakum (like hessian) into the joints between the planks.
There was an old Fordson tractor winch, I think it was the original, (from the dockyard days) bolted down to a large concrete plinth at the back of the yard building and this operated the slipway trolley via a wire cable and pulleys.
At the back of the building outside, we had a steam box approx 10 feet long x 1foot x 1foot inside, attached to a static boiler in which we burnt wood cuttings. This was for steaming the fore and aft boat planks. The end to be steamed was put in the box and the open end stuffed with old sacking, the steam turned on for 20 minutes after it reached the required pressure. For smaller dingy frames 1” x ¾" we used a 6” steel pipe with one end welded off. We then set it up at an angle, filled it with water and either lit a fire or used a gas blow lamp to heat it. Once ready the oak frames were unbelievably supple, like laying a piece of rope in, and to prove a point I managed to tie one into a 14” granny knot.

Constructing the boat
It starts with the laying down of the keel, usually 2 pieces scarf jointed for length, on top of heavy built stools at the angle the keel would be when the boat is in the water. Next the hog is fixed on top of the keel (the frames will later be bolted right through the hog and keel); next is the stem and apron (fore end), then the stern post, this is a very large piece of solid oak that the propeller shaft will be drilled through. But before the stern post is fixed to the keel by a large mortise and tenon joint, a silver coin is placed into the mortise (tradition) usually just by the yard staff, sometimes owner and or management might be present. After the stern post, the outrigger and transom (above the propeller) are fixed. When that is complete, we have a small ceremony called the christening of the keel. All yard staff and management are usually present and owner if available - we need a bottle of best malt whisky for this, and usually the yard foreman gets the job of pouring the whisky gently over the length of the keel. I say gently because if there is any left it goes to the yard staff, more tradition! With that over, a shipwright would have been “lofting out” the actual frame sizes and making half templates so we could mark out and cut the 3” oak slabs to make the frames. These were in two pieces joined by a bolted butt clamp.
After all the frames were in place we started planking, on then to internal stringers, deck beams, engine fitting, decking, wheelhouse, fit out the fo’c’sle (i.e. line the inside of the frames and form bunks etc), caulking, filling plugging and painting, fitting of all ironmongery (i.e. gantry, winches, cleats, rudder, metal armouring to planking), all rigging wire and rope, fuel tanks, hydraulics and electrics, ….. hope I got it all! …. boat now ready for launching!

Some interesting facts
A 14 foot dingy would take one man 12 days to build.
We used to take 1 working day to complete 1 strake (plank) on each side of the boat with 2 men and 2 apprentices.
In 1972, on average, a boat up to 40 feet would cost £1000 per foot to build i.e. 40 feet = £40,0000.
We used to take approximately 6 months to build a 36 foot boat with 4 men and 2 apprentices.

All details kindly provided by Eddie Malicki
“Ferindonald” Day motor cruiser “Ferindonald” built for Captain Patrick Munro of Foulis. Launched in September...
Examples of Pram Dinghies Examples of pram, 12’, 14’, and 16’ dingies built at Invergordon Boat Yard Spring 1972.
“The Girl Shona” “The Girl Shona” sailing into the west harbour just after launch for a two week final fit out an...
“Marsali” “Marsali” - launched 17th February 1973 - 36 foot.
“Eilidh” “Eilidh” - 30th September 1974 - 41’ long, built for MacKenzie Brothers, Applecross. Larch on ...
“Eilidh” “Eilidh” having been launched.
“Jasper” “Jasper” - 40’ long, built for George Forman of Peterhead. Larch on Oak.
"Marsali" "Marsali" sitting in the west harbour during the final two weeks of fitting out; moored behind her i...
"Marsali" "Marsali" again in the west harbour looking towards Ben Wyvis. Note the high building on right hand ...
Bottle Tops Champagne bottle tops from boat launchings.
Boat Yard Building This picture was taken from inside the building during dinghy construction. John MacAulay, the yard ...
Boat Yard Building Another picture inside the building during dinghy construction and other repairs. The man in the mid...

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