Come Boating! welcomes BCOPE’s St. Ayles skiff

Jun 07, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews All hands are on deck at BCOPE, Belfast's alternative high school, May 20, 2015, for the arrival of a replica of a Scottish fishing boat, built by students and local boat builder Steve Garrand. Come Boating! will launch a new rowing program with the BCOPE skiff June 14.

For anyone who frequents the Belfast waterfront, it’s a familiar sight to see nonprofit Come Boating! take rowers out in Belfast Bay. From youth crews to seasoned racers, rowers of all stripes can get out and “bend an oar” on these waters, thanks to donations and an enthusiastic fleet of volunteers.

Until recently, sturdy six-person Cornish pilot gigs have been the craft of choice, but thanks to the local alternative high school, Belfast Community Outreach in Education (BCOPE), Come Boating! rowers will soon be able to experience a different way to row.

The St. Ayles skiff is a 22-foot, four-oar craft built over several years by BCOPE students working with Steve Garrand of Belfast Barge. The trim, tidy vessel was made from a kit donated by Hewes & Co. of Blue Hill with funding support from Bangor Savings Bank. French & Webb of Belfast donated additional wood for the project.

As previously reported, during the school year, Garrand ferried small groups of students to and from his workshop in Morrill, where they assembled the kit in weekly two-hour sessions. The project was big enough and the work sufficiently spread out that the job stretched over several school years.

As described in a May 2015 Journal article, the skiff is a contemporary design based on a boat used in ancient Scottish fishing villages, relegated until recently to museums. It has benches for four rowers, each of whom uses a single oar. A fifth crew member, the coxswain, sits at the stern and does the dual job of working the rudder and keeping the rowers working in unison.

Garrand delivered the skiff to BCOPE May 20, 2015, for finish work that was to include making three more oars and attaching the rudder. Two years later, it’s ready for launch by Come Boating!, a volunteer-run Belfast nonprofit that offers boating programs for fun, exercise and learning.

BCOPE plans to add a rowing program to its fall lineup this year; the skiff meanwhile will give Come Boating! rowers a chance to ply local waters in a whole new way.

Twenty-one BCOPE students will attend the bestowal of the new skiff on Wednesday, June 14, at the Come Boating! boat shed. The public is invited to join the launch celebration to learn more about rowing and boating-related educational opportunities in the Belfast area.

For more information on Come Boating!, visit — or sign up for a row. To learn more about BCOPE programs, contact Director Dolly Sullivan at or 338-0261, ext. 0.


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