Skerries

Skerries

A skerry is a new design of boat by Richmond’s distinguished boat builder Mark Edwards MBE.

He built the famous Gloriana which led the flotilla in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012. But the skerry, his latest and most original design, is also special.

Mark continues the story……

“The name “skerry” was chosen for this new boat design as it combines elements of the traditional Thames skiff and wherry, but this is not the whole story. After many years of building essentially copies of existing rowing boats I realised there remained a gap, and possibly a need for the following:

  • allow up to 8 persons to row together with a cox to steer
  • have sufficient additional space for up to 3 passengers( including a coach)
  • be a safe boat for as wide a range of conditions as anyone would want to go rowing in
  • be as fast and responsive as possible, accepting the need to be safe
  • be easy to row and steer
  • be robust and easy to maintain
  • use a method of construction that could be at least in part built by amateurs
  • help continue the ancient tradition of wooden clinker boat construction
  • be adaptable ; picnic parties, ceremonial events and other riverine fun

Hidden within the above list were some more subtle gains. An adult coach is essential to safe tuition of youngsters. To have one bawling from some noisy, wash-making, motor launch alongside may be a necessary evil with fine, sliding-seat “best” boats but far better to have the trained adult in the boat alongside a trainee cox. The coach is best placed to maintain a benign discipline, grabbing rudder lines and taking command if needs be. The relatively short length of a skerry at 9 metres makes the boat much more manoeuvrable than an outrigged eight at twice the length.  The beam of 2 metres is needed for the “double banked” oars i.e. 2 persons to each thwart, but this beam is only needed at the gunwale –  at the waterline the beam  is nearly half this, giving the skerry an exhilarating turn of speed.   Other features of the skerry  are the rakish skiff bow which allows crews to enter over the bows from a shallow shore, thereby avoiding the need for expensive rafts. As skerries are individually built they can be built with shallower or deeper sides dependent on the conditions envisaged. No longer do youngsters need to row with their hands at head height. While skerries are traditional in the way of design and basic clinker construction, they are constructed of top quality 9 mm marine ply and are epoxy-coated externally and in their bilge to reduce maintenance to a minimum.  What annual maintenance is needed can be undertaken by crews during winter months, adding value to the whole team boating experience. The all-wood construction means that no matter how damaged, all parts will float and there is additional buoyancy built into the design, just in case. Other safety equipment can be carried very easily. Oars can be of wood or carbon fibre and just drop into the bronze rowlocks which are themselves removable. The rowlock sockets double as sockets for hoops that support an all over cover allowing boats to be left outside all year if needs be, with oars stored within the boat, avoiding the need for an expensive boathouse. Skerries can be hauled out onto a two-wheeled truck and taken long distances very easily, say for winter storage in school grounds.”