Billie Press Release

Our new skiff "Billie" is being launched at 1pm this Saturday. She will join her sister "Imagine" which was built in 2012 by the Women on Water here in Franklin. Imagine was the first St Ayles skiff built in Australasia and she kick started the  community  rowing movement here. The skiffs have their origin in the Firth of Forth area of Scotland. What started as a purely local project spread like wildfire through Scotland, England and then around the world.  The skiff is designed by ex pat Australian Iain Oughtred, and are based on centuries old rowing boats of Northern Scotland and Scandinavia.  Crewed by four rowers and a coxswain, they are fast, stable and very sea worthy, as proved by the Women on Water when they rowed Imagine 200 kilometres from Recherche Bay to Hobart for the 2013 Wooden Boat Festival.

Billie is the fourth skiff built in Tasmania, joining Imagine, Swan from Cygnet and Chiton from Taroona. There are currently two boats on the mainland, with four more under construction.  World wide there are in excess of two hundred boats built or in build. The Scottish Coastal Rowing register shows 128 boats launched.  In February, this year Franklin hosted the first St Ayles Skiff regatta in the southern hemisphere, three days of competition with seven skiffs(3 Tasmanian, 2 from the mainland and 2 from New Zealand) hundreds of competitors, some coming from Scotland.

The skiffs come in kit form and are designed so that community groups can affordably build a boat without having expensive resources, although having a boat builder supervising is an advantage!  Once built the skiffs are available to the community for social rowing and competition.  This skiff build was sponsored the the Huon Valley Community Bank Branches and they have also sponsored the purchase of two trailers so that we can take part in regattas in other parts of the state and the mainland.  One of the Trust's aims is to take the skiffs to other communities around Tasmania, to spread the word about the health and social benefits of community boat building and rowing.

The slogan for our project has been "The Community building a boat, a boat, building Community".  The project started in August,last year and the volunteers have been working on the build two days per week under the guidance of master boat builder, Peter Heading.  The skiff will be formally named and launched by elder statesman of the Living Boat Trust, John Young, who is also heavily involved in the Franklin Working Waterfront and the Wooden Boat Centre.  The name "Billie" was chosen to honour our President Peter Laidlaw's faithful Border Collie, Billie, who sadly passed away a few weeks ago. Billie was the much loved canine face of the LBT.  She loved nothing more than being out on the water. During our yearly On the Water schools programme there was much competition between the kids to see whose boat Billie would go in.  The launch will be followed by a ceremonial row past, skiff and dinghy races,choir singing a huge bonfire followed by a dance in the Wooden Boat Centre.  The theme for the day is "Dark BOFO" ( Boats on Franklin Oar-Fest).