This coming year promises to be another important and interesting year for Reaper, our 114- year-old flagship of the Museum’s seagoing fleet, as the long-planned major refit is organised to ensure that she can continue to play her outreach role for Scotland’s fishing communities.
The year began with Mike Barton and crew undertaking a complete clean of the boat, including removal of the accumulation of bilge muck built up since the earlier partial refit in 2004-5 – a heroic task! Many internal fittings and equipment will be replaced and upgraded in the refit, and removal of these and the ballast will be completed by the autumn before the boat sets out for the refit yard. These activities mean that for the 2017 summer season Reaper will be at her home berth, and open on selected dates which will set out on the Museum website. It has also given White Wing, the smaller Fifie Yawl in the fleet, her chance with Bob Flann and crew to show the Museum flag at coastal events around Scotland, including the long haul up to Portsoy and back at the end of June and early July.
The Refit Progress Group (RPG) led by Tony Davis has been busy since last autumn defining and taking forward Reaper’s refit, which will be the most comprehensive since her launch from the Forbes yard in Sandhaven in 1903. A detailed refit schedule, drawing upon the comprehensive hull and spars survey undertaken in 2014-5, has been drawn up by our Boatyard Manager, Leonardo Bortolami and the RPG team, with the strategic aim of Reaper remaining seaworthy for the next quarter-century as the last of the big First-Class Herring Drifters. Because of her iconic, important and visible role within the UK National Historic Fleet the refit must secure a careful and thoughtful balance between the core maritime heritage features and structures, and the incorporation of modern navigation and operating equipment to ensure Reaper meets all MCA and other regulations to operate offshore.
Over the past seven months, the Museum’s RPG has begun the refit tendering process with appropriate Scottish boatyards with the necessary capabilities, skills and experience, and this process should be completed by late summer. In parallel with this tendering, the Museum Trustees have been exploring funding support to cover the refit costs, and an announcement of progress with this is expected during the summer. Both the Museum and Boats Club have been grateful for the donations that have come in from friends and supporters of the boat, and these will all contribute to the refit cost: we are truly grateful for such generosity and will recognise them in Reaper’s Refit and Log books.
It is planned regular reports on the refit will be posted on the web and a matching blog is under consideration for the duration of Reaper’s time in the refit yard. The target set by the Museum is to have Reaper back at sea from May 2018 : a busy few months lie ahead!