Good news on future of damaged Reaper

The Scottish Fisheries Museum's 112 year old Fifie herring drifter "Reaper" has had an auspicious start to her 2014 season, having been awarded a special runners- up�prize in the National Historic Ships UK Flagship Award competition.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum's 112 year old Fifie herring drifter "Reaper" has had an auspicious start to her 2014 season, having been awarded a special runners- up�prize in the National Historic Ships UK Flagship Award competition.

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“The damage is not as bad as we thought, but it’s bad enough.” That was the verdict of Mackay Boatbuilders’ Harry Simpson on The Reaper.

The ‘Fifie’ fishing boat, a favourite at Arbroath Sea Fest, was blown over by a freak gust at Johnshaven in August, and suffered potentially serious damage.

The vessel was taken to Mackay’s for assessment and Harry continued: “We’ve done repairs to stop all the leaks, and she is now back home in Anstruther. There was damage to frames, planking and caulking.”

Harry added: “I’d love to see her working again - there’s no reason why she won’t.”

An interesting update to Reaper’s status was supplied to the Herald this week by the vessel’s skipper, Mike Barton.

He told us that the damage done by the freak gust had turned out to be less serious than he had feared.

He said: “As humans age they get more stiff - but as a boat gets older it gets more flexible. When the Reaper went over, the looseness saved her from serious damage.”

He is baffled by the mighty wind that blew the vessel over: “We have photographs before and after the event, and in each the flags hang limply. So why and how that gale blew up for a brief period remains a mystery.”

Mr Barton repeated his relief that there were no serious injuries, and there was no environmental impact: “When we come into a port we lock up everything to minimise the risk of a spillage of fuel.”

He paid tribute to the people at Johnshaven, and to the harbourmaster who constantly checked on behalf of SEPA that there was no pollution: “On one occasion at 4am!”

He again thanked Mackay’s for the speed with which they responded, and also Arbroath Lifeboat for escorting Reaper on her trip to Mackays.

Mr Barton and representatives of the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther visited Johnshaven at the weekend to thank the community for their help and co-operation.

So what now? Mr Barton confirmed that the major refurbishment of the boat, planned for the end of 2017, would be brought forward and that the tendering process is under way.

He said: “About 18 months ago naval architects conducted a comprehensive survey of Reaper, and drawings have been made.”

There are only two boatyards left, capable of undertaking the work and within reasonable distance of Anstruther, at Arbroath and Macduff.

Mr Barton concluded: “Funding has had to be brought forward, and initial signs are promising.”