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Reaper is a classic Fifie from the great final years of commercial sailing ships. Her significance is acknowledged by her inclusion as one of the 60 vessels in the Core Collection of the National Register of Historic Ships.

Following the introduction of the steam capstan in the 1880’s, which provided the power to handle larger sails and heavier gear, the size of the Fifies had been growing until by 1900 sailing drifters like Reaper reached their ultimate development. Renowned for their power and speed under sail they were a magnificent sight entering and leaving the crowded fishing harbours of the East Coast from Wick to Lowestoft.

With the development of the Steam Drifters in the 1890’s the decline had begun but it was the introduction of reliable internal combustion engines in the first quarter of the twentieth century that finally brought an end to the reliance on sail which had been the traditional way of life for hundreds of fishing communities.

Reaper is the sole survivor of the huge fleet of Scottish first class Fifie Sailing Luggers which dominated the herring fishing on the East Coast in the first years of the twentieth century. As the facts and figures listed below will confirm she is a worthy example of the boats so eloquently described in this quotation from an acknowledged authority on sailing luggers:-

“There was a sense of power and grandeur about these Scots luggers which has never been surpassed. Built not for halcyon days, but to face the angry gales of the cold North Sea, it seemed impossible that these towering lugs could ever be manhandled on a heaving deck … … truly the passing years have brought many changes, but one thing is certain, never again shall we see the noble sight of one of these powerful luggers crashing through the seas, or hear the thunder of slatting canvas as she shoots up into the wind, and the towering lug is smartly lowered, swung round, and rehoisted. Then leaning over majestically, she steadies on the other tack, the embodiment of grace, strength and power.”

                              Extract from "Sailing Luggers" by Edgar J. Marsh.
                              Published in 1952 by Percival Marshall & Co. Ltd.

Regrettably Edgar Marsh did not live long enough to see Reaper restored to her full glory.

'grace, strength and power'

'grace, strength and power'

Facts and Figures:-

Builder - J & G Forbes at Sandhaven nr. Fraserburgh.

Yard No. 13

Keel laid in 1901

Launched in 1902

Registered at Fraserburgh in 1902 (FR 958) and at Lerwick in 1908 (LK707)

Purchased by The Scottish Fisheries Museum in 1974 and restored to her 1902 rig.

Reaper at BerwickHull construction:-
Larch planking on oak frames

Hull dimensions:- Length overall : 70’ 4” ( 21.43 m)

Beam: 20’ 4” ( 6.19m)

Draught: 8’ 8” (2.62m)

Tonnage: 61.3 tons

49.15 tons gross

29.04 tons net


Berwick 2006

Berwick 2006

The present masts were Installed in 2005. They were made from selected trees from a stand of Douglas Fir on the Bonskeid Estate in Perthshire. This stand had been planted in 1922 with seed brought from the Murray River area in Canada.

Height of Foremast (unstayed) - above deck - 56’ 9” (17.3m)

Height of Mizzen Mast (stayed) - above deck - 46’ 10” (14.27m)

Sail areas

   Jib    -    667 sq. ft. (62.0 sq.m.)

   Dipping Lug Foresail  -   1558 sq.ft. (144.7 sq.m,)

   Standing Lug Mizzen   - 1130 sq.ft. (105 sq.m.)

   Total sail area     -   3355 sq.ft. (311.7 sq.m.)


             8 men and 1 boy

Fishing gear:

             Drift nets - A series of nets joined together to form a floating curtain hanging down from the surface, 40' deep and about 1.5 miles in length. Used to catch surface feeding (pelagic) Herring.

             Greatlines - Lengths of heavy fishing line  joined together to form a single line fitted with hooks. The total length up to 15 miles and with up to 5000 baited hooks. Used to catch bottom feeding (demersal) white fish such as Cod and Halibut.

Steam Capstan:

             McDonald Brothers, Portsoy


              1916 - 1941     Gardner 75hp
               1941 - 1987     Kelvin 88L
               1987 - 2004     Volvo (T)MD 120 
               2004 -              Daewoo L136 – 8 litres 160 HP
Reaper Moray Firth

Reaper Moray Firth

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