Historic ship to welcome visitors after £1m refurbishment

The Reaper was built in 1903 and is one of the few boats in the National Historic Fleet still in seagoing condition.

Historic ship to welcome visitors after £1m refurbishment SWNS via SWNS

One of the UK’s most historic ships is set to welcome visitors onboard following a £1m refurbishment.

The Reaper was built from oak and larch in 1903 in Sandhaven, near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and is one of the few in the UK’s prestigious National Historic Fleet still in seagoing condition.

The Viking-inspired ship has two masts, weighs 50 tonnes, and stands at 70ft tall.  

The vessel is 118 years old and has a history of appearing on the screen, most recently in Outlander and the 2016 film Tommy’s Honour. 

The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, Fife will welcome visitors back onboard the Reaper from Wednesday.

The iconic ship is described as a “rare survivor” from a golden age of sail and is a ‘Fifie’ – inspired by the Viking longship design, and the most popular fishing vessel on Scotland’s North Sea coast thanks to huge lugsails stretching over 3355 sq ft.

In the 1930s, the Reaper held the Shetland record for a catch of 223 crans – which translates to almost 250,000 herring.

The Reaper in Lerwick Harbour in the 1930s.SWNS via SWNS

The conservation project began back in 2018 under the direction of the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Historic Boat Expert Leonardo Bortolami and the Reaper’s skipper Mike Barton.

The refurbishment includes a new 67ft foremast and strengthening work, which has given the Reaper the strongest hull of any ‘Fifie’ ever built. 

Installation of a new air compressor to power the original steam capstan was also added by the Volunteers at the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Boat Club, who contributed 700 hours of work to the project. 

The funding for the refurbishment of the ship was provided by the Scottish Government, Museums Galleries Scotland and Oor Bairns Charitable Trust, while the main contractor, Babcock International Group, also made a charitable donation.

Karen Seath from Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust said: “The Reaper is a stunning and extraordinary vessel and a significant part of Scotland’s rich national maritime and fishing heritage. 

“She’s a rare survivor of the golden age of sail and our booming herring industry of the past.

“The Reaper is also unusual in that, through ongoing conservation and care, she remains seaworthy and has become a striking sight at Anstruther and ports across the UK, welcoming some 180,000 people on board to date.

“We are grateful to our funders, skilled boat builders, Museum Boat Club volunteers, supporters and visitors, everyone who has made this conservation of the Reaper possible.

“It has been a true labour of love and craftsmanship and we look forward to welcoming visitors onboard during what is her first full summer in Anstruther Harbour.”

Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland added: “We are delighted to have supported the Scottish Fisheries Museum with the conservation and interpretation for the nationally important vessel the Reaper. 

“This is an incredible example of conservation bringing history to life, allowing visitors and residents to once again experience life aboard the Reaper and explore the rich heritage of Scotland’s maritime industry.”

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