Waterwitch in Stromness Marina 2019

Waterwitch is a fully restored Orkney South Isles Yole found in a ruinous state in Helmsdale, Caithness in 2009.

She was built at Longhope, Hoy and originally named the ‘Azalea’ by Edward Jamieson of Heckness, Longhope. She was launched in May 1923 and registered for line and creel fishing as K314. She remained registered for fishing until 1988 and left Orkney in the early 1990’s. When found she was missing her garboards (bottom or first plank) and was heading for a bonfire.

She was taken to the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC), Lowestoft, Suffolk where the lines were ‘lofted’ and an accurate rebuild to precisely the original shape was carried out in the Students’ programme. Larch on oak framing – as per the original – with the only changes being steamed  timmers (ribs) , the addition of an extra stroke for greater freeboard and a short foredeck as seen on some boats from that era. A new 15hp inboard diesel replaced the auxiliary engine fitted in the 50’s.

Waterwitch arrived in Orkney late February 2015 for fitting out, finishes & rigging at Ian Richardson’s boatyard, Stromness. She was launched in May – 92 years after ‘Azalea’ launched in Longhope, Hoy.

Waterwitch is capable of carrying the traditional 2 mast (unstayed) or ‘3 sail’ rig which replaced the original lugsail rigs of the early 20th Century. She can also carry the more modern tall peaked gaff rig – favoured by more competitive sailors for racing and better windward performance. Gaff rigged she can carry a staysail and therefore perform as a ‘3 sail’ off the wind – as for example on the long leg from Stromness to Holm or Longhope to attend Regattas.

As Azelea on the beach at Helmsdale, Caithness in 2009

All the initial restoration work on Azelea/Waterwitch was undertake at the International Boatbuilding Training College in Lowestoft. This work included fitting a new keel, stern post, new planking and a new interior. The stem post is original and the foredeck knees and thaft knees are recycled from original thafts.

After all the structural restoration work on the hull had been completed. Waterwitch was moved back to Orkney and into the boat shed of boatbuilder Ian Richardson at Stromness to be finished. Two masts were recycled off the yole Frances with all remaining spars being newly made. Sails were sourced from sailmaker Willie Leitch in Tarbert.

Waterwitch back out on the water in Stromness