Marsali Taylor reports on the salvage efforts to raise a wooden vessel at Aith Marina that attracted spectators despite the mizzle and smirr


Seeing a mast sticking up out of the water where a boat should be is an awful shock.

I’d been off the island. On my first day back I walked down to the marina, and noticed a thick green rope running up the far side of the marina wall.

I looked to where it was coming from, and realised that Hope, the bonny wooden fishing boat which sat along the hammerhead, had gone… then I saw her mast emerging from the water.

Boat salvage attempts began on a day of rain which varied from mizzle to torrential.

A wooden boat being salvaged in a marina

View from the shed as the wheelhouse broke the surface. Credit: Marsali Taylor

A team arrived in force and set up a compressor, festoons of yellow hose, deflated airbags and a diving unit with multicoloured plaited tubes wound in figure of eights on the outside.

Naturally everyone involved with the marina was there watching, either from inside their boats (restricted view, but hot coffee and biscuits to hand) or from the grandstand view of the shed doorway.

Even the marina seal was there, rearing his head.

Debate on boat salvage tactics

Preparations took a good while: flaking lengths of green webbing across the walkway, shaking out the airbags and getting a line from the compressor across the water to the pontoon.

The diver shrugged on his air cylinders and screwed on his helmet.

A diver gearing up on a pontoon

The diver gets ready. Credit: Marsali Taylor

Meanwhile, on shore, the marina folk were discussing tactics.

The obvious solution was to crane her out, but apparently all the cranes which could lift a 12-ton boat were busy in the hills, building the windfarm, so the plan was that one of the larger marina boats could take her under tow to the slip, with another boat behind her to keep her in line.

There was a large trailer which the owner said they could use, and a plant owner was all set to tow it to wherever Hope would be repaired.

The diver went in. We watched his bubble trail as he began laying a green webbing strop under Hope’s stern.

A boat being risen out of the water by air bags

The antifouling on Hope was soon visible. Credit: Marsali Taylor

He reappeared and wrestled the first airbag downwards, then the second.

By now word was spreading that something interesting was going on at the marina and there was a constant stream of cars.

The diver moved to Hope’s bows and took down a second strop, then each airbag. There was a long pause, then the compressor changed gear.

Continues below…

Gradually the white radar unit on the wheelhouse roof began to break surface, then the wheelhouse itself… the pulpit rails… then, suddenly, with a judder, the airbag on the far side bounced around her prow, the mast lurched and she slewed across.

The pontoon dipped. One worker leapt for his van, took a turn of the green ropes around his towbar and pulled forward a metre, taking the weight off the pontoon.

The diver went down again.

A boat being craned out of the water

Hope being moved safely ashore. Credit: Marsali Taylor

Strop number three inched from the walkway, and the workers passed down two more airbags for amidships.

The diver hauled his body over the rogue airbag, We heard the hiss as it deflated, then he wrestled it back into position.

Dusk was setting in. The workers eased Hope into a secure position and went off for the night.


They were back before 1000 the next morning. Half an hour later Hope was visibly rising, inch by inch, until her gunwale was above water, and they could get a pump aboard.

Another half hour and we could see her red antifouling.

There was news of a crane too, Tulloch’s heaviest-duty, and a plan to lift her and shore her up by the marina shed.

A boat being craned onto the ground

Hope is chocked into position. Credit: Marsali Taylor

Sunday, dry, and the village was out in force. One boat-owning boy took his skiff and a detergent spray out around the marina; another couple of the youngsters had fun clambering down the normally-forbidden inner rock wall and spraying that.

Several dog walkers paused to watch as the crane arrived, squared its legs and dangled its slings.

The workers hauled Hope over, and then there was another long pause while the diver got the slings under her, the crane took her weight, and the workers detached all the airbags.

Men on the deck of a boat which is on the ground

Assessing the damage after the boat salvage. Credit: Marsali Taylor

The water rippled, then smoothly, gently, Hope rose, rose, turned and settled again on land, with a dozen pairs of hands steadying her.

You could hear the collective sigh of relief. The salvage workers got busy stowing all their gear.

Nobody knew yet how Hope had come to sink like that, but I went to double-check that all my stop-cocks were firmly closed.

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