A trip to the Reaper


I had the opportunity recently to visit the Reaper when it was berthed in Leith – the last leg of its 2 week tour of the east coast. The Reaper had visited Eyemouth, Port Seaton and Dunbar before making its way to Leith where it sat proudly alongside the Royal Yacht Britannia and looked every bit as splendid.

The Reaper is a restored Fifie sailing herring drifter built in 1902 and is the flagship of the Scottish Fisheries Museum. When not on outreach trips, she is berthed in Anstruther harbour outside the Museum and is equipped as a floating museum of the herring industry.

Crewed by the volunteer members of the Museum Boats Club, the Reaper hosted over 1000 school kids on this tour. It was as a parent helper with Trinity Primary P7 that I visited the boat – the kids were really not very sure what to expect and some were a bit nervous as they had never set foot on a boat. That step from dry land onto the Reaper had the kids cheering, raising the sail, trying on a fisherman’s oilskins, sitting in a berth imagining what it would be like to sleep there and even walking the plank! The lower deck is now transformed into a museum with photos and objects telling the Reaper’s story. The volunteers from the Museums Boat Club were fantastic and so knowledgeable – they really brought the story of the Reaper to life, telling tales of custom and tradition as well as demonstrating the practical elements of life at sea.

The Reaper has been extensively restored for its current purpose and it was with some pride that I was able to say that Museums Galleries Scotland has supported some of this work through the Strategic Investment Fund.

The kids were all chatting about how much fun they’d had and how the trip had surpassed their expectations. A really fun and informative trip – and who knew a sou’wester was so called because when the wind was coming from the south west, there was going to be rain….


  1. I have the privilege of being one of the REAPER crew – I joined about 14 years ago & have participated in seeing the development of the Museum Boats Club – arranging visits, preparing the boat for the season, sailing to our various destinations & enjoying the company of our visitors. It’s lovely to hear how much the youngsters enjoyed their visit & we’re always very impressed at how much information is retained & understood. Thank you to all the visitors who make our trips so much fun – we’ll be in Dunbar July 20th & Port Seton September 7th.

    • It was lovely to meet you and the other volunteers and chat about the work you’ve all been doing – we will look out for you in July and September!

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