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How an old Peterhead-built trawler was turned into a luxury Airbnb in Inverness you can stay in

From herring to hospitality, we chart the history of well-known former Blue Toon-built, Broch fishing boat the Achieve, now owned by Scotia Charters.

Still going strong, the Peterhead trawler turned Inverness Airbnb destination.
Still going strong, the Peterhead trawler turned Inverness Airbnb destination.

In 1972, when much of Britain’s fishing fleet became locked in “cod wars” with Iceland, a new wooden-hulled trawler was launched in Peterhead.

Made in the shipyard of Richard Irvine, the Achieve FR100, under the watchful eye of Andra Buchan, was about to take to the seas.

“White fish fishing” was its one purpose. And for 28 years – registered to Fraserburgh – that’s exactly what she was used for.

if these decks could talk… the Peterhead trawler now converted into luxury accommodation.

Now, more than half a century since the launch, herring has been exchanged for hospitality, and choppy seas for the Caledonian Canal.

We look back at one of the Blue Toon’s most iconic trawlers and its journey to becoming a luxury bed and breakfast today.

“Fishing is tough work, but it’s all we knew”

“It’s a doddle these days,” jokes 80-year-old retired skipper Andra Buchan. “Back when we started there were no hydraulics and motors doing all the hard graft.

“I mean the reality is that it’s always been tough. Trawling is still a tough game, but compared to when I was a boy… it’s easier now.”

Speaking “three feet from where he was born”, in his St Combs home, Andra recalls the early days of his fishing career.

Former skipper Andra Buchan. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

“We grew up with fishermen all around us, going away and coming back, week after week. That was the life,” he explained.

“I first went out at 15 for drift net herring fishing on the Dayspring FR120.”

As far north as Shetland and south to Shields waters on the east coast, and from Stornoway to the Isle of Man on the west, “Aye, it was tough work,” he adds.

Anchored to fishing, and to his faith

Over his 55-year fishing career Andra worked on less than a handful of vessels.

But one thing has been a constant.

“When I was 11 and in Sunday School I was given a wee black Bible.

“I still have it, and that trusty book came with me on every sailing. If Jesus can calm the storms I knew we wouldn’t go far wrong with His Word in my pocket.

Andra Buchan with the Bible he was given as a boy. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

“Over the years we have seen boats go down.

“We’ve all known people who lost their lives fishing.

“I’ve never been without that wee Bible.”

The boat’s work? Complete

More than a superstitious act or good luck token, his Christian faith is what underpinned Andra’s business, and his life.

A member of St Comb’s Assemblies of God Church, he said: “We never fished on a Sunday, the rest of the days aye, but not on a Sunday.

“It’s still important to so many of us in these parts.”

In 1999 when Andra decided to sell the Achieve, though he wouldn’t properly retire until well into his 70s, the boat needed a new name.

A prized painting of his former boat, in the home of Andra Buchan. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

“My son had a new metal boat being built in Macduff, which would take the name Achieve once more, so the old one was given the name ‘Complete.’

“I had come to the end of our work with the trawler, so we were “complete” – but there’s a Bible verse that says we are complete in Christ. The perfect name.”

From herring to hospitality

In 1999 it was time for the boat’s second big voyage.

With the help of an investor, joiner and ex-fisherman Alex Wood took ownership of the trawler.

Originally from Banff, Alex and wife Margaretta had a plan to transform the old fishing boat into something altogether more luxurious.

Once the mainstay of Peterhead harbour, the Achieve FR100 was owned by Andra Buchan.

With the help of their sons a “cruiser-come -bed-and-breakfast” came into being, but not without a few false starts.

“I took three years to wind down my business so I could put everything into the boat. In 20o3 it became the sole focus,” said Alex now of Peterhead.

The boat was given her third moniker. This time, the Scotia W.

Caledonian Canal bound

Six years and a six-figure renovation sum later Scotia Charters was open for business as a bed and breakfast.

“This is the boat that we built,” he says from the wood-panelled dining area of the cabin. “Well, us and IKEA!” said Alex.

The dining area of the Scotia W bed and breakfast.

Happy to talk through every inch of the transformation, old photos catalogue just how much had to be stripped back and thrown out to make room for a seating area, kitchen, dining room and bedrooms.

Stripping away the old components of the Achieve took years of work for Alex and his sons who largely did the work themselves.

Initially set up to cruise the Caledonian Canal, the four-cabin luxury boat comprises en-suite accommodation in every sleeping space.

In what once held the boat’s catch, there are beds for eight people. Next to the control room is a double bedroom used for crew.

One of four two-bed cabins in the floating bed and breakfast.

English adventures for the Blue Toon boat

By 2012 a new business opportunity presented itself.

For the next four years they held a government contract doing wind farm surveys, based in Grimsby. Covering Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm in Great Yarmouth and those in the Humber Gateway, it was Alex’s job to count seals and sea birds, to monitor the environmental impact of gargantuan rotor blades.

Alex Wood at the helm of a once well-used Peterhead trawler now a bed and breakfast.<br />Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

“We kept the boat down there and my son Ewan and I travelled up and down.

“This part of the boat’s history came to a close when light aircraft and drones took over the surveys,” Alex explained.

The next leg, in the Highlands

In 2016 Alex’s daughter-in-law Carla came up with a name for the next phase of the boat’s journey.

“And so ‘the Boat and Breakfast’ came about,” Alex said.

Married to Alex’s son Stuart, both were drafted in at times, to crew the Scotia W.

The outside betrays a luxury and welcoming interior, ready for guests.

Initially docked in Seaport Marina in Muirtown Basin just for the winter, spending summer at the Foyers Power Station pier on Loch Ness, in 2018 it became a permanent fixture of the Inverness marina.

“We’re still seaworthy, I had her out to Tobermory just last week,” Alex said.

“Once a fisherman…”

Passionate about the vessel and her many journeys Alex laughs when asked if being a fisherman is something you can ever depart from.

“Once a fisherman always a fisherman,” he says.

Out on the open water, the Scotia W, formerly the Achieve FR100.

“I started out as an apprentice joiner then found myself in the fishing industry.

“I moved from Banff to Peterhead, working on the Star of Bethlehem, then fell in love with a young lady. Been there since 1972.”

History, there for the booking

Aware that he has a unique property, what does the future hold for the many-travelled trawler?

“Let’s just say I’ll soon be too old for this. I’m 72 just now,” he says.

As main crew, captain and chef, his trepidation is understandable.

“Who knows, maybe we will sell, maybe we will look for management.

Alex Wood with his “Boat and Breakfast” in Inverness.<br />Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

“In the meantime, we are here in our wee corner of the Highlands with a little bit of Peterhead history.”

* You can book a stay on the boat via Airbnb here.