“Puffer” on Scotland’s Western Coast – Ink/Inktense on a Watercolour Moleskine

Puffers were designed to operate up and down Scotland’s coast and the Western Isles where access by road was limited. They were built with flat bottoms so they could be beached at high tide, unloaded at low tide then floated off later. Puffers supplied everything from food to coal for remote communities and brought back wool and other local produce. They were named after the curious sound made by the steam engine exhausting up the funnel on every stroke – rather like a steam locomotive. Later models were converted to diesel but, during WW2 coal built models were again constructed as precious oil had to be imported from the USA while Scotland had plenty coal. These wartime versions were called “Vics” (Victualling Inshore Craft) because they were used to supply the many warships on the Atlantic coast. Up until recent time these same boats replenished the vessels in the Holy Loch where there was an American base.

Puffers have a special place in Scotland’s folklore mainly due to the “Para Handy” tales written by Neil Munro about the adventures of a motley crew cruising up and down the islands in the puffer “Vital Spark”. Well worth a read as the Highland language/accent is beautifully written phonetically.

I have always wanted to construct a model of this type of vessel and finally have got around to it. You can see my early stages at

Model "Puffer"

Unfortunately the photos are in reverse order as the “later stages” were uploaded more recently. This means that subsequent shots will have to be viewed in the same way.