On Friday last, 27th March, in the far north, Wick’s second St. Ayles Skiff took to the water for the first time. It’s a successful and satisfying conclusion to the build which started in late 2013, a sister skiff for ‘Spirit O’ Wick’ from a dedicated team of builders.
Ms. Anne Dunnet, Lord Lieutenant of Caithness and Honorary President of Wick Coastal Rowing Club, officiated at the naming and launch ceremony on Sunday afternoon, where a traditional quaich of Old Pulteney whisky wet the ‘Lass’s’bow and she pushed off from Wick harbour’s pontoons.
The weather was kind, with a break in the rain favouring the launch and allowing supporters and wellwishers to focus all of their attention on ‘Pulteney Lass’, skiff number 90 in the register.
Congratulations Wick, and thank you Fergus Mather, Wick CRC’s Club Photographer, for lovely images from the day.
In Siabost, on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, An Eathar rowing club are about to experience that momentous milstone of the turning of their St. Ayles Skiff. This Atlantic outpost is actually only 20 miles from Stornoway, and they have succesfully hosted a number of rowing festivals, thus far, bringing coastal rowing back to the Siabost community. From the club –
Ionad Nan Seann Sgoil, Siabost.
With the regatta season almost upon us and the skiff fleet burgeoning, the SCRA Committee has received many requests for coxing training. Until now, we have been supporting clubs informally, on an individual basis, but have decided to run a taster day so that we can bring representatives from a number of clubs together in the same place.
So, we are offering an ‘Introduction to Coxing’ training day on Sunday May 3rd. It will take place at Anstruther in Fife, home of the St Ayles. The course will cover the basics such as communication, safety, managing crews etc. It will be a mix of classroom based and out on the water as well as some demonstrations and talks.
This course is specifically aimed at those new to coxing or with limited experience and in order for everyone to be active doing something, we have limited it to 18 spaces. Ideally, we would have no more than 2 from any particular club. The course is only open to members of clubs that are paid up members of SCRA.
For more information, and an application form, please email; firstname.lastname@example.org
We are piloting this approach, which if it works, we can replicate in other parts of the country, drawing in other people to help deliver it. This course is also very much an introduction and we can build on that if it proves useful.
Watercraft Magazine has always been a supporter of Scottish Coastal Rowing, right from the very start of our project. This month they once again feature St Ayles skiffs, with dramatic photos taken by Kathy Mansfield at the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, Portsoy. Watercraft magazine is a great read for anyone interested in building or using small boats.
Wormit Boating Club on the Tay launched their second St. Ayles Skiff last Sunday 22nd March.
‘The Flying Boat’ joins her sister skiff ‘Catalina’, launched last September, both named for the Norwegian Flying Boats, operated by theRoyal Norwegian Air Force which were once stationed in nearby Woodhaven, during World War II.
Wormit’s second skiff build was funded by local man Ralph Webster, whose Uncle served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was a member of the Flying Boat crew, in Catalina Flying Boat number AJ-55.
Skiffs from nearby St. Ayles (Anstruther), St. Andrews, Newburgh and Broughty Ferry turned out to welcome ‘The Flying Boat’ and a fine day of friendly (semi-serious) racing was enjoyed by all against a backdrop of the Tay Bridges.
Well done Wormit!
Fingers crossed for good weather the coming weekend in the North Region.
Wick are due to launch their second skiff on Sunday at 3pm at the harbour, with Lord Lieutenant of Caithness, Anne Dunnet, in attendance to christen the ‘Pulteney Lass’, named for local Pulteneytown, a British Fisheries Society herring town, commissioned by Sir William Pulteney, Governer of the British Fisheries Society and designed by Thomas Telford. Everyone is welcome to come along and support the club and perhaps have a go in ‘Spirit O’ Wick’ or ‘Pulteney Lass’.
Portsoy will be holding friendly racing and ‘come and have a go’ taster sessions alongside Burghead’s Tarbh Uisge and Collieston’s ‘Admiral Redsocks’.
After a wee winter hiatus, Pride of Aln has officially made it to sea under oar power! Regular readers will recal that the Duchess of Northumberland did the naming honours back in the autumn, and she was among the first rowers to pull on an oar when the community built skiff took to the water.
The lively north sea rolling against the beach prevented safe launching through the surf, so Pride of Aln, along with visiting skiffs from Blyth, Amble and Gosforth trolleyed along the beach to the Aln estuary, where they launched into smoother waters. Skiffies from Gateshead and Durham also milled amongst the visiting crowds.
Local skiffie Richard Wilson says “Public ‘Have a Go’ sessions were extremely popular, and included one of our members who is 8 1/2 months pregnant. (We made sure the cox had at least a first aid certificate – best we could do at short notice) Even though it was too rough to launch into the surf everyone had a good time, so we feel we helped the sport, over a weekend which also so skiffs on the telly on Countryfile yesterday, and Robson Green on tales from Northumberland.”
Report on Gosforth’s website.
Last night, at a packed awards ceremony in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, Collieston Offshore Rowing Club were named Club of the Year 2014, for outstanding sporting achievment.
Coastal rowing in a St. Ayles Skiff presented us with a unique perspective on achievment – just like you, we raised the funds for the kit, we built the skiff, we row the skiff. But there is so much more, isn’t there, to skiffing? Our nomination rewarded our inclusivity across our community – encouraging participation from our Under 16’s crew to our 60+ crew, embracing all genders, ethnicities and abilities. Our St. Ayles Skiff has introduced new and equal opportunity for physical activity and social inclusion in Collieston, especially in harder to reach groups including our older residents, women and girls.
Since it’s foundation, the rowing club has been life changing for many folk – within our nomination we spoke about our increased individual and community wellbeing. Feedback from members is testament to the positive impact the club is having on the community. Tracy Coxon addressed a ‘thank you’ to the club recently –
Just a wee note to say THANKS to CORC. This year has been amazing and CORC
has been so beneficial for me. I have got to know people that used to be just faces in
the village, achieved one of my dreams – canoeing the Ythan, seen Collieston from
the sea, and rowed with people from other clubs. I love the carmaraderie of being in a
crew and the motivational hell that is CORCfit; I’ve even grown some muscles! For
me, CORC has made Collieston come to life, so thanks to all involved.”
From Dave Huston, another member –
“I didn’t realise anyone was paying us any attention until we launched the Redsocks
and most of the village turned out to watch. The network of small villages that seems
to be forming around the rowing is brilliant too. There are loads of wee places I could
go now without feeling like a total stranger just because there will be someone there
to talk skiffs with.”
John Easton summarises the incredible community building that is going from
strength to strength in Collieston –
“It was a great feeling to be involved in the building of the Admiral Redsocks and see
how a range of ages and abilities came together with one object in mind. The sense of
pride which pervaded the launch was nothing short of remarkable.
Secondly, the club (CORC) has been the catalyst for an increase in social interaction
within the community. This shows in the enthusiasm for trips to skiff events, social
events and in the support which has developed for the winter ‘keep fit’ session which
CORC has instigated. This enthusiasm will be contributing to the health of the
individual and the community as a whole.”
Specific club highlights in 2014 included launch day on 22nd June, our first bumpy rows at Portsoy Traditional Boat Festival, hosting our inaugural regatta in August, and closer to home, taking the Redsocks to Slains School to promote community-linked learning and support their term theme of boats and boatbuilding, encouraging the extremely enthusiastic local kids to grab an oar, wear a lifejacket and remember your port and starboard!
The award last night recognised Collieston’s success – but in the bigger picture, the incredible success story that is the St. Ayles Skiff. Most of you reading the above will empathise with my fellow oarsmen, and will have experienced the positivity that coastal rowing has brought to your life. This is your story and recognition for St. Ayles skiffing clubs everywhere.
Last night we had the opportunity to showcase skiff rowing, to the wider sporting community and have even encouraged Fiona Duncan, UCI Para Cycling Gold medal winner and Commonwealth Games 2014 Cyclist to come and try coastal rowing with us. Katherine Grainger announced the win via videolink, and had a suitably heartstopping pause following “And the winner is……….”.
In Collieston, as I’m sure in coastal communities near and far, coastal rowing has become a conduit for positive communication between parents and their children. Neighbours now row together. Seamanship skills and rowing techniques are being cascaded across the community.
We are creating community cohesion through sport, and feeling the benefits of it, contributing to community enrichment, healthy living whilst having some good clean fun, and always working towards raising the public profile of the St. Ayles Skiff and encouraging more communities to feel the joy.
My thanks personally to Aberdeenshire Sports Council and Collieston Community Council for recognising the beneficial framework the St. Ayles Skiff allows for the introduction of sport for all.
Collieston felt priveleged to be chosen as Club of the Year last night and proudly accept the award on behalf of Scottish Coastal Rowing and St. Ayles Skiffies everywhere.
Fancy a bit more water under your keel this year? Expeditions of various sorts get the miles in, as you work with a set crew. Some of these long rows are sort of competitive, but completing the distance tends to be the challenge for most folk, rather than racing the clock.
You have missed the first expedition of the year already, which took place in Tasmania. However there are plenty more. Have a look at the following examples from the SCRA calendar:
|11-17 May||Semaine du Golfe||Bretagne|
|24 May||Voga Longa||Venice|
|30 May||Ocean to City||Cork|
|27-28 June||Viking Festival||Loch Fyne|
|15-16 August||Jacobite Muster||Loch Shiel|
|6 Spetember||Great Tyne Row||Newcastle|
|27 September||Paxton Picnic||River Tweed|
Of course you don’t need to be part of an organised event to enjoy an expedition. You just need a boat and a plan. Make sure you write up your adventures for the SCRA cruising log competition, and include your learning on safety issues to that others can learn from them too.
One characteristic of an expedition tends to be that the boat has one crew. Whereas at your normal St Ayles regatta a boat might turn up with somewhere between a dozen and forty rowers, an expedition event means that only five rowers will get to use the boat for the weekend….. so you need either need understanding club mates, or you need to build more skiffs, so your club mates can use one (or two) at home while the expedition rowers are away. So please do enjoy the expeditions, but not at the expense of mass participation which is so important to your community.
Expeditions do not need to be in Scotland. The Semaine du Golfe is a French classic, with several days of expedition for small sail and oar boats amongst a bigger fleet. One SCRA club, Blakeney have already expressed an intention to attend, and of course our own French St Ayles skiff builders will be anxious to welcome other skiffies. The Voga Longa is a fantastic festival of oars and paddles in the water based honeypot called Venice. 2100 boats took part in the 2014 event, one of which was from Boatie Blest. The Port Seton and Cockenzie Club wrote up their log for their fantastic trip their and back as well as the event itself, and earned the SCRA cruising log trophy (as soon as someone donates one). Ocean to City in Cork is a 16 mile row through a fabulous natural harbour. Crews from Ullapool, North Berwick, Blakeney, Coigach are already signed up and some crews from the Strangford Lough area are expected to attend too.
Returning to Scotland, the Viking Festival at Loch Fyne includes a 12 mile rowing race/ expedition, and a very happy attitude. The Jacobite Muster is a non-competitive gathering on Loch Sheil. This is a one off event, marking the 270th anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie raising his standard at Glenfinnan. Crews will need to be self supporting and midge tolerant.
“I was born in Mid Glen on the Isle of Barra.
Both of my parents spoke Gaelic to us at home and we rarely spoke English.
I now live in the East Neuk of Fife with my husband David, with our three children grown up and left the nest empty.
I feel privileged to have found the St Ayles Skiff Project that was founded by the Scottish Fisheries Museum Anstruther .”
Ann MacKin of St. Ayles Rowing Club, Anstruther has been incredibly generous with her time and enthusiasm and has facilitated a valuable resource to be added to the SCRA pages.
On the Craft Register, along with details of boat number, club and colours, Scottish St. Ayles Skiffs with gaelic names have a ‘Listen’ link attached to their description. When you click on ‘Listen’, you will hear Ann’s recordings of the correct pronunciations of the names. With the tremendous growth in popularity of the Jordan skiff kit worldwide, we hope that skiffies everywhere will find this new addition useful .
As seen in the recent round-up of upcoming launches below, it is timely that this new facility has come online. New audio links will be added to the Craft Register when required. So – repeat after Ann and let us know how you go.
My sincere thanks to Ann MacKin for a job well done.