Boatie Blest Inland Adventures

The  SCRA  Cruising Log Trophy 2012 is being awarded jointly to Boatie Blest (Cockenzie and Port Seton) and St Ayles (Anstruther).  Here Boatie Blest describe their inland trip along the Union Canal.  The trip came out of disappointment, on the day that the trip up the Tweed to Paxton was cancelled due to river conditions.



Canal Folk for a day.

What a shame, we had all been looking forward to a Jolly on the Tweed, but the prospect of the rushing autumn waters meant, that we had to cancel the trip for reasonable fear of being swept to skiff doom. Never the less it meant a free day and second choice preferences started clicking into place, you know the ‘other’ things we do to pretend we have lives outside the boat. Stuart on the other hand had no such plans, and so it was that 21 crew and bairns ended up rowing or cycling along the Union Canal into the lashing rain of a Sunday morning.

Two skiffs, 3 bikes, one with a child’s bubble coach attached, and an International Rescue Zodiac set off from the park Bistro some time around rain o’clock. Sitting at the back in the Zodiac, I looked ahead at what seemed like two teams of grim reapers, hooded and bent to the task of getting through the reeded and weeded everglades of West Lothian. Leaves, logs, narrow bridges and dripping trees, meant this trip was no slouch for the coxswains, who had to be well alert for the whole day.


As a team we learned a lot about powering up and folding back oars to get through the narrow tunnels, without mishap, a bit like gannets before they dive in to spear a fish. Aye ye can take crew out of the sea, but…..

We rowed on to Linlithgow. For me it’s always a great feeling to be rowing to somewhere, rather than round a rock or a buoy.  We got out here, to find that our cycling companions were even wetter than us, and so made the wise decision to head back to base camp and chips. The rest of us grabbed at bits of food – the wasabi crisps were a surprise success- and Andrew used all his great skills to restart the International rescue Zodiac, which had gone on strike just as we had hoped it would tow us through that last narrow tunnel.


Back in the skiffs the Boaties headed toward a small patch of Blue sky, which quickly widened, bringing us a lovely sunny Sunday as a reward for our intrepidness. Not though before we had an oar splitting incident, as concrete met wood. No names here, as money has changed hands. The result, was a horrible pointy stick thing, which the kids were able to put to good use later as horrible pointy Ninja thing. Oh and there was much son to mum respect for her wrecking prowess.


The highlight of our journey was crossing the Avon Aqueduct, the crews standing up in the boats like some floating order of monks waiting to site land. It is the shared times like these that let you know you are alive and glad to be in good company. Not always too many words but smiles of appreciation are shared.


We stopped and swapped bits of lunch with one another. We were passed and greeted by muddy cyclists, kayakers and friendly travellers in long boats; it was good to be canal folk for the day.


We turned the boats to head home, and we fairly flew along, the wind was with us and of course we had by now honed our speeding and folding techniques…. well sort of. The sun was warm and keeping our wits about us to get through both the under and over growth again kept our concentration up. By the time we were hailed from the towpath by a cycling member from base camp, we were glad to hear we only had 10 minutes till we were back.


So back to the Park Bistro, and the efficient, seeing to and getting the boats out and on the trailers, that has to be done before we can stop to be tired or hungry. For some the day ended as they headed for home and Sunday tea. For others it ended in the lovely friendly, extremely busy Bistro eating chips, and drinking various beverages……still in our wellies and smellies alongside the well dressed celebration meal customers. This place is to be recommended.


So all in all a good day, and to be fair, Gareth had promised if we waited till, the sun would come out, and it did. What of our ‘other lives’, well I guess until Captain Stuart has something else on that day, we will keep turning up for, and enjoying his impromptu adventures.



Head Author – Martine Robertson

Director of Photography – Jon Gerrard

Editor-in-chief – Stuart Mack

Action log of Boatie Blest trip to Union CanalBoatie-Blest-Canal-3

Date                                        30th September 2012

Place                                       Union canal (between “the park Bistro” and “Avon Aqueduct”)

Distance travelled            13 kilometers

Weather                                 Heavy rain in morning, sunny in afternoon, Wind 15mph Westerly

Boats                                       Boatie Rows, Boatie Blest and a small rib (Zodiac)


Crew members: Stuart, Gareth, Andrew (Coxswains), Martine, Eilish, Linda, Jon G, Christine, Lauchlan, Kieron, Berni, Brian, Caroline Dunbar, Lucy, Megan, Sam, Douglas and Isobel.



  • Canal is very narrow at points and the oars will touch the reeds at both sides at times.
  • Bridges are narrow and a run up is needed before folding the oars back, alternatively the boats can be towed through by boat or by hand easily.
  • Passing other vessels (although traffic is very limited we passed one narrow boat all day)


  • Easy access at many points
  • Extra crew can run, cycle or walk along beside meaning numbers are effectively unlimited
  • Non tidal dependant
  • Non weather dependant up to extreme conditions since the canal is narrow and twist.

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