Elsie’s Adventures Round the Forth

The SCRA Cruising Log Trophy 2012 was shared by Boatie Blest and St Ayles.  Here St Ayles Rowing Club’s entry by Elsie Johnston describes a surprise trip over the Forth, and Anstruther’s first visit to the Isle of May.


Friday 5 October 2012

What a surprise the painters of St Ayles RC had on Friday morning. After having finished (at last) the maintenance painting on the St Ayles, sitting having a coffee in the museum cafe, who strolled in but the crew of the St Baldred from North Berwick, Robbie, John, Paddy, Lizzie and Jacque along with David the support boat skipper. They had rowed over the Firth to see us no less! After shouts of “no way” and “why didn’t you tell us, we could’ve rowed out to meet you” they enjoyed a late breakfast of bacon rolls, cake and coffee. It had taken them only 2 hours 42 minutes to row the 11 or so miles across, changing cox/seats every 30 minutes.  Conditions had been touch and go for a while on the way over they told us, but not bad enough to turn back.   I then – somehow – wangled a passage back across with them on their safety rib (Eleanora) courtesy of David. With no thought of the return journey I grabbed my kit and set off with them. I didn’t need to be asked twice!  Both St Baldred and Eleanora had been tied up at the end of the west pier in the harbour where we got ready to set off on the return journey, the sun was shining and everyone was in high spirits and looking forward to the return trip.


The weather was a bit choppy at times, but nothing too bad for a St Ayles skiff.

I tried to content myself on the rib but was desperately hoping someone would take pity on my forlorn face and offer to give up their seat for me – Robbie was a star!! After a careful bit of manoeuvring, (what happens on the boat stays on the boat) we had swopped places and I was in my element! The rest of the crew were brilliant with me and we had a crossing full of laughter, fun and nonsense, it was like being in an Anster skiff. Finally just off Craigleith I got to cox them into North Berwick beach – what an honour – and thanks to Paddy’s directions managed to land them safely on their own side. I was then paraded as the trophy they had bagged on their voyage however I was delighted to say I was a willing hostage. They took just under 3 hours for the return leg and every one of them is a star! What a crew they are – I thank you SO MUCH for the experience and it’s one I won’t forget.

The train journey home was boring………..

Saturday 6 October 2012

Training on Saturday was as normal, nothing to report except we had William joining us, he was up in Anstruther for the weekend.  However we did decide that after Friday’s achievement from NB crew, we really SHOULD get across to the May Island!  Plans for safety boat, crew changes were tentatively discussed, all the while keeping an eye on the weather, which was looking to be on our side………

Sunday 7 October 2012

Sunday morning was clear and sunny and not too windy – so far so good!  After quickly getting two crews together the night before, Captain Babs had us all down at the harbour preparing the Chris o’ Kanaird to make her maiden voyage over to the May Island. With safety boat arranged (courtesy of our Chairman David Tod in the Braveheart) we all congregated on the beach with water and plenty of food supplies, well mainly chocolate and sweets – got to keep the energy up, all eager to go. The boat was packed and the first crew headed off with the boat on the trailer along to Crail to launch from there, easier to launch at low tide and better for rowing with the outgoing tide. Once there it was a quick unpack and they left bang on schedule at 1pm in a little lumpier water than forecast but more than manageable for the experienced crew.


We (the returning crew) paced the pier in Anstruther patiently(?) waiting to be picked up by the Braveheart, who was berthed in Pittenweem.  Firstly we had to first clear all the tangles off the ladder trap caused by the heavy weather a few weeks ago – no mean feat in itself. Rhona luckily had a sharp swiss army knife (don’t ask) because Coull’s was blunt……… Tom Lawrence had headed out in his yacht earlier and met up with the Chris and shadowed the crew as they rowed steadily towards the May, changing crews every 20 minutes or so and taking a quick breather before continuing on.
Once at the May, we were disappointed to learn that we couldn’t land due to the breeding seals, so all three boats headed for the North side to a sheltered spot.  We were quickly surrounded by some really inquisitive and somewhat large seals that must have been a bit bemused by the skiff. A quick change of crew in a very professional and military precision exercise and we were off again in the Chris heading for our home port of Anstruther.  Much to the delight of the numerous seals they were treated to the sound of Annie on the Braveheart and myself on the Chris singing Annie’s version of the Isle of May boat song  (copyright A Mackin), which certainly made their day!


We kept a steady pace and changed cox/position a couple of times on the journey and before long the mouth of the Anstruther harbour was in view. We were on such a high after finishing the row and could hardly believe that it only took 1hr 40 minutes for the first crew to go from Crail to the May and 1hr 30 minutes for the return to Anstruther.


Having completed the trip the excitement was not quite over for the Chris, with a new rower coming all the way from Newburgh, the Chris was once again launched with three of the May Isle conquerors (the hard core squad) and off we rowed back out of the harbour. Joined by the Fisher Lass from Pittenweem our tiredness quickly disappeared when we were rewarded by the sights and sounds of numerous pods of dolphins that swam remarkably close around both boats and showed off by jumping and circling us before heading off down the Forth.



What a fantastic end to a fantastic day and a fantastic weekend for me especially!  No doubt this will be attempted again but hopefully next time joined by local crews from Crail and Pittenweem and even from those across the Forth at North Berwick, Porty, Port Seton and any others up for the challenge.  Weekends like this make skiff rowing the BEST pastime – bar none!


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