Feàrlagean Na Fairge 25-28.06.2019

Written by Niall Odhar of An Eathar Rowing Club on the west side of the Island of Lewis, Outer Hebrides

We set out to explore and camp our way around Loch Ròg in the Outer Hebrides, against a background of powerful winds and questionable forecasts. At the close of the first day safely ashore we perhaps unknowingly faced the day’s greatest danger: a “feàrlagan” or shrew. It was scurrying about the road by the boats impervious to the lack of cover. We picked him up without caution, to find a safer place, not knowing that local tradition says – that if a shrew runs up between your legs it can break your back. Perhaps a new item for next years risk assessment.

Our fleet consisted of 4 St Ayles skiffs, a drake and a Sgoth Niseach – all this accompanied by Michael Skelly in his semi rigid fizz boat for support. We numbered between 20 and 25 persons, as participant joined and departed. An Eathar rowing club’s Yackydoola was very much at home as was Falmadair trust’s Callicvol dipping lug sail “sgoth”. Jenny Skylark and Pascual just about know their own way north by now but had brought the Row Porty rowers with them, regardless. Blue Moon, our constant friend, was kindly loaned again by Steornabhagh based Embark and Charlie Green’s Florence joined from a land base each day not only taking radio batteries home to recharge but allowing people who were time constrained to join and leave the expedition. Valuable assistance indeed. Our additional participants included six Australian, mostly Tasmanians, veterans of open boat raiding and representation from Uist rowing club also.

Having that first day dodged winds upward of 20 knots from the north east we snacked at the delicious Miabhaig Scallop Shack as we waited for driver Don and the Horshader bus to take us to the Traigh Na Beirghe campsite. There we met the local sheep who looked proper affronted that we were camped on their machair pasture and brayed loudly as a diversion while the bolder ones poked their faces into buckets and dry bags. We walked in the waning wind to the sweeping beach – some to bravely swim. Eventually campsite warden Fin showed up and conversation soon gave way to him squeezing the “eternal surge of the sea” and many other local musical gems from his new melodeon. The girls danced. He also drew our attention to iron age fort – Dun Bharabhat and the rocky stream studded with small mill ruins that leads up to the tarn like loch and it’s broch remains. Breathtaking.

The second day. Miabhaig was sent and we turned north past Bhàcasaigh for Pabaigh Mòr collecting mackerel as we went. Here we met a melodeon ocean pressing and stretching lifting and dropping us. We gave up on Caolas an Ear – the narrow channel to the wonderful lagoon in the northeast of the island and headed into the safety of Traigh na Cille to make ourselves a short stay Baile na Cille tented village. Here we cooked fish and by erecting an Australian flag attracted a visiting rib from a passing ship. A curious stranger rocked up to our small settlement. Incredibly he was a good friend and colleague of one of our Tasmanians – Martin Riddle – both of them gobsmacked at the chance meeting. In the evening Ian Stephen, standing on the beach told the story of the broken teeth of 15th century Pabaigh resident Tarmod and the vengeful massacre of brothers, hunted down one by one. Tented between the water lily covered lochan and the remains of St Peter’s chapel (1266-1559AD) we slept like the slain.

The third day.
In flat light and faint winds we departed the priest island, as the Norse knew it and headed across the open sea to Caolas Fhlodaigh and Beàrnaraigh Beag beyond. The sea was not listening to the wind – it was still playing yesterdays tune. It proudly raised us and indifferently dropped us, we watched each other marvellously appear and disappear. You’ll never guess what we caught at Bogha na Saoidhean. Yes the ever popular pollock. Stuffed fish head for tea surely? Beyond the cleft separating the greater and the lesser Beàrnaraigh we beached on Traigh an Teampuill. Baggage ashore we got back aboard and went anti clockwise to land on Traigh Mòr. Here the sun blazed. The beach was hot; the sand harvest yellow and the sea so blue. The scene was caribbean – the swimming sensation baltic. Shepherded by Michael Skelly we rock hopped and hugged the skerried coast home to the camp. After roasting rionnach and eating stuffed saoidhean head we assembled raptly on Baca Mòr hillock. In the radiating fading rays of sunset Ian Stephen finished off the Pabaigh murdering brothers in turn. The tale told, another day closed.

Day four
We awoke to nothing. Beàrnaraigh Beag was enveloped, fading at every edge. Soon a glimmer, then a glow of sun. The golden sea was revealed and coastlines appeared beyond the crosses of the churchyard. The curtain lifted on our closing passage back to Breascleit. We were n’t quite ready to concede so we went back on our selves through the toboggan tunnel of an Coalas Cumhang to Traigh Bhostadh. Some dived into the past by visiting the iron age house replica nearby but many just wandered and squandered any serious intention to just wilfully soak up undiluted summer.

Eventually we caught a favourable wind and headed home unhurriedly, the memories already banked, souls and seas restful.

An Eathar Coastal Rowing Club in The Outer Hebrides

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Scottish “Indoor Rowing” Championships

The Scottish Indoor Rowing Championships are run by our sliding seat friends at “Scottish Rowing”.  It is an annual event that attracts competitors from rowing and non-rowing backgrounds across UK and Europe.  Coastal Rowers have had success in the past in some categories.

The Championships in 2019 will be held on Friday the 22 November (Schools Championships) and Saturday the 23 November (Open Championships) at Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility, Motherwell. ML1 2TZ.  Closing date is 8 November.

More details on the event and how to enter are on the organiser’s website.

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Firth Of Clyde Coastal Rowing Club Green Flag Nomination

John McFarlane is the Social and Environmental co-ordinator for the Firth of Clyde Coastal Rowing club (FOCCRS). As you can see from the title, FOCCRS have a dedicated Environmental co-ordinator on their committee! John also sits on the local Environmental sub group of the Community Council as a representative of the FOCCRS. That subgroup consists of other local groups and the local council who work together co-cooperatively to make as big a difference as possible.

Although the club have carried out numerous initiatives over the past few years this is the first time that they have applied for a green flag award and have set out what they have been doing in 2019. John explains:

“The main focus is of course on Beach cleaning and our wonderful marine environment and we do this under the umbrella of both “Keep Scotland Beautiful” (the government organisation – who supply tabards and loads of helpful information and advice) and the Marine Conservation Society (very important as they provide the public liability cover for beach cleans). We have two beaches which we regularly survey for the Marine Conservation society (MCS) and submit reports. North Ayrshire council supply pickers, bags and gloves and take the collected rubbish away at the end of the clean.

FOCCRS working together on 7 April
FOCCRS with Bags Ready for Collection 7 April 2019

“On 7th April this year we arranged a beach clean and were joined by our partners and the local SNP MP Patricia Gibson, who was keen to get involved. Approx. 80 bags of rubbish were collected.

More Bags Filled on 24 June 2019

“On 24th June we helped organise a beach clean with the “Kiko plastics UK tour”. Kiko Mathews is the women’s world trans-atlantic rowing record holder, having rowed across the Atlantic single handed after a life threatening illness. On this occasion she was cycling round the UK coastline taking part in Beach cleans to raise awareness of the horrendous plastic problem facing out marine environment.

FOCCRS on 21 July 2019

“On 21st July we again took part in a beach clean with our partners from the Largs environmental group. Approx. 40 bags of rubbish were collected. A further beach clean was held on 22nd Sept and is part of the Keep Scotland Beautiful “clean up Scotland” campaign.

“As a club we are proud to work with our partners in making our wee bit of the world a cleaner and greener place.” 

Thank you FOCCRS for doing your bit, and for inspiring others with your story.

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Orkney Nominated for SCRA “Blue Flag” Award

The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association has announced a new type of award. Their Blue Flag award can be awarded to SCRA member clubs who make a contribution to the wider community above and beyond the pure enjoyment of the sport of coastal rowing.

ORC members with representatives from MS Orkney Therapy Centre, YPeople Orkney, Home Start Orkney, RNLI Kirkwall and Orkney Vintage Club. Photo – ORC Facebook Page

Orkney  Rowing Club were formed in July 2014 and since then have raised just over £25,000 for local charities. Every 2 years they nominate charities to raise funds for and have so far donated to RNLI, Local Multiple Sclerosis Society, CLAN, Age Orkney, Home Start, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), and Y People. They have raised funds through a variety of different ways: a round Orkney Mainland row in 2016 which took just under 24 hours and raised £20,845.25; Quiz evenings; Prize Draw events; Marshalling at local Vintage Rally event annually; Calendars… all contributing to their community and all matters which they deserve wider recognition for. Well done Orkney Coastal Rowing Club.

 

Members helping out at the Vintage Car Rally – pic ORC Facebook Page

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Monster the Loch race Saturday 28th September

The Coigach Lass completed the Monster the Loch race in one of Scotland’s most iconic locations.  The  22 miles along Loch Ness from Fort Augustus to Dores is a significant challenge and further than any of us had rowed before, and in the deepest water too (227m).

Around 60 boats lined up for the start made up of all manner of human powered boats: pedalos, paddle boards, fixed seat rowing boats and sliding seat boats.  There were 12 St Ayles skiffs from Strathpeffer, Catterline, Portsoy, Shieldaig, Collieston, Carrick, Golspie, Firth of Clyde, Burghead and Queensferry for us to race.  Oh, and of course Nessie too.

It was a mass start so no handicapping.  Lining up alongside an eight crew from the GB national squad is an experience you don’t get every day.  We didn’t see much of them after the start, more on that later….

It was difficult to know what pace to set so we started at a conservative rate which left us a bit behind but we were playing a long game.  Once we worked out our race pace we started reeling in the skiffs ahead of us finally passing the mighty Golspie crew just past halfway.

Then we set our sights on the other competition.  We realised we were competing with pilot gigs – these are mostly based in SW England.  They are longer than the skiffs we race and with 6 oars against our 4.  They are notionally faster than a skiff but much heavier and it seems that the length of this race levels the playing field somewhat. 

We eventually got past a couple of gigs and for the last 5 miles we were involved in an epic tussle with the leading gig Jon Bon from Dorset.  Each boat in turn gained an advantage only to have it reeled back in.  In the final mile the Lass took a decisive lead and held on to the end.  We were the first skiff and the first wooden boat to finish.  Coigach Lass recorded a time of 3hrs 27mins.

The GB crew smashed the previous record by over 20mins in recording a breathtaking time of 2hrs 4mins. 57secs.

Our crew of Tom Grant, Reuben Brown, Matt Zietz, Nick Clooney with the heroic Kathleen Steventon coxing were fuelled mainly by Kathleen’s robust banana flapjack which will live long in my teeth memory.

A great event rounded off with hospitality at the Dores Inn and great craic on the beach with the other crews – a must-do event for every discerning skiffer. 

NC

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Blue Flag

The Round Arran relay team in 2018, who raised £1,721 for the Men’s Share project and Health in Mind, covering 93.58km in 15 hours!

Every year, the SCRA hands out a number of awards. These are a great way of celebrating and promoting the collective efforts of our rowing community and by sharing stories and ideas, hopefully we can inspire others to do similar.

Sitting alongside our Cruising Log and Green Flag award, you may have seen reference made to a ‘Blue Flag.’ This is a new award we are introducing this year.

We know that many of you do a sterling job of fundraising to benefit your clubs, but we want to hear about the efforts you go to, to help those in the wider community. By way of example, a single crew recently rowed across the Minch, from Stornoway to Ullapool, raising in excess of £25K for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Incredible.

Whether your gesture was large or small, they all add up to something magnificent, so please tell us about them and let’s see how many blue flags we can award in our first year.

Send your entries to secretary@scottishcoastalrowing.org before the 16th October. Blue flags winners will be announced at the AGM.

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2019 SCRA Club Survey – Action Please

SCRA are trying to gather a bit of information about those who are using St Ayles skiffs, in order that we can work out how the Association can best serve them, and so that we can use the aggregated information to make representations to outside bodies, who may not be aware of the size and nature of what we do.  

A survey is being sent out to club contacts that we hold, and we would be very grateful if those running their club can take a few minutes to complete the survey and submit it.  It is probably worth having a click through it first, as there are some questions on it that might take a bit of digging.  For instance we are trying to get an idea of age and gender of coastal rowers, so it is helpful if clubs can let us know the age and gender breakdown of their memberships.  We only want one return from each club please, so would be grateful if each club committee can ensure that one person is detailed to deal with this matter.

We would be very grateful if clubs could respond to the survey within two weeks if at all possible.  We will also endeavour to share useful information coming out of the survey in advance of the 2019 SCRA AGM, which will be held on 26 October.

If you are part of a group that feels they should have received a link to the survey but has not please contact Anna MacKenzie:  annaemackenzie@gmail.com

Many thanks in anticipation.


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Western Isles events 2020

Dates for your diaries – LochBoisdale 22nd & 23rd May 2020

Fèis Mara na Hearadh (Isle of Harris Maritime Festival) – Sat 1st August 2020

After a successful regatta last year, Robert and Cheryl Taylor will be hosting another next year in Loch Boisdale. They will both be at Loch Tummel Fresh Water Sprints and you can chat to them there about the regatta.

“All the skiffs and teams of the Outer Hebrides will be attending, alongside a number of teams from mainland Scotland as well. On Friday there will be a Blessing of the Boats at 14:00h, followed by sprint racing in the harbour; the day will close with a jam session at the Lochboisdale Hotel featuring local musicians. Saturday will host the main event; a series of races around a 2km triangular route starting just outside the harbour and finishing in the marina. Prize giving at 17:00h, followed with a Ceilidh in the Hotel at 20:00h.”

https://www.visitscotland.com/info/events/lochboisdale-st-ayles-skiff-regatta-p2214241https://www.visitscotland.com/info/events/lochboisdale-st-ayles-skiff-regatta-p2214241

Fèis Mara na Hearadh(Isle of Harris Festival of the Sea) have also set a date for next year’s skiff races which is now on SCRA calendar – Saturday 1st August 2020. It is hoped that the coastal rowing races in Harris 2020 will encourage more clubs from mainland Scotland to come to the Hebrides and promote interest in Harris’ own skiff ‘The Hearach’ – which will be ready in time for the festival.

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Castle to Crane Race – scale

Castle to Crane Race takes place over a 13 mile course from Dumbarton up to the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow, as part of the Clydebuilt Festival. It is the longest rowing race that most of the rowers involved take part in, and is a real challenge for mind and body.

The scale of the River Clyde is quite something. The race certainly feels coastal to start with, and rowers are surrounded by hills, castles and countryside, and possibly having to deal with some quite lumpy conditions where the River Leven meets the Clyde. There is the occassional bit of beach on the south bank.

Also in terms of scale this is one of the biggest rowing races North of the South. In 2019 there were 75 boats taking part, including the largest fleet of St Ayles skiffs ever assembled. Being lovers of hyperbole, we refer to it as the largest gathering of coastal rowing boats on the Clyde since the Battle of Largs in 1263

In the middle stretches of the course, the scale of industry and past industry is what is truly impressive. Huge cranes, such as the well named Titan Crane at Clydebank (above). Making the competing boats seem very small indeed.

Even the mighty Orcuan? Well if you are on the subject of scale how about this eight oared Birlinn. Flagship of social enterprise GalGael we also consider her to be the flagship of our fleet and one of the biggest boats to be rowed regularly in the UK.

The 2020 edition of Castle to Crane Race will take place on 19 September 2020. Castle to Crane is a Scottish Coastal Rowing Association event, and is run as part of the Clydebuilt Festival.

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Castle to Crane Fleet 2019

Another cracking set of photos now available on the Scottish Coastal Rowing Facebook Group. These are all by Steve Thomson, so any borrows with a credit to Steve (and Castle to Crane) please.

Leaving the Leven. Teifi Skiff, North Easter dory and St Ayles skiff. Steve Thomson
Orcuan, a Birlinn built by community enterprise GalGael. Steve Thomson
Orkney CRC winners of the Shetland Yoal Class. Steve Thomson
Winner of the “Bonniest Boat” Trophy, and racing for the first time in 70 years, Georgie Rose of Broughty Ferry Boating. pic Steve Thomson
Solent Galley in the foreground, with St Ayles Skiffs from Troon and North Berwick behind. A reminder that we had a headwind. Steve Thomson
A wheen of St Ayles led by FOCCRs, with Dumbarton Castle behind. Steve Thomson
Seine Boat from Devon. pic Steve Thomson
Loxa and the Titan Crane. Steve Thomson
A dash of yellow from Avoch in their St Ayles Skiff Zulu
Titan. and Eastern in Skiff Skelf. Steve Thomson
Heading up past the Tall Ship towards the finish. Steve Thomson.
Perfect Timing
Cornish Pilot Gig from Sidmouth. Steve Thomson.
Yay, Finished. Pic Steve Thomson
Waiting for the results. Steve Thomson

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