Hoping the weather will be kind to us for Saturday’s racing. We are welcoming crews from round Scotland: Helmsdale, Portsoy, Newburgh, Newhaven, North Berwick, Portobello, Ardersier, Wick, the 2 skiff racing clubs in Ullapool as well as ourselves in Coigach Community Rowing with our boats ‘Coigach Lass’ and ‘Lily~Rose.’ Sunday will see a flotilla of beautiful, hand-built skiffs rowing along the coast to the lovely sheltered beach at Acheninver for a picnic and bonfire if the weather is ‘in it’ as the Gaelic phrase goes. Looking forward!
After a gale buffeted her off her trailer and split her side due to landing with most of her weight on a thole pin (ouch!) the ‘Lass’ was repaired and is now back in Badentarbat Bay twice a week, weather permitting, and seeing some action in readiness for the summer ahead… ‘Lily~Rose’ too is back in the water, and it’s good to welcome rowers old and new of all ages down to the training/rowing sessions!
Coigach Community Rowing is very grateful to Scottish Sea Farms who own the local Salmon Farm just off the Island of Tanera, (the island is currently up for sale for £1.9million!) the largest of the Summer Isles which nestle in the inshore waters south of our peninsula of Coigach. SSF’s Heart of the Community fund have kindly given us a grant to purchase new and improved rowing life-jackets, two rowing machines for our open weekly indoor Winter fitness sessions and money toward the expense of getting crews down to London to compete in the 21 mile Thames Great River Race in September this year. We have the ‘Alan Spong Trophy’ to defend, and it looks like our World Champion U18s are going to field a crew on the Thames and chase a trophy themselves!
Plans are underway for the big Thames race… but we have our very own Coigach Coastal Rowing Regatta coming up soon on Saturday 17th May, with a long row and picnic for all the attending crews and families on the 18th, so lets concentrate on that for the mo!
Twas the night before
Christmas the Great River Race,
And all through the
Not a creature was stirring – except Nick and Ali.
In hopes that all the rest of the crew soon would get there.
While visions of their long journey south danced in their heads…
The hog-roast and ‘Doombar’ had fair hit the spot.
When in the camp marquee, there arose such a clatter
The Dutch Oompah band was drowning out the chatter!
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below us
But all too soon the crack of dawn arose
And knackered rowers, groaning, climbed into damp clothes.
Now Alison! Now Calum! Now Grethe! Now Dan!
Now Lesley, Nick, Seumas, Gerry, Mark, Ish, Alan and Sam!
More rapid than eagles the buses they came
And the stewards had everyone checked on by name.
Taking time to get the craic with all the other oar-ers
Our old friends from Holland had the Groot & Grut close by…
…And Lesley was interviewed by the telly folk from Dubai!
Each boat with six crew and a load of bananas stowed.
As dry leaves before a wild hurricane blow,
When the start horn went, the ‘Coigach Lass’ and ‘Lily~Rose’ were GO!
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle!
They spoke hardly a word but went straight up the river
Passing boats left and right with hardly a quiver…
But the ‘Coigach Lass’ rowers were feeling their oats…
2 mins. ahead of the ‘Lily~Rose’ – they secured First Position!
(Mixed 4-oar section!)
But we heard them exclaim as they all flew North out of sight…
With huge apologies to the original, classic poem……
Ok. What is it about this – let’s face it – tiny community of around 300 souls who live scattered around the Coigach peninsula..?
A ‘remote’ place with the memorable postal address of Achiltibuie, which sees a modest community project to build a St Ayles rowing skiff start in early 2010 … and 3 years later sees the 30-or-so membership ( 10% of the whole local population, mind) take the trophy at the 1st ever St Ayles Skiff World Championships.
So what’s the recipe fo’ these here biscuits? (You can tell I visited Texas recently. Sorry.)
Is it just heaped tablespoonsful of this? (These guys ain’t ridin’ no fail-train!)With a very, very generous pinch of this…?….and a very cheeky young level tea-spoonful of this..?…aye, why not have a wee blether on yer mobile, Under 17s Crew Captain, Seumas…it’s just HRH Princess Anne waiting to talk to you…
It’s also the leavening of the Over-60-year old youngsters (with cox, centre) …… plus the raw ingredients of the Under 17 years young oldsters!And it all goes into the beautiful mixing bowl of our coastal surroundings – way up in the wonderful wilds of the N.West Highlands where we all live and work and play (and row) and ceilidh together… …and them ol’ biscuits?
What a week at the very first St. Ayles Skiff World Championships! …and we clinched it by 23 points.
10% of our whole community here on the peninsula of Coigach – of which the main village is Achiltibuie – competed in the Championships.
Well, the Wickers’ new build is looking beautiful and is obviously – and rightly- already a source of local pride. What a finish! Just the paint to go!
If there was ever an event that encapsulates in the most fun way just what the spirit of Scottish Coastal Rowing is about, this was the event; fellow coasties bringing their skiffs to support a new group in the North and being welcomed with boundless hospitality, meeting new folk left, right and centre and getting in a bit of rowing too..!
And here’s what the Royal National Lifeboat Institute Open Day at Wick harbour, Saturday 15th June was all about:
The Bunillidh crew in ‘Baile an Or’ and our own lovely ‘Coigach Lass’ crewed by Alan, Anne, Bernie, myself and coxed by Sue, both launched at the river mouth then came through the big swell you see above (!) round into the main harbour… What a rush! And what a fun start to the day.(Here’s an aerial shot, above, of Wick harbour… on a much calmer morning!) The two skiffs launched along from the bridge on the right side of the photo and, carefully negotiating the supermarket trolley hazard, (don’t even have a supermarket in Achiltibuie!) we were soon pulling out into a nice lumpy bit of the North sea ( see lifeboat photo above from the same day) which had us breaking sweat pulling into the swell, then skidded the skiffs sideways as we broadsided the waves to turn toward the mouth of the main harbour, then the swell shot us straight in – virtually surfing down – as we turned west into the entrance and found the pontoons in the calm of the inner harbour.
Our job was to meet the Wick Coastal Rowing lot and see their lovingly-crafted, almost-complete skiff; encourage members of the general public attending the Open Day to try an oar and row round the harbour with us; to get the general good craic with the sailing lot, the Wick RNLI and Coastguard folk, enjoy all the stalls scattered around the Harbour and take in the sight of Wick harbour full of boats dressed up for the day! Nae bother!
The local pipe Band kept warm in their own inimitable way…Finally at around 1pm, the day started to warm up as the wind dropped – and after a good feed of hot bacon and black-pud rolls, soon the two visiting skiffs and their crews were busy with ‘customers’ for a go at rowing. People loved it – often much to their surprise!
Women and girls in the main. There are three young teenage lassies out there in Cathness somewhere with loads of eye make-up, wearing tiny ballet flats and clothes from Topshop Online who now have fire in their belly for the rowing!
Then the Bunillidh and Coigach teams mixed it up a bit to give spectators a wee taste of how these skiffs can really travel…
A head-to-head bit of informal racing above – with the beautiful stonework of the Caithness-slab harbour wall in the background… The two St Ayles Skiffs getting on to the ‘starting line’ with a rather spiffy little two-man job in the foreground…… and above here we have the Wick RNLI crew in the ‘Baile an Or’ giving it big licks as they pull away from the Wick Coastguard crew who, as I was their cox, could see from the outset were just not taking it seriously enough- at least two of them rowed with their ties on, for goodness sake, and one spent most of the race on his back with his oar in his face, unable to row. Couldn’t cox for laughing! Good on them though! A load of fun. Particularly for the spectators…
And then there was a bit of history…… on the right, the ‘Bella Fortuna’ a herring-fishing Fyfie of around a hundred years old with her red/brown sails furled. A lovely old boat to be explored, stem to stern. On the left the very new, wooden ‘Silver Bear.’
Then the afternoon was wearing on and the skiff crews who were staying for the evening’s dance began to think about finding a campsite when Graham, one of the Wick RNLI lads, announces, scarily, ‘I’ll take you up til ee kirk!’. Huh? Well it turned out that Graham has bought the old disused Free Church in Pultneytown and the wee hall at the back was perfect for our scatter of sleeping bags and blow-up mattresses! Sorted. Thanks Graham!
And then it was back to the Harbourmaster’s office with a bunch of Pirates for a ‘thank-you’ dram…or three…or four. Sue’s loving the ‘Old Pulteney’And Alan, helpless at cutlass point…And in the fading light of a beautiful still evening over Wick harbour……musicians brought their instruments.. …and the dancing got going…. …and the harbour looked amazing with the boats and the lights and the huge dark blue sky… …and the Shield for the crazy races was presented to the pop up Coastal Rowing club known as ‘Bunillibuie’ (here for one weekend only!) represented by double-act Achiltibuie Alan and Helmie Andy.Of course the dancing went on apace……. and the harbour, still and beautiful, resounded with mighty choruses of …’And I would walk 500 miles!’ Then, in the early hours, everyone just conga’d off to their bunks in their yachts… or sleeping bags in an old Free Church hall…or comfy beds in their Caithness-stone built houses…
And finally the harbour was left to a few seagulls pecking around and the gentle sound of boats rocking at their moorings – and its own dreams of the days when red fishing boat sails thronged the place and the herring gutter lassies laughed and shrieked with each other as they packed fish into barrels.
Local toddlers Lyra – and Lily close behind (she, indeed, of the eponymous boat the ‘Lily~Rose’) at the shoreside at Badentarbat Bay, Achiltibuie, getting into the spirit with young Coigach Community Rowing crewman Calum as he waits for his race on a cool, lightly breezy, overcast but fair Coigach Coastal Rowing Regatta day! Bring it on!
It had been all quiet on the green by the shore the evening before:
But by ten the next morning the bay was packed with boats, spectators and busy food sales stalls: a venison burger stall raising money for youngsters’ Tall Ships Sail Training; soup, tea and fab home-bakes from the local Primary School parents group; a delicious salmon BBQ courtesy of Scottish Sea Farms’ local Tanera-based salmon farm, and the Lochinver Panini van! Almost every scrap of a considerable array of delicious food was sold out by the close of play around 4.30pm.
Hungry work rowing – makes the spectators peckish too!
Crews from Portobello– (in the ‘Jenny Skylark’), Newburgh – (in the ‘Glide’), Newhaven– winners of the ‘Best Presented Skiff’ (in the ‘Wee Michael’), Helmsdale– (in the ‘BaileAnor’), Ullapool crews– (in ‘Ulla’, ‘Cul Mor’ and ‘Loki’), North Berwick– (in the ‘Skiff John B’) and Anstruther (in the ‘St Ayles’) joined Coigach with ‘Coigach Lass’ and ‘Lily~Rose’ on Badentarbat beach, and suddenly the beach was filled with a bevy of beautiful, hand-built St Ayles skiffs, each with their own lovingly painted livery, the pride of their crews and community, awaiting the commencement of the racing!
An early cox’s briefing had drawn the visiting skiffers yawning from their various tents, campervans, chalets and cottages all round the Coigach peninsula….
… but Umpire Iain got down to business explaining the course – using the St Ayles Skiff World Championship system as start and finish ‘gates’ for this regatta – until further work on the drawing board by Topher and his crew in Ullapool finalises its design in time for the Skiffie Worlds in Ullapool in July.
… and lots of inter-crew chats and craic↓……and kids having fun↓……and filmakers and coxes and dogs…and the ‘Commentary box’ – (me with the bins, Sue, a car bonnet, a list of boats, a dodgy mic and Peter’s shoulder to keep the bins steady! Very professional – not!)..↓…and spectating and eating and paddling and racing… ooh those salmon BBQ rolls!!…
By 5pm the boats were on their trailers and skiffers, their families and supporters hurried off to prepare for the Prizegiving Ceilidh at the Community Hall.
It seemed like Leslie and her team from the Piping School Cafe fed the 5,000 with her delish Curry and Crumble -then before the music got going there were points and medals to hand out!
There will be more Prizegiving photos up here soon but just a couple to get you started..North Berwick Crews took overall second place – here some of them are getting their medals– the ‘Ulla’ Crews took overall third place and theCoigach Crews took the top spot.
Special ‘Feisty Newcomer’ medals were also awarded to the skippers of the ‘Baileanor’ crews fromHelmsdale and the ‘Glide’ crews fromNewburgh who had, as newbies to Coigach, rowed magnificently in the regatta and will be a growing force to be reckoned with!
And here are the lads of the Coigach Community Rowing Under 17 crew, l to r – Seamus, Sean, Ewan and James (Ian sadly missed the photo) with their well deserved medals! Their very first season rowing and already into the medals – and the first win (the ‘Freshers’ race against all ages) – with our new boat ‘Lily~Rose’! Well done lads , Coigach is proud of you!
Here’s another very proud medal wearer from Newburgh – and a close up of the hand made phosphor bronze medals Steve cut from the propshaft of the wrecked ‘Maid of Tanera’ -ex Kylesku ferry many many moons ago -and sandblasted with the pattern of C for Coigach and a skiff being rowed…
After all that the music got going – and many a dance was danced, and dram was downed and a good party was had by skiffers one and all. And then Karen took all the happy campers home in the mini-bus. Goodnight! And it was all, ‘See you tomorrow for the row to Tanera….’
Ah, but that is another story about a warm, sunny day full of happy skiffers and a row in paradise.
Thanks to Maureen, Julia and Linda from Coigach, Chris from North Berwick and a kind chap from Newburgh for the photos.