Thanks to Anne McGee for these great pics.
The ‘Lass‘ journeyed on a river for only the third time in her short life, when a small band of Coigach rowers crossed to the East Coast recently to meet up and row with one of the latest northern Scottish coastal communities to get skiffed up.
A lovely sunny and breezy day welcomed us into Helmsdale, and soon the friendly local rowers of the Bunillidh coastal rowing club were getting the craic with us and having a good look over the ‘Coigach Lass’; now looking (pretty impressively) battlescarred after her busy and successful competitive season.
The talk was of oak thole pins, comfy thwarts, oars and oars… then it was time to get launched as the very neat, sheltered harbour was the pretty face on an increasingly wind-whipped and clapotic-waved exit into the North Sea to access the calmer river mouth.
The happy Bunillidh crews on the natty harbour pontoon (envy!) Oh- Bernie and Alison sneaked in to this one.
Here’s a pic with a better look at the recently completed ‘Baile Anor”
The longer-oared ‘Lass’ got through the narrow entrance in a oner, but the crew found the broadsiding, clapotic waves quite a challenge – the oars often not reaching the water and the boat slewing sideways with water to the gunnels. Coxing with our pared-down competition rudder was interesting in that sort of water, too!
We soon made it into the much, much calmer waters of the mouth of the River Helmsdale and enjoyed the feel of pulling against the moving river.
Here’s a Helmsdale men’s crew slipping along nicely upriver in their boat… …and after we Coigach lot got a feel for the shallow bits and submerged posts which were a feature of the lovely river mouth, we had a go in the ‘Baile Anor’…
and they had a go in the ‘Lass’…
They are smiling a lot – liking our oar set-up…
(What a beautiful day for it!)
So after they’d seen ours and we’d seen theirs we got the boats safely out of the water and hungry crews converged on the Helmsdale skiffies clubhouse – the old Coastguard shed by the harbour – for top notch scran.
It was like British Bake Off! The lightest cheese scones nestling beside delicious sandwiches to accompany a choice of two soups, followed by Garry Smith’s sensational hand-baked mini bakewell tarts (to DIE for) and his mini-apple pies among a table otherwise littered with delicious traybakes. (What is it about skiffers – they always provide, and enjoy, top cake-age!) A great spread, much appreciated.
Great to meet you all at Helmsdale! Thanks for the generous hospitality and good craic. See you all in…April we reckoned.
Nearly forgot! There was a discussion just before we West-coasters left about how it would be immense to row down Loch Shin…
like some Northern Highland loch version of the Great River Race.