Rowporty goes around the Bass Rock

On Monday 7th Nov at around 9:30am five of us set off in the car and Jenny Skylark in tow to North Berwick. We launched from the beach (you can take the road trailer onto the beach down the slip outside the harbour) and set off at around 10:30am.

We called the coast guard on channel 16 to let them know that St Baldred and Jenny Skylark, rowing skiffs, were heading to the Bass Rock, ETA 14:00hrs, 10 people. They wished us luck.

We had 5 life jackets, VHF, anchor, large yellow bailer, spare oar, 8 kabes and 8 pins, first aid kit, hot drinks, water proofs, Cox’s jacket, hats, water and food.

You can leave the trailer above the high water mark on the beach and the car has to be parked on the streets; most of the harbour is no parking.

We were very, very lucky. It was completely becalmed and sunny, rare Autumn weather, which paid off for those who took annual leave or skived off work for the day! Even the porpoises came out on the way to the Rock, followed by loads of seals, many with young on the islands. It took about 1:15hrs to get there with no wind or tide, but several stops for pictures

We left on High Tide so the cave was underwater, but we could still get quite close to the entrance in the incredibly flat sea.

Once we had rounded the Rock and could see the lighthouse hanging onto the cliffs on the Southside, we tethered the 2 boats together for lunch. We did break one of N. Berwick’s pins as the 2 boats knocked into each other, but we were forgiven with offerings of hot coffee and home made food. Nick, Maddy, Sally and Claire had brought loads of delicious home-made food, for which we were thankful!, and we shared with some friendly (and hungry) North Berwick rowers.
Although we did not use the anchor, we did not drift very far East over the 50min we stayed there. The rope is only 25mts long.

A ship approached rapidly at first and then stopped some 1,000mts from us. We were able to row up to it, close enough to have and exchange hand signals with the folk on board the research/working vessel from the Forth; we had our Viking hat on at the time, which I am sure scared them witless. They then sent off a little red helicopter, but we were not impressed, not at all.

After this, we rowed off Eastwards towards the Craig, where we showed Claire where we almost smashed into the rocks during the N. Berwick regatta last year! and we carried on rowing towards the Lamb rock/island.

It was after 2pm and the sun, although bright, was already quite low, and the temperature dropped a bit too, so it was time to head home. We navigated through some tight channels in through the Lamb (after much holding of breath, then relief as we came out through a different channel) on the way back. The tide was still quite high and the sea was very flat.

We stopped at the Craig again on the way back to see the baby seals hiding in the rocks, in the sun, they looked, well, succulent.

Got back to North Berwick at around 15:00hrs, having spent 4.25 hours on the water. We did not suffer from air attacks as is common during the summer, the Garnets were away by then, so we saw the regular inhabitants, which did not pester us at all.

It’s a worth while row that can be done comfortably in two and a half hours, with stops along the way. However, we were told by North Berwick and others that have been to the Bass Rock in kayaks, say that it can be quite rough around the back of the Rock as the big swells hit the rock and there is a mess of water that can be dangerous. If in doubt stay away form the Rock, there is no way onto it from the skiff in high tide, you need a flat sea and low tide. But if you do land you will need to pay £100 at the bird centre for the privilege.


On calm days one could stop on the way back at either Sea Cliff beach, but the beach below Castleton is more on the way back.

The pictures should give you an idea of the idyllic conditions we had on the day!

Thanks to Claire for some lovely pictures

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