Sweet taste of Victory – Fresh Water Regatta

Eighteen hardy rowers from RowPorty made the 74 mile journey to the Castle Semple Loch at Lochwinnoch, setting off before dawn on Saturday 27th Oct, for the last regatta of the season.

The frost gave way to a lovely calm sunny day, which lasted until the end of racing. The regatta was part of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association (SCRA) and supported locally by Royal West rowing club and the Castle Semple Loch, which have great facilities (cafe, changing rooms, club house, wide concrete ramp for launching the boats, plenty of parking for trailers and cars).

A total of 8 teams took part: Achiltibuie, Anstruther, Crail, Cumbrae, Pittenweem, Port Seton, RowPorty and Royal West; a fine mix of new and more established clubs.

As Ali reported we had a good day on the water:

The 3klm was first on the menu, in which our mixed killer team, coxed by Peter A. came second to Achiltibuie, but not by much. The fixed oars did seem to give us a more power without losing power through sliding oars etc.

The Men’s and Women’s Open races were run in heats and we made it through to the finals coming second to Anstruther in the womens (beating Achiltibuie!) coxed by Margaret and coming second in the mens to Achiltibuie (coxed by Rosie in the first heat and Sean in the final); Achiltibuie did come from so far away that it was only fair really!

The Golden Ladies, coxed by Ali, smashed their opponents picking up the only gold medals for RowPorty on the day.  They looked very pleased with themselves!

Our beloved Ancient Mariners did valiantly to take bronze against a number of other teams that were “over 50’s”, whereas our lads mostly qualify for an “over 60’s” team, so respect to the boys.

Our Novices or Newbies also developed a taste for victory coming first in their heat and taking Silver on the final.

We hope they are now truly bitten by the skiffing bug and we will see them rowing frequently and getting involved with the club at every level (i.e. at the pub).x

We were not able to put in a youth team this time; as we all know, trying to get teenagers to commit to turn up for a row is like herding cats in the dark, so we hope to have more luck with this in future.  The winning team from Crail had 10 years olds in their team, who hardly stuck out above the gunnels, but rowed their wee socks off.  They did have some very light, bought oars, something for us to consider.

It was great to see a range of people who do not always row together to be able to jump into the boat and within a few minutes were rowing like they had done so for years.  There were many different people who coxed and did a grand job of it.  Although we have a large club and it may seem, at times, that we never row with the same people, it does mean that we have a wide pool of people that row regularly and can take anyone on J.

Although it was sunny and lovely, the green Rowporty t-shirts require the wearer to be hardy or hypothermic in order to be able to display the clubs colours.  It might be time to design and order some new club wear, such as a sweatshirt/fleece or jackets, maybe woolly hats and some caps which members could buy at cost.

Ali mentioned Fergus’s portable BBQ, which worked very well and kept everyone fed between races.  Many thanks chef extraordinaire, hope you did not end up out of pocket.

The few RowPorty kids that were dragged to this event did a great job walking and looking after the many dogs that travel to these events with the folk from Anstruther, not to mention our own Rosie with Murphy.

The scoring system employed on the day meant that, because we entered every racing category coming second or third, it meant that we collected more points than Achiltibuie (who won the men’s open, the mixed open and the men’s veterans, but they failed to qualify for the women’s open final and did not have a team in the Novices race) making us the overall winner on the day.  To our surprise we were presented with the Gallacher Heath Sheild, which will be inscribed with RowPorty 2012 (like the Ullapool Shield carries the RowPorty 2011 inscription J).

The overriding memory of the event was that it was a relaxed day, with a bunch of lovely folk from our community who were grateful for the weather, the facilities and the ability to take part, equally.

Thanks again to all of you who made this possible.

Cheers

Ice Breaker’s London Holiday

The Great River Race 2012

Seven intrepid travellers (Kay, Bill, Barbara, Nik, Frances, Andres and Ice Breaker) travelled to London to take part in the 25th Great River Race. We were blessed with sunny warm weather and a river full of rowing boats of every kind.

The drive to London took 9 hours, we set off at 06:00 on Friday morning from Portobello and arrived at the Milwall slip, on the Isle of Dogs, East London, at around 15:00.

After unloading the boat on the slip we drove for 2 hours through London’s Friday rush hour traffic to the campsite and the race finish-line, Ham, SW London. We got through the town unscathed but our friends from Achilitibuie had their trailer rammed from behind by a local 4×4.

North Berwick, which had both boats in London, paid the £70 per boat towage fee, which means they were able to drive straight to the campsite and get their boats towed down the river to the start line on Saturday morning. They stepped into their boat off the pontoon while we had to wade through the soft London mud!

After setting the tents up on Friday it was not long before we found a bar and band to go with our allocation of hog roast. It was not long after that we crawled into our sleeping bags.

On Saturday breakfast was served between 04:30 and 06:30! The bus left the campsite at 06:30 to take us through London to the start line, where our boat waited excitedly. The sun rose as we crossed Westminster Bridge revealing a flat Thames river reflecting Westminster and Big Ben framed against a blue sky. It looked very promising indeed.

After registration we launched at around 09:15, but as our start time was not until 11:10, we decided to row down river and across to Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark. We then had time to drift upriver, on the flooding tide, to the 5min waiting area. This was quite a busy place with many boats drifting around as crews got themselves sorted. Our start went off with little incident and we quickly overtook a number of small craft, bathtubs and the like!

Due to a mix up at registration, we were listed as an Acorn skiff, which sounds rather sweet, but it meant we started 8 min ahead of Achiltibuie and the 2 North Berwick Skiffs. You can imagine the stick we got for this bit of unintentional “cheating” (it did mean we had more time to complete the course before the tide turned!). We discussed this with the organisers but it was not possible to change our start time, so we were given an 8 min “penalty” added to our finishing time, which seemed fair.

Despite the 8min advantage Achiltibuie overtook us just after Tower Bridge and finished the race 30 min ahead of us! In fact they came second overall in the mixed category, beating many long boats and most of the Gigs, so they really did the St Ayles skiff community proud. They did however go to bed much earlier than us :)

Tower Bridge looked fantastic with loads of people cheering us on. We had our Viking hat on, it felt good returning to this stretch of water after so many centuries!!

The river was deceptively flat at the beginning of the race, but as soon as we passed under Tower Bridge and turned into the wind we found a considerable chop coupled with the wake of passing craft; we took some water over the bow making Bill a bit damp. Having a passenger in the bow and lots of (too much) gear, such as anchors, dry bags etc, made the boat sit bow heavy.

In future it would be desirable to place any gear, including anchors etc along the length of the bloat, and pick a light passenger (i.e. a child!). If really choppy the passenger should also move down the boat and sit next to the stroke.

We split the boat into 2 groups, 3 at the cox end and 3 at the bow end; this enabled us all to get a row. Every 30 min we changed position, but making sure we always kept 2 oars going at all times. Cox, Stroke and No. 3 swapped around while bow and No. 2 kept rowing, then the passenger on bow swapped with the person rowing on bow or No. 2 while Stroke and No. 3 continued to row.

There was a leisure barge taking supporters and we enjoyed the support and cheering from that boat as we approached the last few bridges. There are 28 bridges to go under, which made it spectator friendly. We enjoyed being overtaken, sometimes under the bridges, by the long boats (6 oars), the whale boats (8 oars) and the Dragon Boats (16 paddles).

The race is a stern chase, so the slowest boats get to go first and every minute thereafter a load of faster boats would start. We managed quite a lot of overtaking, but there were many more which overtook us!

In the end we came 183rd out of 320 boats; we did it in 3:20min, so with the additional 8 minutes “handicap” our official time was 3:28min. We came 3rd in the St Ayle skiffs (out of 4!), but we were on cruise mode rather than race mode. So it should be quite easy for future Rowporty crews to break our “record”.

Getting the boats out of the water is quite chaotic. The temptation is to head for the beer tent, which we did, but it would be worth taking the launching trolleys to make recovery easier and by-pass the trailer rammy at the end. The larger boats were recovered with the use of a crane, which adds complexity to the recovery of smaller boats like ours.

The return journey took 9 hrs to Edinburgh. We did exactly 900 miles in total, at a cost of around £200 for fuel. The total cost of the entry fee, camping, food, the bus and fuel was £750, or £125 per person based on 6 people sharing the costs; this does not include the cost of one person return train travel to London. This is not a cheap trip and future crews probably should also be self-funding as the club could not afford to pay this sort of money for 6 to go away and row.

If we were to take both boats next time, we should consider having both boats on one trailer, which would reduce the need for 2 towing vehicles. The green trailer behaved impeccably and could be adapted to take the 2 boats.

In conclusion, it was a very special row, it was amazing how quickly three and a half hours of rowing can pass when there is so much to take in! You could also say “it’s a bloody long way to go for a row” :)

Dalriada Regatta – smiles all round

Where to start, another brilliant event, which made me proud to be part of such a great club, happy to be rowing somewhere new, heartened by how everyone pitched in, helped get boats there (thanks Claire Alex, Ali and King Connel) and of course lashed down and supplied with oars, seats and the other essentials. (Still got the VHF) We came from different directions, but most people opted to do a short or longer bit of sightseeing. I was just thrilled to be camping in Glenarm Castle grounds: felt like a house guest, apart from the portaloo and cold dishwashing!

The Motorhome Club made for interesting neighbours in the field. Kaftans, projected roaring fires, sing-a-longs, slide shows. They had it all! We were in company with North Berwick, and Port Seton camping, Royal West were in a B&B and Anstruther were in a house up the hill. We were made so welcome by organiser Elaine – check her smile on the facebook page – and all set for the coxes briefing on Sat, and the aptly named endurance race. We entered a men’s team, the other skiffs were women or mixed teams. The starts were every minute from 11am, an interesting idea. We overtook Anstruther, and nearly caught NB – gratifying as they began 3 minutes before us. Our champion men managed the truly huge course in 38 minutes, the shortest time by the Universal Yawls, rowed by the Irish clubs, was 30 minutes. So, that was how we won the first race, but Anstruther Ladies got Gold medals for being the first skiff ladies. The album on Facebook of the prizegiving does correctly indicate just how many medals and smiley faces there were. Next three races were U14s, U16s, and U18s, with the Baccica family making up half the team, Joe and we recruited young Leo Murphy from Port Seton to make the only skiff crew. Those Universals turn on less than a sixpence, so did make the sprint course a bit faster than us. Interesting start: coxes had to hold a numbered lane buoy, and turn around a numbered one too. Made for very prompt starts.

Andres coxed Claire, Sarah, me and Syb to victory in the women’s category, but the compeition from Anstruther had rowed the endurance race too, so tough for them. But I am not going to say I wasn’t thrilled to get a rowing as well as a coxing gold medal. Great stroke from Claire, and generally great team effort. Our men had all rowed the 6k endurance, and a tough warm up and reccy with me earlier, so did well to come 3rd in their race, and Frannie and Patsy made fresh muscle sufficient to win the last race, the mixed. Yahoo RowPorty, what a day.

So after the courtesy £5 lunch vouchers had been spent at the fair, we had much smiling to do at the prize giving (try to spot El Spando in the snaps on Facebook, as the juniors nicknamed a lycra sporting young winner) Must work well with all the Pledge they use to make their seats especially slide-y.

Next delight for some was a shower courtesy of the lovely marina manager, then it was all on for the Pirates of Porty, as we donned stripey tops, eye patches and swashbuckled with our  cardboard cutlasses. Many thanks to the Mauritzens big and small for cutting eye patches, cardboard, foil work, and generally using their Blue Peter genes. Some of the costumes in the fancy dress parade were awesome, Mr and Mrs Potato head, lots of cute tots, vintage vehicles. We processed down through the village centre, to a free BBQ, then there was a concert, and a late evening firework display from Glenarm Castle. Astonishing, and delightful. We then were just a bit tired to manage the disco in the room over

 the pub where Elaine assured us Steve would keep the bar open as long as we wanted!

I am probably biased, but it really was a brilliant regatta, we were made so welcome, the races were great, I would HIGHLY recommend going next year, and perhaps we could better co-ordinate vehicles and things the way Port Seton did, and share vehicle costs on the ferries.

As ever, the people made it. Patsy is the most independent, smart travelling and compact camper ever, as well as a winning rower. Claire and Alex we all know are extraordinarily helpful, gracious and effacing, the Baccicas were all their usual brilliant selves, the Mauritzens are always there and generous with shower gel, rocky road, a helping hand, funny song or good grace when you need it, and it was lovely to have Francis, Ruby and Andres back, making us smile, challenging my coxing (guess who?). All the Porty Rowers got gold medals, and we have a new trophy for our non existent trophy cabinet, in our non existent club house. Yay!

After a Century, Scottish Cultural Treasure Returning to the Firth

Oyster dredging at Prestonpans in 1862

On the 20th of June, an international collaboration will restore to the Firth of Forth the ancient ‘dreg songs’, unique traditions of the local oyster fishery. From 7:30 PM, just off Portobello Promenade near the Dalriada Bar Boatie Blest, Rowporty and Newhaven Coastal Rowing, three Scottish Coastal Rowing clubs, will offer their interpretations of these rowing songs both in their boats (weather permitting) and in the pub. Using recently discovered wax cylinder recordings and typed texts from the 1920s and 30s the clubs will recreate these songs assisted by American folklorist Bob Walser. Wednesday evening will be the first singing of these songs on their home waters in a century!

To add to this festive occasion, the Museums Department from the City Art Centre will be bringing traditional fishwives costumes from Newhaven and a display of photographs related to fishing in the Firth of Forth. In addition, a special ‘Dreg Songs Ale’ has been brewed by Inveralmond Brewery and will be available on the night. Of course, a celebration of oyster fishing songs requires oysters and Michael Pollington of Pollington’s Fine Food and Drink has arranged with a local fishmonger to have fine Scottish oysters to enjoy. This will be a truly historic occasion. Recognizing this, both Edinburgh Napier University and Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh will be sending students to document the evening, interview participants and create an archival record of this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

The event is being created with the help of the James Madison Carpenter Collection Project, Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen and the Library of Congress (USA) which holds the wax cylinders where these songs were discovered. In addition to all the participants, thanks are due to the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA), the American Folklore Society and The British Academy for supporting the research that will enable these communities to celebrate their traditions in this unique way. Come enjoy an evening by the Firth celebrating these unique and fascinating Scottish song traditions!

For further information, contact Bob Walser, dregsongs@bobwalser.com.

If you’d like more information about the project, contact Bob Walser on 001-612-598-6842
(in the USA, 6 hours earlier than Portobello, please call after 1PM Scotland time).

Far away in Achiltibuie

I think all of us who went to Achiltibuie would agree that we had a fantastic weekend, even though we didn’t win a single race, although we did come 2nd three times.

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After a chilly wind & night when we arrived, the weather faired up nicely on the Saturday, so although windy at times during the day, by the evening we were sitting out in glorious sunshine.

The campsite is in a lovely location, with good facilities & the only pub for miles around (I think!?) just up the hill.

RacingbeachDesres

The racing beach was stoney, but with plenty of space for skiffs, people, transport, trailers & marquee. Nick & Jude stayed in a bijou des res, shoreside – well found! There was a good spread at lunchtime thanks to the over 60s group of women, & as well as a burger & a panini van.

Icebreaker

Racing… what can I say, Achiltibuie came away the strongest team, followed by Anstruther & North Berwick. Despite giving our all, it wasn’t too be. Oars seemed to be a big factor, with other teams, especially Achiltibuie having lighter oars which they were able to use to power away… others can explain the detail of that better than I can! As an oar-maker last winter, this is obviously disappointing, but I think our oars are too heavy & not well balanced enough.

The evening celebration at the Coigach Community Hall was enjoyed by all, with a good spread of curries, chili etc. music & dancing. Some of us then ended up back at the pub or on the shore.

TaneracupArrivingattanera

On Sunday, there was a race across to Tanera (Summer Isles), with Achiltibuie winning by a comfortable margin, (see above), the prize being a champagne breakfast. Rowporty came second against stiff opposition from North Berwick. Other skiffs made a leisurely row to Tanera, including Icebreaker. Those who didn’t row, were taken across to Tanera on a boat (not sure what sort of boat it was but it looked as if it had been there almost as long as the mountains, it carried 30 folk at a time & made at least 4 trips there & back)

Champagnebreakfast

I was lucky enough to travel on the 3rd sailing & was able to view the skiff race along the way, not to mention the most beautiful sailing junk, built by Nick J’s brother & his girlfriend Charlotte which was on it’s maiden voyage. More pictures of this on Flikr

Junk

Overall we had a fantastic weekend with great hospitality from the Coigach team, who were also very willing to share the details of their oars, & Ali, Frank & Alex had a chance to try these out on the Sunday, so we have lots of food for thought on that front.

6 go mad on the Silvery Tay

Getting to Perth was painless and our arrival made up the Magnificent Seven flotilla of Port Seton (2), Anstruther (2), South Queensferry, Dunbar and Porty. Our crew consisted of the following fine athletes ; myself, Nik, Barbara, Claire, Alex and Stan. Launching at the sea cadets jetty gave little room for manoeuvre, but it was efficiently done, with 35 potential lifters for each boat.

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Once the rescue boat was fired up, we were off, in blazing sunshine. A perfect start to the day. Rather than take 2 crews, we opted for 1 crew and a ‘spare’ and took it in turns to sprawl out in the bow ‘nest’ of jackets, packed lunches etc. This trip has two distinct halves. The first follows a fairly narrow stretch of river, which was flowing, but not that fast and a good depth, even towards the banks. This gave us all time to take in the views that you don’t normally see from the motorway. If you forget about trying to row in time – which this crew managed easily (!), then it’s possible to enjoy the scenery and the impressive stately homes and curious follies up on the hills that this trip offers. It also allows for a bit of seal spotting with the seals coming surprisingly high up the river.

Silverytay1

Once we settled into our style, the crew came into their own. Despite only guest appearances at rowing these days, Nik demonstrated he’s still a man to watch, by rowing effortlessly in stroke oar for ages, without a bead of sweat. That is, in between fag breaks.

On a long row, it’s always good to have at least 1 entertainer in the boat who can sing, recite poetry, play the ‘moothie’ and tell endless tall tales for miles and miles and miles.It takes your mind off the rowing when tiredness sets in. However, it’s also helpful if they go for a snooze in the bow ‘nest’ every so often to give the crew a bit of respite. Phew, peace! But we love you Stan xxx ;-p

Just under 2 hrs later, Newburgh was in sight. We landed on a slipway, to be greeted by a foot of sludgey mud under the water. Nae luck to those wearing the short wellies ! Once on dry land, we were treated to a viewing of the Newburgh boat which was drying in the sunshine and has just about got all its planks on. The team there have an excellent base in what looks like a derelict farm building. So, we should be seeing that boat on the water soon. The lunch stop was leisurely, but we were in the hands of the tide, so we relaunched through the squelch and were off again.

Silverytay2

After a generous lunch, both Claire and Barbara tried in vain to introduce ’10 hard ones’ into the proceedings, to pick up the pace, but the crew were having none of it. In fact, it was at this stage that we showed the versatility of the Porty crew, by swopping our traditional pole position for one, several boats lengths behind the rest of the flotilla. On a number of occasions, with darkness falling and the tide receding, Andrew from Port Seton cranked up the engine on the rescue boat and towed us along so that it looked like we were still part of the same trip. We were way behind! Ha ha….FACT ! Okay, so by mile 12, we were flagging a bit.

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Shortly after Newburgh, the river widens out into a Firth and the conditions become more sea like and the rowing slightly harder. It is at this point that you experience what can only be described as ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’. Let me explain….the get-out for this trip is just after the Tay rail bridge, which is visible in the *distance* and hours later….it is STILL in the distance and even when you think you are getting close….it’s nowhere near – hence the label ‘the Tay Bridge Disaster’.Possibly even an April fool. However, we persevered and enjoyed clear views of Dundee in all its glory . It looks so much prettier from the water — sorry, Dundee.

18 miles later and all a bit dazed, we had reached our destination before darkness fell and with enough chop and a tiny wee slipway to aim for, coxing to the finish line was a bit of a challenge. If you notice charred marks on oar no 3, this is because Alex must have been feeling the burn. Fuelled mainly by a wee tin of oily oysters (yes, tin — and yes, oysters!) eaten with his fingers, Alex rowed and rowed and rowed, refusing all offers of a rest. Only the promise of chips was enough to persuade him to surrender his oar because we had- in fact- arrived at our destination and it was time to STOP. Well done, that man. Another one to watch.

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On dry land again, we were greeted by a very welcome hot cuppa, courtesy of the Wormit Sailing Club and we all congratulated each other on reaching the finish line in what was an epic row — particularly the last few miles when the waves and the wind had picked up. I really hope some of you get the chance to do this row for yourselves. It’s an interesting one.

But, we still had to load up the boat….There followed a bit of trailer-ballet as Stan demonstrated his ability to reverse it all around a harbour and still manage to get it nowhere near our boat. Quite an achievement really ! However, he did show his skill at being able to reverse closer to lots of other things, like within a foot of the pier edge and more impressively within inches of the Port Seton boat — you should have seen their startled faces. Boatie Rows lives to see another regatta – just !

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Oh and the Silvery Tay is in fact an excellent chippie, just up the hill from Wormit Sailing Club. (Bring your own sauce!)

Big thanks to all the crew. Don’t take any of my sarcasm personally, you all made it great. Stan, you were a legend from start to finish, so big thanks and I hope your chicken dinner was worth the wait.

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.

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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

A Few Memories…

In October 2009 Robbie Whiteman, convenor of the SCRA, attended a PS&KC meeting at the Beach House to explain the Scottish Fisheries Museum initiative to re-introduce rowing to the Forth through community boat building.

Ali Grant & I immediately caught on to the idea and we discussed how we would go about it. I agreed to find a workshop space and buy the first kit from Alec Jordon in Anstruther.

We were one of the first clubs to purchase the kit, which gave Alec the cash to buy some marine plywood. Ali said she would get the funding for it!

I called Nik, who was in France at the time and he was enthusiastic to lend his tools & his joinery skills to the project.

As part of raising awareness of the project in Portobello we managed to get the first prototype skiff which Alec had built, to Porty beach for a trial row. Everyone who came along was captivated by the boat on the flat sea in January, on a sunny afternoon.

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By January 2010 we had secured the workshop space from BL Developments at the old power station site. The best thing about it was that it was free! By February 2010 we started building Ice Breaker and by May we had her launched, a few days before the inaugural skiff regatta at Anstruther.

In the mean time Ali had secured funding from the Lottery Heritage fund and we were already thinking about building a second boat. However, Nik & I were wondering if anyone would row the boat while we were painting Ice Breaker.

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Jenny Skylark was built with many more hands (around 30) and it took all winter (Dec — April) and she was launched with much funfair with BBC Alba in attendance.

Since we have attended regattas in Port Soy, Achiltibuie, Dunbar, North Berwick, Port Seton, Anstruther, South and North Queensferry, Ullapool, and we have run 2 successful regattas in Portobello. We have also rowed the Tweed, the Tay, the Union Canal, Musselburgh Lagoons (twice) & Inchcolm Island. The boats have been in constant use around 5-6 days per week with over 80 paid members getting out on the water.

We have unwittingly created a dynamic community group with a wide range of ages and people from many walks in life. My happiest moments include launching Ice Breaker, launching Jenny Skylark, reading the kids stories to name Ice Breaker, winning the men’s open in Achiltibuie! And ending up as champions for the 2011 regatta season. My worse moments include loosing 2 generators, arguing with Nik, arguing with Ali, arguing with myself and neglecting my family.

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We set out to build a boat, but we ended up with RowPorty, a wicked rowing club, filled with an eclectic blend of newcomers and old timers. RowPorty gives people easy access to the sea through a healthy sport that is inclusive, extremely social, great fun, open to all.

We launched both boats using pagan rituals and we have remained a-political; the core value is to have fun and we have remained un-stuffy, relaxed and welcoming.

So we have 2 lovely boats fully kitted out, a place to store them, a quad to launch them, a good IT forum (BigTent), a busy blog, a wide membership, a cabinet full of trophies, blisters, sore bums and a whole lot of old and new friends.

As we look into the future I hope we can maintain the enthusiasm for rowing in Portobello which must include more younger people. I hope the club can continue to maintain its core (slightly) anti-establishment values. I also look forward to many more expeditions to explore new routes that can become established, and safe, adventures for all members.

I would also like to see a better integration with the PS&KC and many more successful Portobello Rowing Regattas.

Finally, I would like to thank you all for all your support and encouragement over the past 2 years.

I would like to wish the new co-convenors (Sean and Emma – SAMENAME) the best of luck for the year ahead and I am sure we will all support them in any way we can.

Tay-crew

Cheers and much love
Andres