Rowporty at Portobello Village Fair

We spent Sunday 6th Sept at the 2015 Portobello Village Show turning burgers into cash – very successfully. We won’t be giving up our day jobs but we did enjoy ourselves.

We ran the day in a very focused fashion and once we started we didn’t pause for breath until the last burger was sold.

We had Andres & Fergus on chef duty, Emily, Mhairi  and Gillian serving up the lovely burgers and Larry and MC relieving punters of their cash. Lots of folk stepped in to help including Mhairi’s kids.

A massive effort from Fergus to get burgers and his famous “onions” at the right place & time. Mhairi did a Scotmid-smallwonderful job with tasty salads. Andres connected with the wonderful ScotMid of Portobello who sponsored us by way of free burger buns – very handy and very much appreciated. In total we made £500 profit and given the demand we could have done it twice over.
The day itself couldn’t have been more perfect – the brass band, tug-of-war, cake stand and lots of happy people milling about. Our main competition on the “hot food” front was the boys brigade – but our queue was longer! A note for next year to myself – get masses of change for the float – nobody uses cash anymore.

Loch Shiel Jacobite Muster

6 of us from Rowporty went to the Jacobite Muster, Ali took the North Edinburgh skiff: Troika, whilst Max, Calum, Chris, Mhairi & Patsy went with Ice Breaker.

We set off in wet, windy weather from Portobello, Max & Calum towing Ice Breaker, whilst Mhairi, Chris & Patsy travelled together. We only stopped off once, to brew a cup of tea in Glencoe. The weather improved as we went. We got across the Corran Ferry in no time at all & arrived at Acharacle, the starting point of our row up Loch Shield to the Jacobite Muster at Glenfinnan. Ice Breaker & the guys already there. There was a bit of a chill wind. We set off as we were ready: North Queensferry first, then Ullapool, Rowporty, Anstruther & the other 4 skiffs a bit later.

It was about a 2 hour row to Glenalandale where we were due to wild camp for the night, luckily we had the wind behind us to help us along & the rain held off. Although we had a lot of kit, it didn’t impede us at all. We reached our camping point at dusk. Just enough time to pitch our tents & get supper on the go. Mhairi ably assisted by Chris, treated us to a wonderful meal of salmon teriyaki, managing everything on one burner, whilst I cooked the noodles (I think!). It felt as if she fed 5000 of us, although in reality it was probably 8 – 10 folk. Absolutely brilliant meal – if this is the standard to expect on wild camping trips, please can I come again!

After supper, some of us, well probably only me, sloped off to get some kip, whilst most sat round a campfire into the wee small hours [Campfire story here please]. The camping was fine, a few midges to annoy us, but nothing too drastic.  It was great to be camping with a largish group who had all rowed to get there & well away from cars & all mod cons, relying on our wits.


Wild Camping in Glenalandale

The next morning before striking camp we were treated to another feast of Vegetarian sausages, mushroom & potato scones cooked in egg – absolutely delicious once again – thanks to Mhairi & sous chef Chris. We struck camp in the sunshine & I was optimistic enough put on sunscreen without having the sense to check the sky – the next minute it was pelting down & we had a good soaking for 15-20 minutes. However, with spirits undampened, we set off rowing in company towards Glenfinnan. As this was ‘Troika’s maiden voyage we decided to salute her as we arrived at Glenfinnan, which we all enjoyed.

The only disappointing part of the trip was our arrival at Glenfinnan where we were underwhelmed by the welcome, which I would describe as ‘polite indifference’, although a few folk did welcome us, not sure if they were locals or tourists.

Soon after we arrived, Max & Mhairi took a minibus with others to go & collect their cars/trailer. I went briefly into the highland games, as did Chris & Calum, but  soon found some Boatie Blest folk at the visitor centre having tea, whilst I held my wine under the table taking an occasional slug! Later I had a row in Troika & then set off to have a cuppa in the railway carriage at the station that’s used as a cafe. Whilst there I saw the Jacobite Express which stopped briefly at Glenfinnan station before going on its way. I then walked under the railway line & along a crazy path which led me up to a vantage point where I could look down on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, with great views also down Loch Shiel.


Meanwhile Chris stayed on at the Highland Games & ran a hill race of which he writes:

After we came ashore at Glenfinnan I spent most of the afternoon at the highland games. I had noticed that a ‘hill race’ was on the list of events virtually at the end of the day. I was keen to take part in this as taking part in a highland games would be a first for me. I had no idea how long the race would be (there are some big hills around Glenfinnan!) but on enquiring I learnt that it was more of a mad dash up to the top of a nearby viewpoint just behind the visitor centre and then back into the arena.

In the meantime I had a few hours leisure to take in some of the events. These included dancing, piping, track and ‘heavy’ events, including the caber which, although open to all comers I was not tempted to take part! Also noteworthy were a number of magnificently attired Jacobite soldiers who looked as of they had stepped straight off the pages of one of the military history books in which I had sought inspiration for Porty’s own outfits for the occasion. It would be fair to say that it would take weeks of work to achieve the authenticity which these soldiers had attained, complete with broadswords, flintlock muskets and dirks. After a parade around the arena this contingent took up a defensive position around the beer tent and held this formation until the close of the games.

Of particular interest to me was to see pipers competing in the pibroch (piobairachd) competition. This is the oldest form of music written for the bagpipes and although not the easiest to appreciate, when performed in such an atmospheric setting as this with a backdrop of the loch and its surrounding hills, it was hard not to be moved by it.

Shortly before the hill race there was the tug of war. This was keenly contested but in the end the strongest team and incidentally the smartest dressed, being all clad on the local estate’s tweed were clear winners.

The adults’ hill race was preceded by the junior event run over the same course. It was easy enough to track the runners’ progress up and back down the hill before they reentered the arena to loud cheers and applause. The winner was incredibly quick and I overheard mutterings that there was no way he should have been in the junior event! When the last junior runner was back in the adults race began. The ascent of the hill was step and muddy and the descent reminded me of the cheese filling race which takes place on Gloucestershire and results in a large number of hospitalisations reach year. There were fortunately none on this occasion and we were all soon back on the arena bring greeted by the cheers of the crowd. A great feeling! One of the ‘ghillies’ ran and was awarded the prize of first finisher wearing tweeds!”

Once we all assembled again we decided to head off to Arisaig where we hoped to row the next day. Extensive tooing & froing there whilst we tried to find somewhere to wild camp in the face of full campsites & endless notices telling us we couldn’t camp or park overnight. Eventually, Chris pointed us in the direction of Rhu & Mhairi’s persistence paid off. Right at the end of the road I spied a possible spot with a lovely view over to the small isles. We parked Ice Breaker just a few yards away in a lay-by & finally pitched our tents – only to be attached by a plague of the little blighters. We retreated to a natural ‘kitchen’ nearer the sea where we had another superb meal of salmon & pasta & drank yet more wine. I went off to bed early, but the others sat up late round the camping stoves (no fires this time – as it felt like wild camping was pushing our luck here). We had a leisurely breakfast the next day before heading in to Arisaig.
As the tide was wrong for launching, Mhairi Chris & I decided to head off home. On the way back we stopped in Glencoe under the 2nd sister, they went for a swim, whilst I brewed some coffee & we had a leisurely picnic of left overs. We sat for well over an hour sharing stories of our families & just hanging out on the warm hillside. Brilliant! Our last adventure was a deviation down Glen Orchy – great to get away from the A road & into a winding back road.

Thanks to Max & Calum for towing Ice Breaker, & to all for good company & a great trip.

Eskmuthe Regatta – Sat 1st Aug

RowPorty attended the Fisherrow fun regatta organised by our wonderful nearest skiffing neighbours, Eskmuthe, on Saturday 1st August.

A hardy crew rowed down, arriving when we were still awaiting the tide to come in sufficiently to begin racing, so it was a bit of a wade ashore through a goopy seaweed layer that stayed at the water’s edge all day – and reminded RowPorty folk how incredibly lucky we are in Porty – so close and a different beach altogether.

The first race was Mixed Open, Laura, Sean, Peter and I were ably coxed by post-Ali/SCRA training cox supremo Sandra S, to a respectable third, behind Port Seton (1) and North Berwick (2).
The next race was the women’s open, Pam, Sandra S, Amanda and Rebecca racing to a second, very narrowly beaten by Port Seton.

The next race was the mens open, with Bill, Christopher, Fraser and Sean, with our second Ace cox called Sandra of the day, Sandra A. Place?

The decades race had Rebecca for 30s, ? ? and ?. Place?
The weather then turned its good mood off, and chucked down huge quantities of water, some frozen, in a short space of time, in fast moving air. So a break in Fisherrow Yacht clubhouse was just the ticket, while some of us huddled in the minute beach shelter tent, or helped Eskmuthe gather kit and stow it out of the weather. Those coxes jackets make staying out fine, it is like wearing a centrally heated tent.

The sun came out again in time for one last race, the pick and mix. Such a nice way to get to know people from other clubs, even if only momentarily.

Eskmuthe had made really lovely medals from post-build parts of Steedie Falconer. (picture), Port Seton got the majority!

While we didn’t manage any firsts rowing, RowPorty did triumph in the last competitive event of the day, the Tug of war. There were heats, which meant the RowPorty crew of 4 men and 3 women (we asked if that was to make it fair to the men? But it was teams of 7.) Anyway, our magnificent seven was ably coached by Fraser who helped us show our strength, stamina and ability to work together with tactics, and winning three times in a row, to victory. Exhausting and used a whole batch of new muscles which still ache on Monday! But fun.

Fabulous baking, rolls and coffee, and a marvelous tombola too, with superb salesmanship and general cheer from the younger Eskmuthe club members.

Some RowPorty folk rowed the boat home, others drove back to collect rowers, or get to dry clothes. The upside of staying on, a bit salty, sandy and seaweedy about the feet, was great craic in the bar with Port Seton, and then an amazing evening of performances by Eskmuthe. Amazing talent, I cannot imagine singing and playing the guitar after organising a regatta and dealing with hurricane-feel squalls. Eskmuthe said they’d let us know if they were having another social evening – can’t recommend it highly enough. Brilliant end to a great fun day.

Rowporty’s adventures in the Outer Hebrides

Twenty members of Rowporty and their families made the annual pilgrimage to Lewis to attend the launch of An Eather’s new skiff, Yackydoola, on Wednesday 15th July 2015 with our good friends at Siabost, a coastal community on the west coast.

This year’s programme extended over 4 days, which included the launch of Yackydoola, 2 ceilidhs, a Hangi, and over 30 miles of coastal rowing.

See the report on BBC Alba of the launch of Yackydoola:

There is a video of the launch posted on An Eather’s facebook page, which can be viewed on YouTube.

After the launch, which took place in the fresh water Loch a’ Bhaile, in Siabost, we were all treated to a lovely lunch at the old school, soup, sandwiches and cakes made by the generous Siabost ladies.

After the launch of Yackydoola, three skiffs (Jenny Skylark from Portobello, Yackydoola and the Stornoway skiff Madadh Ruadh) were launched in Stornoway harbour to take part in the Stornoway parade of oar and sail as part of the Hebfest. We had 3 crews row JS around the harbour and out to the Rubha Airinis light house in glorious sunshine and a light breeze.   The fish were not to be found.

After a day of rowing we refuelled with a fish supper in Stornoway before heading to the ceilidh at the Sea Angling Club in Stornoway, which saw some energetic dancing by those attending and some local tuneless singing about rambling and gambling, which we all thoroughly enjoyed, probably for the wrong reasons.

On Thursday 16th July, the 3 skiffs were launched at Crossbost on the East coast of Lewis, south of Stornoway, with the aim of rowing to Keose, around 5 miles. We had wall to wall sunshine and rowed in company, with a fishing boat for safety cover, plus 2 yachts and the dipping lug. The row involved navigating past salmon farms in calm sheltered waters. We spotted sea eagles in flight and made it to our picnic lunch on a beach with piles of discarded scallop shells.

Rowporty ‘borrowed’ the Stornoway skiff for the day, which enabled virtually everyone to get a long row. Others had the opportunity to crew the dipping lug back to Stornoway, where they were fortunate enough to see an Orca!

The plans for Friday 17th July changed due to the increasing wind speed and direction, so Murdo and his team at An Eather arranged for us to launch Yackydoola and JS in Uig, at a little place called Uigean, near Miavaig to row out to Loch Roag.

Seatrek were kind enough to offer one of their large ribs to accompany us and offer safety cover. The row involved rowing past several islands (Flodiah, Gousam, Fuaigh Beag) and returned via Grasabhaig. The wind had picked up but thankfully the return journey involved being pushed along by the wind while we fished. Only 2 small fish found on that day.

Rowporty had 2 crews for this long row, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Those on land had the privilege of an Ian Mackay special tour around the Tweed Mill, which involves taking over the place for an hour! The tour was cut short as Ian was called away on an emergency, he is the local fireman as well as a master weaver, crofter and the nicest man you are likely to meet anywhere. In the afternoon, some of those still on land, where able to enjoy a tour of the local Norse Mill and Black House with Angus Macleod, who has been so good to us over the past years.

In the evening we all met at the Old School in Siabost for a traditional Ceilidh. The Ness Melodian Band 7 accordions, which had everyone up dancing, a mixture of Rowporty and Siabost locals, a fine blend. There were a number of people taking turns for a song including Martine from Port Seaton, Ruby & Phoebe from Rowporty, Beth, Jennifer Spiers and several local Gaelic singers, including Ian Macaulay, Annie Maclennan, Wasp and Calum Angus Macdonald.

Can’t help falling in love with you sung by Ruby & Phoebe

Riptide sung by Ruby & Phoebe

On Saturday 18th July, another early start! This time we launched the 2 skiffs on the local fresh water loch at Siabost for tester sessions for local families. The weather was a bit dreich in the morning, but this did not put off the locals as there was a steady stream of people wanting to have a shot at one of the rowing boats. At one point we had 9 adults and children in JS!

At 1pm we were back at the Old School in Siabost for another lunch of soup, sandwiches, tea & coffee and a selection of home backing. Further tester sessions took place in the afternoon, until around 4pm, where the Yackydoola and JS eyed each other at the start line of a 1.5klm race around 3 buoys.

The race started well with Yackydoola getting a few yards ahead before JS overtook her on the way to the first buoy. The race was on as Yackydoola’s cox tried to overtake JS on the way to the second buoy by heading directly to buoy 3. It was a tight race around buoy 2 and 3. In the final straight, in sight of victory and in front of a large crowd (4 people, 6 sheep, 2 highland cows, 3 ducks and one goose) the boats where gliding along side by side, so close in fact that one of Jackydoola’s fine new oars with oak inserts, knocked Cathy clean off her seat, causing some hilarity and excitement, the boats crossed the imaginary waterly line to the sound of Ian Mackay’s pick up truck’s horn and cheers from the gathered crowds!

Then there was enough time to load the boats onto their respective trailers and head for the feast that was the Hangi. Murdo and his family have been holding a Maori Hangi in Siabost for the past 15 years and we were lucky enough to be invited this year. As you would imagine, it was a feast which we devoured with gusto. Then came puddings, every kind of crumble and cake you can imagine, to die for.

The prize giving took place after the Hangi:

Finally, a big thank you to Murdo and his family for their warm hospitality and for all those in Siabost, who have been so generous with us again this year. We look forward to returning the kind hospitality when you come to see us in Portobello in the not too distant future.

From Rowporty’s view point, it was great seeing the birth of another skiffing club with all the vibrancy, enthusiasm and friendship that comes from building a beautiful skiff and getting it on the water. A great addition to the Siabost community and we hope it helps to strengthen community bonds and enables new links to be forged with other coastal communities.

Many thanks


  1. Latest video from Murdo

Rowporty at Portsoy 2014

22 adults, 13 kids, 2 dogs and several tents arrived at the beachside campsite on Friday night viewing the wind and waves with trepidation. The following morning a downpour ensued and the waves rose higher. The races were cancelled and rowers looked crestfallen. The Portsoy team staged an improvised ‘dressage’ event in the New Harbour with impressive imagination. One boat at a time the teams rowed forward 9 boat-lengths, did a 360° turn, rowed backwards, then performed a 180° turn before racing to the finish line. The command of the cox (and crews’ ability to follow orders) was crucial: for some it was smooth, for others like dodgems…

Rowporty did well winning the Women’s Open (in Ulla) and the Mixed Open in JS. The men’s open team also raced in Ulla but were pipped to the post by one second by Boatie Blest – not bad given that the rudder broke mid race!

By popular request (well Wendy Clements’), the whole crew – kids and all – performed the sea shanty at the ‘award ceremony’ spurring on Port Seton to sing each time they were called up as winners! A lovely touch was the presentation of a net of handpainted stones to each club who attended.

Then the sun came out and BBQ and bonfires ensued – for some lasting well into the night… notwithstanding, 7 of the Club – including Lewis – set out on Sunday morning in a downpour to run the Herring Run 10k. Happily the weather soon changed for the better and for the rest of the day.

More alternative races were concocted for day 2 of the regatta as the waves were still high. Two boats at a time raced (bounced) from the harbour entrance, around separate buoys and back. As there were 15 boats competing there were quite a few outings – the fastest time over all being the winners in the category:

Mixed open – Boatie Blest 3:59
Womens 40+ – Rowporty 4:10
Mens 40+ – Boatie Blest 3:25

Boatie Blest/Port Seton were the overall winners of the regatta with North Berwick and Rowporty sharing second place. There is a great write up on the SCRA website with links to fantastic pictures taken by the Eskmuthe crowd. You can see photos of the whole Portsoy Boat Festival experience here.

RowPorty – A Celebration – Fri 10th Jan 2014

What better way to start the new year than with a celebration of all things Row Porty?

  • Ever wondered how the whole Scottish Coastal Rowing revival came about?
  • How did Row Porty get started?
  • What does a skiff build look like from start to finish?
  • How did our boats get their names?

On Friday 10th January, at Portobello Community Centre, otherwise known as The Wash House, we will be taking you on a journey from the very first days of Row Porty right up to the present time. There will be a slide show, video clips, guest appearances and stalls displaying all manner of things from medals and trophies to strange tools used in the boat build.

As if that isn’t exciting enough, there will a screening of ‘Row Porty – The Movie’. This is a video document of a year in the life of Row Porty as teams attend a variety of regattas across Scotland and beyond. The film was made by one of our junior rowers, Katya and is an amazingly professional and entertaining piece of work. It also gives an insight into what’s involved in a regatta and the different conditions we find ourselves in. So, if you plan to race in 2014, come and see what you’re letting yourself in for!

This event is a great opportunity for long time members and those newer to the club to come together, have a wee celebration and muster our rowing prowess for the year ahead.

So, please sign up and come along. This is a one-off event, probably never to be repeated. Don’t miss it :)