This first leg of section 8 of the RowAround Scotland happened to coincide with the final day of this year’s Ullapool regatta; as most members of the club were still on the west coast, the honour of representing Avoch fell to the over 60’s. It was decided to row to Ardersier via North Kessock changing crews at North Kessock thus allowing two crews to participate. The Avoch crew were to be joined by a crew from Strathpeffer in Grebe and Portsoy in Soy Quine for a cruise in company.
We all launched at Avoch at 16.45 to allow plenty of time to reach North Kessock during slack water. We were taking Zephyr as Zulu was in Ullapool. The ladies crew of Pam, Cate, Shirley, Judy and Megan along with Grebe and Soy Quine set off on one of those balmy, sunny summer evenings with hardly any wind, ideal rowing conditions.
As we passed the rafts in the bay the terns, who nest on them, flew screaming into the air telling us to keep away. We rowed out of Avoch Bay heading south, south west towards the Kessock Bridge.
This was a route we had often taken as it is a popular social row destination. Below the woods on Ormond Hill a couple of herons were perched on rocks watching for fish. Soon Munlochy Bay was reached, a place where tea and cakes is often enjoyed whilst rowing, and we rowed across the mouth of the bay enjoying the view of Ben Wyvis to our right.
There’s nothing like being out on the water looking back towards the land, and rowing with skiff friends.
Rowing gives me the opportunity to exercise, socialise and at the same time look at wildlife on the Moray Firth, three things in one!
We then headed towards the village of Kilmuir and the Kessock Bridge, which we could see in the distance. We rowed steadily, enjoying hearing the sound of the blades cutting through the water.
Half way between Munlochy Bay and Kilmuir we stopped for a moment to allow Megan to take over as cox from Pam. We then began to pick up pace a little so that we could reach North Kessock in good time. The sun was shining as we passed Kilmuir and pushed on as we neared the Kessock Bridge.
I love the concept of a community boat. Everyone participates according to their own interests, whether it be boat building, fund raising or rowing in regattas. I enjoy being out on the water and Avoch has wonderful views in all directions. I have made wonderful friends and the chat on the boat (when we can draw breath) is always wide ranging and frequently entertaining.
We rowed under the bridge and along to the pier and pulled in to be met by the men who were to take over from us. We changed crews, waved the men off along with Strathpeffer and Portsoy, who were carrying on for the second leg, and they headed off towards the bridge. It was just high tide so it was slack water and that would make passing under the bridge much easier.
The crews, including the Avoch men – Peter, John, Alasdair, Keith and Alan – were to stay on the north shore for the start of the row and then head over to the opposite side once they had passed Longman Point. They crossed the Firth staying away from the shore and headed towards Alturlie Point. This was a new route for everyone as we rarely row on the other side of the Firth and never so close to Inverness. The men knew they had to keep away from the shore to avoid the shallows.
It reminds me of rowing sea cadet whalers on the Thames. Extended family worked on the water, lightermen etc. And cycling to Erith rowing club when I was a wee laddie to cox our men’s sweep teams. First come, first in or smallest gets the nod.
As the three crews headed towards the Castle Stuart golf course they were moving well with a gentle breeze and the tide in their favour. In the distance they could see the lighthouse at Chanonry Point and Fort George in the distance.
They rowed on towards Ardersier Bay and headed towards the beach. They could see a welcoming party of folks from Avoch, Strathpeffer and Portsoy ready to help pull the skiffs onto the beach. It had been a good afternoon’s row and everyone had enjoyed themselves and were now ready for a well deserved refreshment.