Ballantrae to Girvan – Section 2 | Day 3

Girvan CRC crew with paper lantern, 3/4 size model of the skiff, Carrick Light Festival 2018

Origins of Girvan Coastal Rowing Club

Construction of the Girvan skiff began at Girvan Academy in August 2012. Funding had been provided to the school by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. This school project was led by Girvan Academy Technical Department, P.T. David Wilson and technician Alan Gaff. Members of the community including Les Austin, Bill Swiatek and Walter Willis, added muscle and skill.

Logo designed by a Girvan Academy student

The Girvan skiff, named Creag Ealasaid (Gaelic for Ailsa Craig), was beautifully finished in shiny black, red and gold to match the Girvan Academy school uniform.
Creag Ealasaid, SCRA number 47 was launched on 21 June 2013 as part of the new Girvan Harbour pontoon Opening Ceremony. Girvan Coastal Rowing Club was set up in October 2013 and they’ve been rowing ever since!

RNLI Girvan Lifeboat practice rescue from skiff
Girvan crew compete at Girvan Lifeboat’s Annual Harbour Gala
Glorious Girvan
Creag Ealasaid crossing Girvan harbour bar on Launch Day

At Girvan there are no fewer than three rowing options: if wind, water and weather permit, rowers can enjoy sea rowing around Girvan Bay, with exceptional views of the seashore, the town and the green hills beyond. If there is an east wind or if the sea is too choppy, teams can still have a strenuous workout within the extensive harbour, with an audience of cormorants, seagulls and redshanks to cheer them on.

For paddlers who prefer a more relaxed experience on the water, Creag Ealasaid can also be rowed gently along the River of Girvan, allowing a chance to share this quiet, leafy world with resident swans, herons and ducks.

The Girvan skiff is conveniently moored at one of the smart new pontoons in Girvan Harbour, so rowers can step easily aboard; no lifting to launch; no tidal restrictions, just muster a crew and a cox to go rowing.

Comments in the Rowing Log Book from the Girvan crew

Sheer heaven, out for two hours and watched the sun start to set.

Ian the coxswain (see photo right) is now looking for a suitable light for the boat so we can continue night rowing.

Tremendous run in the river. We came close to being washed out to sea, breaking waves inside the harbour, tested coxing skills, more than the rowers realised!! Very exhilarating, but good fun!! We then satisfied ourselves with a couple of circuits of the inner harbour.

‘That sinking feeling…’ Girvan crew rowing towards Culzean Castle at Carrick CRC’s Exciseman’s Chase
Quotes from Club Members
How do you feel when you are out on the water?
Rowing is enjoyable outdoor exercise (sometimes)!

What do you love about these coasts and waters?
All land looks so much better from water.
The south west coast of Scotland is the most beautiful in the world!
Where else can you see extinct volcanoes, snow covered peaks, corries and glaciated valleys all in a glance or the row of an oar?

— KT’s answers

How do you feel when you are out on the water?
I feel excitement. I love being so close to the water whether it’s a bit choppy or flat calm.

What got you into coastal rowing?
Seeing the skiff going out of the harbour and wishing I could join in. Then speaking to the Secretary on one of her recruitment drives!

What do you love about these coasts and waters?
I enjoy looking at Girvan from the sea as it’s such a beautiful area of the town. The river is interesting with the wildlife, including herons, swans and ducks that you get to see.

— LM’s answers

How do you feel when you are out on the water?
Sometimes I’m reminded of carefree childhood days, bobbing around in a rowing boat off the west coast of Arran (but the fishing isn’t the same in a skiff with four oars in the way!)

Ailsa Craig on the horizon
What got you into coastal rowing?
I first rowed with Carrick Coastal Rowing Club: rowing across the heads of white horses was exhilarating for me! My first thrilling 2012 rowing adventure from Maidens harbour really fired my interest.

What do you love about these coasts and waters?

Our beautiful stretch of coastline offers westward views to Ailsa Craig, Arran, Kintyre and on clear days, towards the hills of Antrim. I love the varied rowing options of river, harbour and open sea at Girvan and perhaps best of all staying dry, as we step from the pontoon onto the skiff!

— RA’s answers

How do you feel when you are out on the water?
Unlike Ian I prefer calmer waters. It is quite exhilarating, refreshing, fun and good company. What got you into coastal rowing?
I kept looking at the sign on the railings near Girvan Harbour and thought it could be fun. I then saw the stall at the RNLI Harbour Gala and realised I knew some people who reassured me that it wasn’t full of young (no offence intended) really fit people. I came along for a couple of taster sessions, was made very welcome and really enjoyed it.

What do you love about these coasts and waters?
We have some terrific views in South Carrick; everything looks different when out on the sea.

— SS’s answers

How do you feel when you are out on the water?
Out bobbing about in a boat is bliss. I reckon it is the cure for all minor ailments. Elixir of life!

What got you into coastal rowing?
My wife, Caroline, dragged me into rowing. I was a happy dinghy sailor but, as an experienced master and commander, I joined Girvan CRC to help cox. Then seriously failed on my first voyage by crashing on to a rock in Gashouse Bay! Still need treatment for my PTSD.

What do you love about these coasts and waters?
Our Ayrshire coast has the best scenery by far, with views of ‘The Craig’ and Arran. Girvan looks even more attractive from offshore. We also have the opportunity to explore up the Great Girvan River, paddling in search of the mysterious place where treasures from all over the world can be found. One day we will reach that place… It’s called Asda.
Happy days!

— MD’s answers

The Route

Ballantrae to Lendalfoot

Launching at 0715 hours from the tidal Ballantrae Harbour, once a thriving port, the Girvan crew are reminded of jolly japes at Ballantrae Smugglers Festival when Clyde Coastal Rowing Clubs rowed out into the Bay to collect tobacco, salt and brandy booty from the tall ship, La Malouine, skilfully evaded the Excisemen and landed the goods on the shore at Ballantrae Bay.

For more skiffie pics at the Ballantrae Smugglers Festival, watch:

Girvan smugglers sneak up to La Malouine at Ballantrae Smugglers Festival

As we power northwards, the April sunshine beams down, so Club caps seem like a good investment. En route from Ballantrae to Lendalfoot, Rhona says, “Maybe go ashore for a bit? I need a rest.” Just then we pass close to Sawney Bean’s Cave and we are reminded of the legend of Alexander ‘Sawney’ Bean who lived there with his large clan, luring travellers down from the road above to be killed and eaten by this cannibal tribe.
At this, Rhona suddenly seems to perk up, pulling hard on the starboard oar. 11 knot winds from the south help to push us along towards Lendalfoot.

As we approach Carleton Bay for a crew change, the distinctive chunky shape of the Varyag Monument dominates the view. This large bronze cross was unveiled in 2007 to commemorate the Russian cruising vessel, the Varyag, which foundered off the Ayrshire coast in 1920. The crew had been celebrated as heroes in Russia when they refused to surrender in a battle of 1904.

The Girvan CRC crew themselves were feeling heroic as they hauled Creag Ealasaid on to the sandy beach.

Lendalfoot to Girvan

Rowing out from Lendalfoot, taking care to avoid the sharp rocks, the crew can gaze back towards Carleton Hill (158 meters) and the 15th century Carleton Castle. Someone no doubt regales us with the tale of the legendary Sir John Cathcart. He is said to have enriched his estate by murdering each of his heiress wives by pushing them off the Games Loup cliff path! Until he met his match, his ninth bride Mary Kennedy of Culzean, who ensured that he fell into his own trap, literally, as she cast John off the cliff to his death on the jagged rocks below. Engrossed in the tale, the rowing rhythm has gone all to hell, so Coxswain Ian calls his crew to order with his customary roar, “Together!”

The six mile row from Lendalfoot to Girvan goes without a hitch. Crossing the harbour bar into Girvan Harbour, the rowers who still have the strength give a cheer.
Calm as ever, coxswain Ian manoeuvres Creag Ealasaid and her crew smoothly into their berth at the pontoon, Lindy loops the rope over the bollard, and it’s done!

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