Today’s crew : Tom, Jules, Paul, Anna and Stephen. None of them had rowed before they got into Spirit for the first time. So what got them started? Tom was encouraged by his Mum, who rows at St Andrews. Jules was told what fun rowing is by a friend, and when she tried it, she had (and continues to have) a lot of fun in bow, especially when there are some waves to bounce over. Paul was informed by his wife that he would be attending a coastal rowing beginners course. Anna saw an ad on Facebook and thought it would be a fun thing to do with her husband, and so it has proved. Stephen joined the build and has not looked back except when coxing to see if Gourdon are behind us.
Rowing out of Catterline, we have to avoid getting too close to the reef on the northern side. This generates breaking waves that we fear and were painted by Catterline’s famous artist, Joan Eardley. Her paintings including one of the storm waves now adorn walls in the Scottish National Gallery.
As we row out of the bay, there is a big splash just behind us. It must have been one of the grey seals and yes, a few moments later a head pokes up out of the water and inspects us from a few metres behind.
The conversation in the boat starts up as to whether we will see dolphins. A few times every year we are lucky enough to see them, and once they leapt out of the water right in front of the boat, putting a show on for Spirit’s crew.
Yesterday we had skipped past the Garran, a sea arch and one of our favourite coastal features. So Spirit heads northwards for a half a mile and rows through the Garran. We all go quiet as the boat glides in, rowers nervous about how close the end of the oars are to the walls of the cliffs, the cox twitchy as she pulls the rudder strings to keep Spirit in the middle of the narrow passage. There are drips from the ceiling which with the darkness, make it an eerie feeling before we emerge into the small bay on the other side.
The next landmark is Todhead lighthouse. The older members of the crew recall when at night the light used to sweep over the village and when the haar rolled in, the horn would sound. We edge the boat into the narrow gaps between the rocks below the lighthouse. It’s time for some refreshment.
We continue southwards, onto the waters that Spirit of Catterline rarely passes. Again there are intimidating cliffs. The cox settles the crew down into a slow, steady rhythm. The bow wave is gurgling and the kabes are rhythmically clunking. The boat sweeps past the buoys with ragged plastic flags marking the creels. The crew are unsure as to how far they have to row before we meet our friends in Maggie, the Gourdon skiff, to hand the baton over on the water.
The Gourdon crew had all started rowing as part of the Catterline club, before building their own boat. As did Giles and Fiona, who led the building of Goose, the new Montrose skiff.
The cox spies Gourdon a couple of miles to the south. The distance rapidly closes. Then nervous coxes steer the boats towards each other. Stern pair thrust their oars into the water to slow the boat. There is a gentle bump, pleasantries are shared and the baton is passed onto Gourdon.
About Catterline Coastal Rowing Club
The boat was launched in 2012 and is number 46. The club is relatively small as is the coastal village of Catterline. It does however have an active membership of around 25, who in response to lockdown have decided to build a Wemyss skiff.