Cove to St. Abbs – Section 12 | Day 3

9nm = 3hrs, exceptionally pretty, bird-city, vertiginous cliffs. Alternates for safety: Pettico Wick ‘old slip’.

Stormbound, we missed a weekend so we’ve combined Day 3 and Day 4 today and the weather is goodish, wind NW/10, 2 foot swell, dry with a few showers.

A boat cannot be launched/retrieved at Cove, just a crew-change here. Some stalwarts are doing the WHOLE 17 miles today.
IMPORTANT: Cove is accessed only by walking up/down, so should be considered only as a rest/crew-change! For those continuing on to St. Abbs, there’s a ‘toilet’ behind the big rocks, washed daily by the waves. Time your ablutions well.

Farewell and Adieu.
Harbourmaster Ben owns the harbour and the famous Blue House, see the Blue House website for more info. Ben welcomes any traditional craft and was ecstatic to see eight skiffs — a record for sure. Cove is where you come to rebuild your frazzled mind or scribble your much-awaited best-seller. The ‘Glasgow Boys’ made Cove their summer painting idylls.

Eleven menfolk lost in the disaster of 1881.
The fishing community working from Cove Harbour in the 1830s supported around 20 families. Atop the path is an impressive memorial commemorating the women and children of Cove left widowed and orphaned by the fishing disaster of 1881, when 189 fishermen from Berwickshire communities were lost after a sudden storm blew up while the fleet was at sea. Cove itself lost 11 of the 21 fishermen who worked from the harbour.

Learning to read the sea is like learning a new language in all its richness. — Wobbly-fingers Bryan, Amble

The fishing disaster of 1881 concentrates our minds as we cast off, nervously, this being mainly a cliff-edged voyage, coupled with an onshore breeze. Gulp!
We’ll make or Stop/Go decision as we pass Pettico Wick ‘old slip’. After that we’ll be ‘rowing in the Last-chance Saloon’ (surely some incorrect allusion here, ed.?)

Hutton’s famous Unconformity, Siccar Point
We pass Siccar Point, site of Hutton’s Unconformity. James Hutton, father of geology, found this ‘unconformity’, the junction between two types of rock formations, created at different times and by different, adjoining forces. They were formed by the operation of second causes in an earlier world composed of sea, land, tides, and currents, so that “while the present land was forming at the bottom of the ocean, the former land maintained plants and animals”. He concluded that the Earth was eons older than 6,000 years. Like Darwin’s work, this brought condemnation by the Church. Oops.

There is no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end. — James Hutton

RMS Mauretania after breaking the record.
Measured Mile: in 1907 RMS Mauretania steamed past the measured mile at 25.73 knots, making her the fastest ship in the world. We can beat that, crew!!! (where’s that spinach? … and a good, following wind?) Ships must make at least four to six runs in both directions to allow for the wind and tide. We’ll do one only, dear skiffies!

Heading for St. Abbs lighthouse.
We’re approaching under St Abb’s Head, home to one of Britain’s biggest sea-bird colonies, a veritable ‘bird city’ during the spring and summer months. Dolphins pass outside the headlands around here, well they’d be daft to try inside, wouldn’t they?

A great spectacle is the sight of white gannets moving along the coastline, rising, then diving down into the sea. These fishing superstars have bright white plumage and a six-foot wing span, they’re fast, agile, and as greedy as gannets.


“And in the splash,
the cox shouts for more;
the crew heed well the count,
and rise with passion to their valiant call.

On the cox great trust depends,
our backs towards the peril;
with experience and good sense
safe course they steer with rudder.”
— A. Turner-Cockroft

As we round the cliffs, skiffs from St. Abbs (Puffin with Robert and Susan) and Eyemouth (Unity, Seabreeze, with Alison and Richard) come to meet us as planned. A warm welcome to those crews! It’s difficult to hug from a skiff.

“Made frae cliffs.”
The intimidating cliffs behind us, we’re approaching St Abbs, a strong contender for the title of Scotland’s prettiest village: picturesque harbour, spectacular coastal walks, undersea adventures and abundance of wildlife. The isolated fishing village is named after Aebbe, a 7th Century Northumbrian princess, who struggled ashore after being shipwrecked (I know the feeling, ed.!) St. Aebbe is best known for founding a nunnery here; shenanigans were reputed to have taken place (!)

We have adventures and exploring is part of the attraction of coastal rowing too. To explore and observe our coastline from a skiff, seeing dolphins, seals, puffins, gannets, to name but a few, is life-enhancing. Time flies when you are out rowing in a skiff. — Pauline, Amble

Anyone spotted the cafe, yet?
The lifeboat station, once run by the RNLI, closed in 2015. The community, part-funded by the man behind the Tunnock’s teacakes company, grouped together to save it using public donations, sponsorship and funding. The station re-opened in 2016 and still trains with the RNLI. Friendly thanks to all!

He is the best sailor who can steer within fewest points of the wind, and exact a motive power out of the greatest obstacles. — Walter Scott

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