Selkie sets off in the late afternoon, for an easy 3.5 km row from Craobh Havn to Eilean Gamnha, an island at the mouth of Loch Melfort which is equidistant from the Isle of Seil, Kilmelford and Isle of Luing clubs. The passage plan takes Selkie across Loch Shuna and around Arduaine, a stunning National Trust for Scotland garden. Luing and Seil are two of the Slate Islands, the islands that ‘roofed the world’ in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Eilean Gamnha is a favourite destination for the Isle of Seil, and one that we have shared with visiting clubs in past years as part of our Melfort Muster, but this would be the first time that Kilmelford has joined us, in Gill of Melfort. The Luing crew, in Hinba, joins us both for a litter pick – the island is a honeypot for day trips and BBQs from Craobh Havn – and together with fishfarm debris always supplies us with rich pickings.
However, the weather today is virtually glorious, and the three crews enjoy a BBQ, joined by Seil’s treasurer, Mary, in her Orkney, Mary Ann, with Ray as crew to act as the scaffie boat.
Our cox rescues some fishfarm feed pipe, adrift on the island, to be towed back by the Mary Ann. Destined for upcycling/repurposing as part of a railway launching track for a tender. Old wheelbarrow wheels for the trolley kindly provided by the Queensferry Quines.
About Kilmelford Coastal Rowing
Kilmelford Coastal Rowing was set up about 5/6 years ago, inspired by the building of the Luing skiff. 64 shares were sold at £60 each around the village so people could have a share in the skiff and feel free to participate in the activities. We sold all the shares with some donations from Kames Fish Farm and Melfort Village. We then purchased the templates from Luing and David gave us the space to set up our build area at Kilmelford Yacht Haven in their shed; the build was supervised by Don Bruce who had knowledge of building boats. The skiff was named after Gill, who had lived in the village, worked at the Yacht Haven and had died of cancer.
Kilmelford enjoys an evening row back up to her base at the Kilmelford boatyard at the head of Loch Melfort. The Isle of Luing returns to Luing, taking the exciting narrow, tidal cut (only just wide enough for their oars) – between Torsa Beag and Luing at Ardinamir, to Cuan.
The Isle of Seil’s skiff rounds Degnish Point into Seil Sound, a 7km row and finally returns to its home port, Balvicar Boatyard on the east side of the island, after four days/nights away.
Jeanette talks about her love of Coastal Rowing
How do I feel when on the water?
As a community worker, when I have had a day filled with people and other peoples’ problems, going through the simple routine of getting boat ready and stepping into the boat is cathartic. It’s such a good physical and visual transition to enable me to leave behind the issues of work and enter into the exercise of rowing. Just doing a rhythmical exercise where I follow someone else’s lead, sitting in the prow of the boat is my favourite place, I don’t have to talk to anyone just make myself aware of the lead being given and follow.
Then as a visually aware person, the different perspective of seeing the world from the water is inspiring, relaxing and then re-energising. On my first row I went from feeling peopled-out to my head nodding gently as I rowed into the bay. The feeling of community that comes from rowing with others and learning a new skill and the language of the sea.
Who introduced me to water?
Growing up by the sea, I grew up in normal rowing boats. Living on Iona gave me the opportunity to try it as part of the Island community. Then moving to Seil as a working individual and needing to become part of community here, I first joined the choir. Sue gave me a lift to choir and invited me to try out with the skiff. I loved the unpressured atmosphere that Sue & others provide in our club; its not about performance but being.
What do I love about the coast and these waters?
The West coast of Scotland is such a diverse place of Splendid Isolation. As you turn every corner there is a new vista opening up before you. Every nook and cranny is filled with beauty and such a variety of life. That sense of funnelling up the Sound of Seil gives a real sense of security. Sensing the ease the former inhabitants had in using the water as the main form of transport. Then the fragility of life itself as your turn a corner and the weather hits you with another side of itself. Seeing nature and wildlife from another angle.
About The Isle of Luing Rowing Club
The Isle of Luing Rowing Club was established in December 2013 and has a St Ayles skiff, Hinba, and a renovated Shetland Yoal, Virda. Hinba was launched in May 2014 at Cuan Ferry. Virda is a six-oared boat (six rowers, two each on three thwarts).
Hinba is an island in Scotland of unknown location that was the site of a small monastery associated with the Columban church on Iona. Although a number of details are known about the monastery and its early abbots, and various anecdotes dating from the time of Columba of a mystical nature have survived, modern scholars are divided as to its whereabouts. However, many think it is Eileach an Naoimh in the Garvellachs, off the Isle of Luing, where St Columba lived and where his mother is buried.
And here’s Luing in action (video by Iain Cruickshanks):