Today the baton would have probably been shared between the all the Black Isle clubs as we row back through the Sutors and round up into the inner Moray Firth heading towards Fortrose, the home port of Chanonry Sailing Club.
This section of the coast is a little inhospitable with the sea cliffs, rocky beaches and natural arches. It is the home of McFarquhar’s bed and cave, as well some other well-used smugglers’ caves which can be found all along this section of coast. We pass by the old fishing station of Eathie that was still being used up until the 1980`s. This section of the coastline is a haven for the fossil enthusiast, well recorded by Hugh Miller from Cromarty. His birthplace cottage and museum is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. More info here: Hugh Miller’s Birthplace and www.rossandcromartyheritage.org
Some distance before Rosemarkie we pass many sea caves, some of which are now high and dry. These caves have recently featured on TV after some archeologic investigations found a skeleton believed to be that of a Pictish man. The caves have produced evidence of occupation from around 300BC, maybe even older. Have a look at Rosemarkie Cave Restoration.
Depending on tide conditions, we head for the lighthouse situated on a spit of land extending into the inner Moray firth, Chanonry Point. On most days of the year dolphins and porpoise can be seen playing in the strong tide rip. Rounding the lighthouse we see the coastal village of Fortrose.
Introducing Chanonry Sailing Club
The history of rowing at Fortrose goes back to the late 19th Century when Chanonry Boating Club formed to encourage sailing, rowing and swimming and held regattas at the harbour. This club was wound up in 1928 but was revived as the current Chanonry Sailing Club in 1957. While the club has focussed on sailing activities the development of St Ayles skiffs provided the opportunity to encourage rowing in Fortrose again.
In 2014, several enthusiastic members formed a group to build our first skiff, Chanonry Maid (the name an obvious play on words). We were lucky to have the support of Avoch Sea Scouts who allowed us to build the boat in their hall. The team led by Steve, Donnie, Richard and David, and inspired by Mhairi, were soon on a boat building learning curve. Mhairi made this amazing record of the process, and subsequent launch, in November 2014.
By 2016, we were enjoying rowing at the club very much and it became a great addition to our activity programme. The build team were also itching to try to improve on the first build and so started work on our second skiff, Silver Darling. Its name reflects the history of herring fishing in Fortrose. She was launched in December 2016.
Rowing at Chanonry is thriving. We’re lucky to have great facilities and the knowledgeable support from club members. We enjoy social rowing and day trips best. Setting off round Chanonry Point to see the dolphins, and on to Rosemarkie Beach Café for lunch, is a favourite. We like to attend regattas, but mostly for the craic!
Edith said: “I started rowing as a child in a neighbour’s boat, then rowed on various fishing trips as an adult. When Chanonry Sailing Club built their first skiff, I jumped at the chance to join the crew. As a pensioner, it is one of the best things I have done. It is a great feeling launching our beautiful boats, feeling the sea air and enjoying a thorough workout with the team. The best thing about rowing is the camaraderie among skiff rowers and sharing experiences and even boats. Not being on the water during lockdown is agonising but Hey Rowers everywhere, we’re all ‘in the same boat!’ “
We were really looking forward to the actual RowAround from Cromarty to Fortrose. We’ve never rowed the stretch from Cromarty to Rosemarkie which would have made for a great wee adventure. The company of Avoch rowers and support from our safety boats would have made the day. We’ll do it soon I’m sure.