Yesterday we nearly managed two days of planned progress because we have nearly reached the village of Applecross. Today as the weather is a favourable southerly and we are on a straight section of coast without much shelter, we decide to press on up the coast and around the headland Rubha na Fearna to a little sheltered bay at Fearnmore at the mouth of Loch Torridon The distance is 16 miles – so quite a haul.
Shieldaig & Loch Torridon Coastal Rowing are joining us for the next few days in their skiff Sildvik.
As we row north in the gentle southerly breeze we leave the fertile Applecross Bay and get to rocky shore where the only building is the control room of the BUTEC torpedo range. As can be seen on the map below the range covers a lot of the Inner Sound and does to some extent interfere with local fishing boats.
From time to time submarines lurk underwater and test torpedoes, which is announced on the VHF by the Coastguard. Fortunately there is not much activity today, so we pass peacefully by.
Nearby is a sheltered bay at the hamlet of Fearnbeg, and we see small boats pulled up which is always a good sign of shelter. Gratefully we put the boats to bed and walk up to the road where our trusty shore supporters await us.
Lochcarron Coastal Rowing Association
Now to introduce the Lochcarron Coastal Rowing Association (LCCRA), who joined the RowAround at Kyle. LCCRA was founded in September 2016 following a chance discussion at a wet and windy Shieldaig regatta when the question was asked: ‘Why doesn’t Lochcarron have a skiff?!’ The answer was obvious and work started on our first boat two months later, resulting in the launch of the Maid of Lochcarron in May 2017. The name was chosen by the Friends of the Skiff who had supported the project during the build. Lochcarron Community Fund provided start-up funding followed by Scottish Sea Farms and the Lochcarron Highland Games Association.
As very few of the members were experienced rowers we focussed mainly on social rowing for the first few months but still managed to put crews together to compete at the Shieldaig Regatta – exactly 12 months after that first conversation! The regatta was great fun and we didn’t finish last in every event – a goal we still have wherever we compete!
Interest in rowing grew and we started work on the second skiff in December 2017, launching Black Raven in May 2018. This name was chosen as legend has it that local men were described as Black Ravens in time gone by. Since then the club has competed in a number of regattas as well as Castle to Crane and the Forth Clyde Canal.
We hosted our own first regatta in 2019 and have plans for more adventurous trips once we get back on the water, which can’t come soon enough.
Sue says: ‘The Lochcarron skiffies are still a fairly young club – despite our membership age reaching the higher echelons! Our enthusiasm is boundless – as are the debates we continue to have about the size and weight of our oars! Looking back over the last three years, I can only say what great rows we have had – both locally, but also participating in regattas and events. A first for Lochcarron (so highly unusual!) was our skiffathlon in 2019 which was part of a fundraising effort for MS – cycling, running and rowing!
Equally our participation in the Forth and Clyde canal row, negotiating the locks and being on the Falkirk Wheel was tremendous. Perhaps we raised a smile or two with our distinctive garb, as one person commented: ‘What on earth are you wearing!’ Jam pot covers comes to mind.
Off the water, our fundraising has included ceilidhs with Fergie MacDonald and our boat builders and caterers are second to none. Suffice to say, we cannae wait to get back on the water and share our love of skiffing and all the craic that comes with it.’
Here is a poem, the Killer Crew, about the prowess of our women rowers when we were attempting to do speed trials in Lochcarron around the island. The second is a collection of haikus when both skiffs, the Black Raven (Fitheach Dubh) and the Maid of Lochcarron (our original skiff) took part in the Castle to Crane row back in 2018. Both poems are by Sue Mitchell.
Sharks in the water
No-one takes a loan of us
We may be new
But our blades are sharp:
We are the killer crew.
Fuelled by the cox’s stash
We cut a dash
On his firm count
We all give way
His intonation suits us well
We all lean forward
And row like hell:
We are the killer crew.
Meanwhile the blokes on shore
Stare and blink
No-one quite believing
These fine women leading…
So, what’s the secret of our speed
What floats our boat
And moves us so?
Low and long we follow the stroke
And feel the water breathing.
One, two, three, four!
Utter concord ‘twixt cox and oar
As we pull hard towards the shore
Our rhythm is to die for:
We are the killer crew!
About to tow. Can’t!
Need cross-over plug. Skiff doc
To rescue. Thank you!
Spat twixt cox and crew.
Pre-start nerves. The air turns blue.
Ready to row, go!
Black Raven rounds bend
Squawks, swoops and glides. It’s swing time
In the party boat.
Ten on the legs! Booms
Across the Clyde. Boy racers
Flag. The Maid surges.
Midway. Number three
Catches a crab. Hits the deck
Springs up – no done yet!
Skiffs move by magic
Or is it tidal flow? A
River runs through them.
Come on Loch Carron!
Finish is in sight. Bell’s Bridge
The hooter. Hearts roar.