Passage Plan, Dalgety Bay via North Queensferry to Port Edgar (South Queensferry)
As with any passage plan, the following is dependent on conditions allowing us to undertake this row. There are times that the wind can be hazardous crossing the Firth of Forth, and with Storm Ellen having been through the previous day, it could be tricky.
North Queensferry CRC received the baton handover from recently formed Black Rocks CRC, together with the embryonic Aberdour club, on a beautiful evening at Donibristle Pier in Dalgety Bay, which would have presented ideal rowing conditions. The prospect of having a club as close as Burntisland or Aberdour on the Fife side of the Firth of Forth is welcomed, as this presents the opportunity to pass each other whilst out for extended social rows or engage in joint activities within the vicinity.
We had intended to walk the coastal path on our journey along the coast after meeting at Dalgety Bay, but adverse weather conditions were against us the following day and alternative plans were made.
Virtually, the row from Dalgety Bay presents the problem of choice of routes back to the North Queensferry slip. As we head towards North Queensferry we see Inchcolm Island to our port side, on which sits the medieval Inchcolm Abbey founded in the 12th Century. The history on our doorstep is not missed. Inchcolm is a popular destination with our club members for a longer social row and picnic (food is always on the agenda with NQCRC, although it is the history that draws us back here, of course).
We could row further out to our port side to Inchmickery, an artillery installation in the 16th century and a military installation during the first and second world wars, and could row even further south to port side to Cramond Island, which was once famously suggested by a club member as being ‘round the corner.’ How big the corner was has not been forgotten!
But we have no food today, despite it being a virtual row, so we keep going and decide to take the quick route home on this occasion. We move on from the waters around Donibristle Bay and past Inverkeithing. Birds, seals, harbour porpoise, wild swimmers. You never know what you will see. Every row presents the opportunity to experience something different from the previous one and this is one of the incentives to keep going back. The Firth of Forth and area around the North Queensferry Slip hosts quite a diverse array of traffic, from skiffs to aircraft carriers, kayaks to cruise ships, tour boats, tugboats, tankers …
The views, as with all clubs, never cease to disappoint, whatever the weather. We move on towards North Queensferry and just beyond the slip, rowing under the three bridges on the way, opened in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. But nothing compares to the feelings of awe as we row under the magnificent Forth Bridge – every time.
We row just a bit further past the North Queensferry slip and past Rosyth Naval Dockyard before getting ready to head for home. We row just a bit further past the North Queensferry slip and past Rosyth Naval Dockyard.
We could row further along the estuary but that is enough for today as we are meeting Queensferry mid-Forth. As we turn we look across at Blackness castle, a 15th century fortress which is another popular request for a longer social row (and picnic of course) and we head for home.
The North Queensferry slip can present many challenges so we take advantage of wind and tide at every opportunity.
Continuing on our virtual journey, a few of our members head up to the Forth Road Bridge and walk over half way to hand over the ‘baton’ (for this year substituted by Robs’ old rowing machine handle!) to Louise, standing in as a joint North/South Queensferry member and enabling the continuity of the relay event to continue. We may be the closest clubs in distance but are separated by the Firth of Forth.
In the Real RowAround, due to the vagaries of the tide today, it would be well into the afternoon before the North Queensferry and South Queensferry clubs could launch and meet in the middle of the river for the baton handover. It is one nautical mile to cross the Firth. At 1630 there should be enough water for both crews to launch. North Queensferry, in Ferry Sonnet and St Margaret’s Hope, would head out from their harbour taking a south westerly direction, heading under the Forth Road Bridge towards Port Edgar.
Queensferry Rowing Club to the south of The Forth, in Ferry Lass and Ferry Maid, will head in the opposite direction with the idea to meet at 56° 0’ N 3° 24’ W, this being the midpoint of the Firth. Whilst making passage, the crews need to keep a look out for tankers making their way from Grangemouth further up river. The crews will be rowing through the shipping channel, one of the busiest in the country.
Having met under the Road Bridge, the crews will proceed to Port Edgar heading for the east breakwater and into the safety of the port, where they will be met by members of both clubs.
Of course we can’t talk about the row across the Forth without talking some more about the three magnificent structures that span it’s width.
Peter Locke, from Queensferry RC, tells us about what it is like to row in the shadow of the Bridges:
“We are privileged here at Queensferry to have the iconic World Heritage status Forth Bridge, completed in 1890 and her younger sisters, the Forth Road Bridge, opened in September 1964 and the new Queensferry Crossing, opened in September 2017.
I am not going to attempt any history lessons on the bridges, as that can be looked up elsewhere at your leisure, but how do the Bridges affect us as a Club? In my opinion, the original Forth Bridge is still the main draw and attraction. As I once heard Billy Connolly say: ‘The Road Bridge is just a handy platform to view the real Bridge!’ Since we started rowing in 2011 from Port Edgar, one of the things that most rowers want to do is to row under the Bridge. We have had visitors from many Clubs all over the world and other visitors absolutely thrilled to row under the Bridge and see it from such unique viewpoints. A favourite has become a row under the Bridge from north to south or vice versa and rowing between the pillars of the Bridge looking up at the astonishing structure and trying to count the six million odd rivets!
I think it was in the spring of 2015 that we took out a presenter, Rob Bell, who was filming a Channel 5 series on Britain’s Greatest Bridges. Ferry Maid was fitted with cameras, mikes etc. and there was a RIB close to us with cameras, equipment and production crew. Rob sat at Number 3 with our very own Len Saunders on stroke. Len is an authority on the history of the Bridge and he and Rob chatted as we rowed. The programme still comes around now and again and can be found by searching archives. Worth a watch!
On 7 September 2014, we joined a flotilla of craft of all shapes and sizes to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge. We were joined by about ten other skiffs from all over Scotland and the organisers were worried about us keeping up with the other motorised vessels. We formed up, rowed west for some distance then rowed downstream to pass under the Road Bridge. I think I am right in saying that we, in Ferry Lass, were first to pass under the Road Bridge behind the lead Royal Navy vessel!
Of course, we watched with great interest as the new Queensferry Crossing rose out of the river and took shape. There were some interesting rows and great photos as cables were placed and road sections carefully lifted into place. Again we were privileged to take part in the opening ceremony on 4 September 2017. This time we had 17 Skiffs in a flotilla of over 120 vessels. We all kept our positions and enjoyed the experience and excitement. As HM Queen cut the ribbon on the Bridge all the ships’ horns and claxons were sounded; we hoisted oars and made a great deal of noise and the RAF Red Arrows flew past us. As we headed back to base, the rain came on, but who cared at that point. As always, some visitors wanted to have the experience of rowing back under the Rail Bridge and the atmosphere at the shed was fantastic as we all helped each other get boats back on trailers and reflect on the occasion.
We look forward to a time when we can get back onto our unique stretch of water and hopefully host many of you to join us in a row under the Bridges!
About North Queensferry Coastal Rowing Club
Gordon Scobie, the chair of North Queensferry Boat Club in 2012, successfully applied for an Awards for All grant, to build a skiff in order to revive the traditional rowing race between North and South Queensferry. North Queensferry Coastal Rowing Club was formed with an agreement with the Boat Club for exclusive use and responsibility for the skiffs.
St Margaret’s Hope was built by Frank Wood, with help from a dedicated band of new club helpers and was launched in May 2012. The club members decided to name the skiff St Margaret’s Hope to acknowledge the past, present, and future significance of the area in which she will be rowed. St Margaret’s Hope is a small area of land very close to where the skiff is launched. Historically, Malcolm III of Scotland rescued Margaret of Scotland and her family in this area when her boat got into difficulty.
Ferry Sonnet was launched in May 2013. The members chose this name in recognition of Alan Turing’s famous paper about Artificial Intelligence. One of the challenges imagined in the Turing test is: ‘Write me a sonnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge.”
The blue and white colours of the skiffs simply represent the water and surf, which we have come to love.
We also have use of a Wemyss skiff, owned by a couple of members/former member, also built by Frank, who kindly allow anyone in the club access, which we do at every opportunity. The Wee Boat was launched in 2016 and gives us the flexibility to get out on the water if only a couple of rowers available and also presents the opportunity to row using a slightly different skill set. The words ‘I have a strong arm and a weak arm,’ ‘windmill’ and ‘going around in circles’ come to mind!
How do you feel when you are out on the water?
When we go out on calm waters, our thoughts drift, we relax and we take in the scenery around us-changing skies, moody clouds, sunrays, looming rain, whirlpools, winds. However, we never forget the power and danger that our waters and mother nature poses. When the wind and water make the row exhilarating, we use our strength, determination and skill of the cox and crew to work together as a team. Unpredictability makes us vulnerable and respect is always there.
To be part of the Coastal Rowing community is as important to small clubs as ourselves as it is to the larger competitive clubs. We hope that there will always be room for clubs as small as North Queensferry CRC to participate in events where possible.
We may not have the numbers to participate in many regattas, but when someone mentions ice cream and waves money in he air, we can row for Scotland at breakneck speed, from one side of the Forth to the other – the practice that we maintain is essential to enable us to participate in the event that the skiff was originally intended for use – the annual North/South Queensferry race. The initial intention to build the skiff was to revive the traditional rowing race between North and South Queensferry.
Information regarding the actual dates that this race started is not available to our club at this time. We do, however, have extracts from the Dunfermline Press in 1861 giving the results from the North Queensferry Annual Regatta and a couple of photographs from North Queensferry Rowing Club taken in early 1900, 1920 and 1929, evidence of a longstanding tradition of racing embraced by North Queensferry.
The current annual race is hosted by the North and (South) Queensferry clubs on alternate years and is a sprint from one side of the Forth to the other approximately 1.5K.
From 2013, the winners have gone back and forward from one club to the other, apart from the last race where North Queensferry retained the coveted trophy. The club kit may have changed slightly over the decades, but the drive to win has not!
And so on to 2020, Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters
Oh, what a calendar of events we had planned for this year! The organisation and preparation made by many is genuinely appreciated; the anticipation and excitement was felt by all. To be sidetracked, by a pandemic of all things, has made us consider what is important in life. We are lucky if we have not had our world turned upside down by the effects of this. Amongst other things, we all appreciate how lucky we are being able to engage in such a wonderful activity as coastal rowing and how important it is to us. The physical benefit from rowing is clear for all to see — building strength and stamina, improving breathing and circulation, developing and toning muscles – well, maybe one.
But the effects on our mental health and overall wellbeing is far greater. The community spirit and social aspect is invaluable.
A virtual event it is, then, for 2020 and even when broken down into the ‘sections’ that we have, we have a sense of belonging as well as being part of the ever growing movement of Coastal Rowing throughout the world.