Elie’s skiff, Archie, took over our lives in January 2017. His name was chosen by a long-standing member of Elie Sailing Club, Mrs. Rennie, who, following the death of her husband, Archie, (a significant figure in the club), made a substantial donation towards the build of the skiff, and hence, Archie was born to the rowing section of Elie and Earlsferry Sailing Club.
Like many rowing clubs, we are a hotchpotch of folks from different walks of life, but significantly in our club, we have a group of youngsters between the ages of 16 and 21 who have embraced the whole idea of coastal rowing and already have become seriously competent rowers, already boasting success at several regattas.
The Virtual Part
The conditions were near perfect for our quite lengthy, 14 mile, row to Dysart. A light easterly wind prevailed, which hopefully would make our journey less arduous. Our crew – Diane, Roy, David and one of our youngsters, Lucas, with Helen as cox. After checking that the necessary safety equipment was on board and that the bung was in – and most importantly, that we had the Baton, we didn’t forget to stow David’s legendary fishing rod. We departed on a rising tide across the bay, past the sands of Earlsferry and the East Vows rocks atop which sits a beacon, surmounted by a (now) rusting guano-splattered ‘bird cage’. Built in 1846, the structure was intended to provide a temporary sanctuary for shipwrecked mariners until they were rescued. Because it is situated a kilometre from Elie harbour wall it now provides us rowers with an excellent marker for regatta training
We pass Chapel Ness headland and the West Vows where at low tide colonies of seals can be seen – their haunting wails can be heard for miles. We continue on past Earlsferry Links and the famous/infamous Chain Walk, Scotland’s first via ferrata!
Rowing steadily past the gleaming whiteness of Shell Bay, we stop briefly for sustenance and David takes the opportunity to throw a quick line out, determined to secure his dinner before we set off again. Within minutes, he is rewarded. It’s a messy business to fish in a skiff but, thankfully, we have the bailing bucket! Lest we are further distracted from our goal we head off across the expanse of Largo Bay, passing Largo, birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, and reminded of his real life experiences as a castaway which was the inspiration for Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe.
Our journey takes us down the coast bypassing Leven, Methil and Buckhaven, on to East Weymss, and peeking in at the lovely little harbour at West Weymss before reaching the harbour at Dysart. As we approach, we are met by a group of waving Kinghorn rowers, clearly delighted at the prospect of being the new guardians of the Baton.
What a great day it would have been!
The ‘not virtual’ leg – what really happened – the Baton Challenge
Wait! We have this beautifully hand-crafted baton which had ceremonially been given to us by our neighbours from Pittenweem Rowing Club, carefully handed by their oldest member Pam to our youngest honorary member Edward (aged two).
So why not do a physical Baton Relay by sea and by land and give the Baton a real sense of purpose?
And, that’s what we did. A decision was taken to complete the ‘Leg’ with whatever human-powered means of locomotion could be mustered, and if some of it could be waterborne, so much the better. The plan began with organizing a small flotilla headed up by Andrew and Diane with their colourful little sailing boat, Skylark, followed by David’s ‘bathtub’ and two kayaks. On the landward side, we had two bicycle riders, Trevor and Francis, eight pairs of legs for walking and four from Phil and Jana for running.
Thus it was on a bright and moderately breezy morning, with an easterly wind, the flotilla took to the water, heading for the West Bay Beach by the golf course. The easterly wind meant that the flotilla reached their destination in no time! Meanwhile, our half-a-dozen walkers struck out along the coastal path to the rendezvous point on West Bay Beach to transfer the Baton from sea to land. First part of the mission accomplished. The flotilla crews were well aware that their return journey would not be so effortless.
From there, a couple of energetic walkers decided bravely, (or stupidly?), to take the route round the Chain Walk. Our more sensible walkers (and including Sam the dog), having assessed the tide, shunned that idea, and instead took the decision to climb the dizzy heights of Kincraig Hill (65m), past the remains of a WW2 gun emplacement, and on down to Shell Bay. They crossed the holiday park to the nature reserve at Dumbarnie Beach, where they crunched along the shell-strewn strip, and rejoined the Chain Walkers who were already a bit weary. In the distance, runners Phil and Jana could be seen waving frantically, eager to get on with the next leg of their journey to Leven. Jane was very thankful that her job of carrying the Baton was over, and with obvious relief handed the well-sanitised object into Phil’s capable hands.
Jana and Phil ran on along the coastal path and through Largo to Leven Promenade. Turns out that Phil is not good at running slowly resulting in very good social distancing between them en route. However they made good progress covering the ground (7 km) through pleasant old railway tracks, meeting Trevor and Francis at the allotted time. Trevor took up the baton for the last leg (12k), passing East and West Weymss then making their way downhill to the stunning harbour of Dysart to The Harbour Master’s House where, as if by magic, little Edward appeared to ensure the safe handover of the Baton to our Kinghorn rowing companions.
Thank you to all our rowers who signed up for this baton challenge, making it the first opportunity to meet up physically at a social distance and with a purpose. And thank you to Diane’s children for creating the music to accompany the log.
How do you feel when you are out on the water?
– Calm, happy and relaxed
– Not a care in the world
Who got you into rowing?
– My partner, who was already into rowing. One day I went to watch the rowing and said: ‘You’ll NEVER get me in that thing!’ It’s history now …
– I went along to a skiff regatta. Someone asked if I wanted to try out rowing. I had never rowed before – never even been in a boat! I have never looked back
What is it about your local coastal waters that you love?
– Ever changing seascapes
– Calm days when the sea is like a mirror
– Seeing wildlife and looking at the land from the sea
‘The Seals of Elie Bay’
Written and performed by Diane and Andrew’s young people, Ewan on whistle and Catherine on fiddle