Fortrose to Avoch – Section 7 | Day 14

Today there is a relatively short row from the home of Chanonry in Fortrose to Avoch, the home of the Black Isle Skiffies; Avoch would have the baton and lead this last section. Being a short day would not a bad thing, as some of us would be heading west at the weekend to participate in the Ullapool regatta.

Introducing Avoch Skiffties

When pronouncing Avoch, there is silent A and V so it is pronounced OCH. Don’t ask why as no one seems to know! Avoch was the first club to be formed on the Black Isle; many members of the other clubs in the area first started to row with Avoch and some people are members of both their home club and the Skiffties.

Avoch Rowing Club was formed in 2013 after a meeting (in the pub of course!) to see if there was enough local interest to build and race a skiff. There were over 25 people at the initial meeting a great mixture of ages, locals and incomers and ranges of skills.

The original idea came from Kathy Taylor, and her partner Morgan Jones, to build a skiff in Avoch. Kathy had been previously been rowing with the Coigach club (where she used to live) but the four hour round trip to train was becoming difficult so they had the idea to build one locally and given Avoch’s maritime heritage it was a no brainer.

‘The Skiffties’ (as our club is better known) also has its basis in local fishing heritage. The skiffties were the small boats that rowed out to the herring drifters and there are many old pictures showing these ‘skiffties’ lining the shores of Avoch bay.

So our first skiff, Zulu, was built by club members and named after the class of powerful herring drifters that once were a common sight fishing out of Avoch Harbour.

The club was a huge success and at our first regatta in Helmsdale we won the first race!

This certainly spurred the club on. Due to the popularity of the club, we decided to build a second skiff, Zephyr, 18 months later. Zephyr is named after a local fishing boat and is also the name of a wind.

Like most clubs we have a juniors section and ours have had both success and disappointment at various regattas but as long as they keep coming back they can have a bit of fun as well.

There was much debate as to the colour of the boat but it was eventually decided on yellow and black as large parts of the Eilean Dubh  (Black Isle) turn a shade of yellow in spring and early summer with the gorse and rape fields so we bring plenty of colour to the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association community!

(A mass row, with as many of the club boats and members as possible from section seven, will accompany the baton from Avoch across the Moray Firth to Ardersier at the start of the next section.)

On behalf of the clubs in section seven, thank you to the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association for the past ten years and we look forward to the future. Around the country and the world, we all have been affected in some way by the pandemic. We will continue to row on as a combined ‘Community’ – keeping the ‘Spirit’ alive.