Greenock to Port Bannatyne (Bute) – Section 3 | Day 6

Royal West have two St. Ayles skiffs (Chippy McNish & Birdie Bowers). They will not however be taking part in this trip.

About 54 years ago we commissioned two boats (our Heavy Fours) intended for long distance rowing trips, Zebra and Whiteforland, pictured below as they were re-dedicated in 2016. These have been involved in some massive trips since the first one in 1967 and we thought it only appropriate that they get an outing for the Virtual RAS.

As our club has beesn around since 1866 it will be of no surprise that the section of the VRAS we are asked to undertake is a trip we have done on several occasions. We have had adventures and there are some good stories that might appear here.

This crew in 1967 were the first to take Zebra on this trip. 50 years later, in 2017, they took the same boat off the same beach and into the same stretch of water.

You have seen some of our boats and heard a wee bit of our history, lets get on the water and Row Around Scotland.

Early start for the twelve on this trip, six in each boat. As it will take all day to cross to Bute, the bows of each boat are packed with equipment for an overnight stay in Port Bannatyne, also the overnight stays required to complete the trip to Lochranza and back. This means a bit of acrobatics for the last person to get into the boat as we push away from the beach.

Leaving the beach in front of our club on such a trip is always a little daunting, but with our very strong virtual crew and the great weather that is predicted locally for this weekend let’s get away.

As we will be cruising down the North and West side of the estuary the first feature, we come across is the Whiteforeland mid-channel mark. This mark is named after the point on which the clubhouse stands. It is also the name of one of the boats on this trip.

Our first port of call for a bacon roll and cup of coffee is Kilcreggan. The café just above the beach is renowned, as is the pub next door.

Refreshed we cut across the mouth of Loch Long and Holy Loch, narrowly avoid upsetting the Western ferries skipper as he leaves Hunters Quay and connecting with the coast again at Kirn. This is to the North of Dunoon, on what is now the West coast of the Clyde Estuary. Conscious of the time we press on past the Java Walk Coffee Shop and head for our next comfort break at Dunoon Pier.

The next significant navigational mark we come across is the Gantock Rocks off Dunoon. Captured by some of our members who kayak as they are heading North.

As we head south from the Gantock Rocks towards Toward Point we experienced some more challenging conditions.

There were some amongst the squad who had raced in similar conditions, during the latter few days of the Skiffie Worlds at Stranraer. However, rowing straight into these waves for 2.5 hours, really opened their eyes to the reality of cruising on the West Coast.

The work required to plough on down this coast meant a lot of the sights along it were missed, as was lunch at Innellan.

Turning at Toward Lighthouse and running with the waves towards the Kyles was a huge relief for all.

As we glimpsed Castle Toward at the West end of the Cowal peninsular we could clearly see Port Bannatyne across the Eastern entrance to the Kyle of Bute.

Thinking of the welcome that awaited us from Andy Walter and the team at Isle of Bute CRC was also a great impetus to finish today’s journey.

Tucked away between the playing fields and the marina boat storage yard is the Scout Hut. This was to be our accommodation for the night.

It is a place frequented by Royal West and multiple other rowing Clubs back in the 1980’s when Port Bannatyne was one of the three remaining Jollyboat clubs. Port Bannatyne’s Regatta, Royal West’s Regatta and Portobello’s Regatta were the fixed seat regatta circuit. Teenagers rowing or cycling to there on a Friday from Greenock or Glasgow, racing all day Saturday, then returning home unwashed and smelly on a Sunday was a rite of passage.

Isle of Bute CRC

The Isle of Bute CRC skiff was to have been ready to launch about now and RowAround hopes to welcome her to the fleet for the real RowAround, when restrictions are lifted.

The hull is finished and is only awaiting a final sand and paint before we can get her in the water. As yet her final colour is to be decided and we anticipate some lively discussion before it is! The boat is to be named ‘Bruchag’ in honour of the farm where she has been built and we look forward to joining up with other members of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association when we launch!

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