Harris (Ness to Scalpay) – Section 5a | Day 5

The proposed route from the Butt of Lewis to Scalpay, a total distance of some 68.5 nautical miles, was discussed at length with all the other clubs. A total of six Lewis skiffs were anticipated to be involved at various stages throughout, with the baton being passed to a different skiff for each leg; Fir Chlis and Eala Bhàn (West Side Rowers); Florence (RowFlo), Yackydoola (An Eathar); Blue Moon (Staran) and Madadh Ruadh (Stornoway).

  • The first leg from Ness at the north end of Lewis to Tolsta beach, a distance of 9.5’ was expected to take approximately 3 hours. An average speed of 3.5 knots was used throughout the route.
  • The second leg to Portnaguran at the NE corner of the Point peninsula is 6.7’.
  • The third leg to to Bayble on the south side of Point is 6.7’
  • The fourth leg to Stornoway is 8.2’
  • The fifth leg to Crossbost in Loch Leurbost is 7.3’
  • The sixth leg to Graver in South Lochs is 8.0’
  • The seventh leg to Lemerway in South Lochs is 7.1’
  • The eighth leg, by far the longest, to Scalpay is 15’ and expected to take 5 hours.

The arrival at Scalpay would have coincided with the Harris Regatta, at the Harris Festival of the Sea, Feis an Mara na Hearadh, on 1 August. We are determined that this event will take place, possibly next year!

Introducing West Side Rowers

Due to the increasing interest in leisure rowing in the Hebrides, Urras Coimhearsnachd Bhràdhagair agus Àrnoil [Bragar & Arnol Community Trust] decided to build their own skiff as part of their community engagement programme. Of course, rowing has been very much a part of local tradition going back generations. The club Ràmhaich Taobh Siar [West Side Rowers] was created to run the newly built skiff.

Our first skiff was completed in nine months and was launched in July 2017. The success in attracting rowers locally was more than expected, quickly spreading island-wide, with visitors to the island joining for a row on many occasions. We frequently row in company with other Island skiffs.

Most of our members were new to rowing, this resulted in many catching the proverbial crab, and numerous thole/pin repairs! Great fun! In common with other clubs nationwide we have a higher percentage of female rowers, indeed the ladies outnumber the menfolk by 2:1. Our regular rowers’ ages range from late teens to seventy plus.

We are also fortunate to have many launching/recovery sites throughout the island, a quick look at the forecast will decide where to launch from. Some of those launching sites go back generations. And of course we are blessed with having amazing beaches around our island for stopping off to stretch tired limbs.

Since launching the first skiff the club has achieved an average of two rows a week throughout the year, no mean feat considering the unpredictable Hebridean weather.

The club acquired a second skiff, tanked, and financed with Young Leader funds to encourage younger rowers to get involved. This venture to date has not been as successful.

In keeping with our culture we have given both skiffs Gaelic names: Fir Chlis [Aurora Borealis or Merry Dancer] and Eala Bhàn [White Swan]. Fir Chlis was picked out of a hat of some dozen suggestions. The boat’s livery is navy hull with cream internal.

The name for our second skiff, Eala Bhàn, was the brain wave of our community officer. Eala Bhàn is a famous Gaelic song written by an Islander serving in the WW1, very appropriate as the skiff Eala Bhàn was launched in late December 2018, just in time for the centenary of the Iolaire disaster. The boat is painted white.

Both skiffs have distinctive sheer strakes, alternative light and dark checkers. This is a nod to the traditional Hebridean Sgothan or fishing vessels.

We were looking forward to participating, with other Lewis skiffs, in SCRA’s RowAround Scotland. Unfortunately other issues took precedence!

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