An early start today. Our intrepid rowers, baton safely stowed in one skiff, set off at 0800 across the Kilbrannan Sound towards Skipness. The rest of the crew, there are another ten of us, twenty in total, are taking the ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig. We are also taking a couple of cars and the trailer as we will need them to allow those that are not staying over to get home.
Some of our crew had sailed this leg but none of us had rowed it before, so we felt a bit like the crew of Starship Enterprise – off to unknown territories. Although the crossing to Skipness is only a short one, it is open water and has been quite choppy but we have been blessed by a pod of dolphins passing us.
We beached the skiffs beside Skipness Castle which was constructed in the early 1200’s and along with Lochranza Castle flanked the Kilbrannan sound to protect the Macsween’s interests (no, you don’t get free haggis). We had a quick crew change and the previous crew headed off to the Seafood Cabin for a well needed refreshment.
The rest of us head up Loch Fyne towards Tarbert keeping a steady pace and enjoying the beautiful scenery and wildlife. As we left Skipness there were a flock of Gannets diving which is a magnificent sight. Rounding the point, we can see Ardlamont Point at the southern tip of the Cwal peninsula, 30 degrees off the starboard bow and Inchmarnock approximately 90 degrees.
Nearing Tarbert we see the next crew. Having had plenty of refreshments they are waving enthusiastically so we know where to berth. In Iolair the guy in the bow is so keen to get his lunch he jumped out a little too early and ended up chest height in the sea! Fortunately, the back-up crew are carrying kit bags and the sun has now heated up so he is soon warm and dry. Once the skiffs (and crews) were safely berthed we all sat down to a delicious picnic and enjoyed the chance to relax and soak up the sun. Some of the group went for a walk along the shore where they saw a family of otters happily playing on the rocks.
Lunch over and sun screen applied, the new and refreshed crews set off towards Ardrishaig, once certain members have stopped faffing about with their footrests, buff and gloves! The rest of the crew piles into the cars ready to meet them on arrival.
As the crews set off we are followed for some way by a seal who pops up every now and again to let us know he is still there. We round Barore Island with Stonefield Castle behind the A83 with a lot of cars heading south and north. We pass Inverneill island heading towards Ardrishaig Breakwater in the distance. At one point, the rowers in Seabhag were a little distracted by the seal and the cox has to bring order back to the crew. Thereafter it is a super row up Loch Gilp at a good steady pace, with quick and regular cox changes.
The Mid Argyll club, based in Ardrishaig, rows out in Uisge to escort us for the final row back to the slip at the boatyard.
We are delighted that our fit, young ‘Summer Wine’ crews, average age 60+, have completed the journey by 4pm giving us plenty of time to celebrate and those that are not staying over, time to head back to Arran on the ferry from Claonaig.
Everyone agreed it has been a fantastic trip and it is the perfect way to spend a day – out on the water, the sun shining, nature at its best and great company, what more could you want! The skiffs are left securely overnight in the Ardrishaig boatyard, kindly arranged by the Mid Argyll club.
After a couple of pints and dinner at the local hostelry we head to our accommodation ready to hand over the baton to the next section and join in the row along the Crinan Canal.