Today, a mixed crew from the Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club’s youth squad, will take the baton for the short, but personally challenging, stretch from Mellon Udrigle to Badluarach. We have gathered at Ullapool High School; two kind parents have taken time off to drive us down, then meet us at our destination and bring us back.
Over the last few years, a lot of time and effort has been put in to attract more younger rowers and we are really pleased to have successful medal winning crews in all youth categories. Some of them have taken part in longer rows before, such as Castle to Crane, but the two younger ones have so far only experienced the buzz and thrill of shorter race courses of 1k or 2k, so today will certainly be a challenge in many ways.
Not least of all, it is drizzling, misty and still which means the midges will be out in full force, even on the water! We were warned the weather was about to change, but let’s hope it is bit clearer once we get down to Mellon Udrigle.
The drive from Ullapool is one of the best in the area, and with the weather clearing we get good views of the majestic An Teallach standing way above the other mountains. We carry on alongside Little Loch Broom and look down to the jetty in the wee crofting hamlet of Badluarach which is our destination later today.
Mellon Udrigle is no more than a few farmsteads and cottages huddled together around the north east facing beach of Camas a’Charaig where we see Cùl Mòr was safely tied up last night. This beach is made really special because of the distant mountain vista possibly unequalled from any low level viewpoint in Scotland.
We had planned to be all ready to row about 11.30 for low tide, and we leave around that time. The course is pretty much due east across Gruinard Bay, past the north tip of Gruinard Island, towards Stattic Point, then round into Little Loch Broom. The crew don’t know yet that five miles of this route will be in open, choppy, difficult waters, but they are a hardy lot and their winter circuit training will certainly be tested.
We do really well for the first couple of hours but tiredness, and possibly boredom, soon set in and an increasing northerly wind doesn’t help, but we dig in and make slow progress. There isn’t much shelter from Priest Island on our port side and it is a really hard slog, but we made it to Gruinard Island in the next hour, and found enough shelter to take a bit of a breather and have something to eat.
Once we got round the headland, we got a little bit of shelter from Scoraig Peninsula – the waters of Little Loch Broom felt remarkably sheltered and calm. The remaining mile or so was comparatively easy going and the sight of familiar faces waving at the jetty was very welcome. The crew knew when they signed up for today that it would be a personal challenge, but everyone rose to it and should be very proud.