The Mid Argyll club virtually rowed out to escort the Arran skiffs to Ardrishaig, following Iolair and Seabhag’s epic row across from Lochranza on Tuesday. Visiting skiffs were stored in the boat club yard and Mid Argyll also volunteered to help with warps for the skiff flotilla going through the Crinan Canal on Sunday.
Brief History of Mid Argyll CRC
The club started in 2012 as part of the initiative to get more pupils involved in exercise within a community setting. The club began under the guidance of Alex Ohnstad and Craig Lemmon, both teachers at Lochgilphead High School. The first St. Ayles skiff was bought with a ‘Sports for All’ grant that allowed the purchase of the skiff, oars and trailer. Alex approached Iain Sinclair, an experienced boat owner, to help with coaching and training of the pupils.
Very shortly in 2013 the club became a community based project with people starting to join us to row. Quickly the number of members rose to 18 and the club needed to think about purchasing a second skiff to accommodate all who wanted to row. A second skiff was bought with another community grant and the number of rowing sessions quickly rose to two evenings and Sunday each week. The club rowed predominantly from Ardishaig but also expanded their horizons by attending regattas or events at Tighnabruich, Kilmelford, Isle of Seil and Tarbert. Some racing took place but the club members quickly realised that to be competitive we would have to remove a lot of weight from the boats and this was not something that members wanted to undertake.
We began to visit other areas in Argyll – Lochgoilhead, Loch Lomond, The Isle of Gigha, Tayvallich, Oban and Kerrera, Otter Ferry – to name a few. The wildlife became a major part of the enjoyment members got during rows – a memorable evening saw the boats surrounded by over 40 seals in Loch Fyne.
We were fortunate to be featured as part of a BBC Alba programme looking at the four great canals of Scotland. Two presenters rowed with the skiffs at Crinan Harbour – the filming taking place on board both skiffs and from Iain’s boat. The programme was first shown in 2018 and has just been a in March 2020.
The skiffs were named after members decided upon Gaelic names that had a connection with Scottish culture. Uisge was the first skiff named and then Beatha came along. The names seemed fitting given that together they mean Water of Life – definitely nothing to do with any connection with Scotland’s main export, whisky, or the fact that many of our trips in the past seemed to feature a meal at a local pub or hotel!
Since 2018, the number of members rowing regularly has declined and the club is struggling at times to remain viable. We took the decision to sell Beatha in 2018 as the number of times both skiffs were fully manned had reduced considerably. Both skiffs were identical and built at the same centre in Greenock – but members said they preferred the feel of Uisge. We still row as often as possible but the winter weather over the last months has been very poor – high winds and rain have all reduced this season to one of the worst since the club formed. Now the club is mothballed due to the Covid-19 virus.
Once the UK and the rest of Europe return to normality, the skiff will be put back into the water again and the club will begin to try and attract new members. There are still many areas of Argyll that we have yet to visit – as well as hoping to visit other clubs in Scotland.