North Coast Recce – Section 6 | Day 1

Queensferry Questing Quines
There being no Coastal Rowing Clubs on the North Coast mainland between Kinlochbervie and Wick (yet), this part of the RowAround route was put out to tender. The Queensferry Questing Quines [Anne P, Anne (Flan), Liz, Rachel, Barbara] took up the challenge and are reprising their award-winning expedition rows over the past few years (Caledonian Canal, Oban to Largs, Lochcarron – Broadford – Portree – Rona – Shieldaig) etc.

The baton was delivered to Kinlochbervie by Ullapool’s Minch crew and then conveyed onwards to the Kyle of Tongue by batonman himself, Andy, RowAround’s safety officer and all-round good egg. The Cape Wrath peninsula was completely left out of the equation.

Important: Due to the nature of this row it may be necessary to call off a day or multiple days due to weather conditions making the row unsafe. The rule will be that weather will be assessed the night before the next stage and each morning before the row begins.

It is also important to understand that all of this journey has been done without being able to carry out a reconnaissance of the planned route and contains considerable wishful thinking and imagination. Our recce was planned for April this year. Enough said. NB: No animals were harmed in the making of this fiction!

  • Imray Chart C68 Cape Wrath to Wick
  • OS Landranger map 10
  • OS Landranger map 11
  • Navionics app
  • HM Coastguard
  • Maritime & Coastguard Agency –
    • Aberdeen 01224 592334
    • Area: Scottish Border to Cape Wrath, incl the Pentland Firth
    • Stations at Melvich and Scrabster
  • Lifeboats
    • Thurso – Offshore, all-weather lifeboat 
01847 893433 
Ferry Pier, Scrabster KW14 7UJ
    • Longhope, Orkney – Offshore, all-weather lifeboat
The Virtual Recce

This virtual row from Kyle of Tongue to Thurso was complicated by the fact that only one of the crew had been to that area and that was not for a considerable time. We had no idea of the water conditions in relation to rowing the distance that we planned. Normally we make a point of going to check out the route that we propose to take. This was to essentially risk-assess the route with respect to suitability of identified exit points, get the ‘lay of the land’ and really importantly, to talk with locals. We have, on our past expeditions, gained a lot of useful local knowledge and advice as well as significant interest and kindness. But this year, what with the virus, that was not to happen.
Since we were collectively stuck in Queensferry and Dundee we decided to use the virtual world along with our nautical charts and OS maps to populate our recce. We utilised the usual electronic resources e.g. Google maps, (both at the satellite and map versions) allowing us to examine inlets, access roads, beaches and harbours for evidence of slipways and possible launching and exit points. Wikipedia and other historical sources online which as well as providing interesting historical background also sometimes listed construction of harbours that may not have been mentioned by other sources. We also visited a couple of surfing web sites which provided both information on reefs, and interesting wave formations including a couple of daunting photographs of surfers in rolling waves (winter season only!!!!!). As ever, kayaking sites and posts online were extremely useful; kayakers by nature get everywhere and have been there before us. Their posts give a great idea on the water conditions and routes to potentially exploit – and those to avoid. Facebook and You Tube also provided some local community group photos and lots of pictures taken by visiting tourists which, again, helped us to view some of the headlands and coves.

Although we missed out on our usual ‘let’s go and check out the route’ and the associated fun, laughter and exploration we did manage to gain quite a lot of information, some of it quite daunting, about where we were heading. A visit to the area would still be absolutely essential prior to undertaking this voyage for real. Just to be clear, our row will be along the north coast of Scotland rowing the extreme westerly end of the North Sea; we will not enter the Pentland Firth which commences as the western end of Thurso Bay.

Fantasy Skiff 😉
The Quines had not yet organised a skiff for the trip before lockdown. Since this is a fantasy row, we would like to do it in a fantasy boat. This Expedition is to be undertaken in the new expedition skiff, Garvie Lass, funded by the generosity of all the people who bought monkey fists from the Queensferry kniffty knotters. Garvie is the local name for herring and Garvie Lass is a nod to the fishwives of Queensferry.

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