Redpoint to Badachro – Section 5 | Day 12

Today we welcome Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club, one of the founding clubs of SCRA in 2010, who will be with the RowAround until we get to the top left corner of Scotland at Kinlochbervie.

History of Ullapool CRC

In the autumn of 2009, word reached Ullapool about a design by Iain Oughtred called the St Ayles Skiff and a local boatbuilder, Adrian Morgan, got eight of us together to build one.

Over the winter, the build team produced skiff number 2, Ulla, in a damp, cold cowshed, and she was launched in the spring of 2010.

Soon we had a club established, Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club, and in May 2010 we attended the inaugural St Ayles Regatta at Anstruther.

We were all on a steep learning curve and our oars had very long blades which we had decided to cut down until they were the right length. A wee dog ran away with the bit we cut off!

Even as far as Cork in Ireland.
At that regatta, Robbie Wightman chaired the first meeting of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association (SCRA) which went on to organise the amazing growth of the sport in Scotland and overseas.

We held a regatta in Ullapool in 2011 and have done so every year since.

Soon we were travelling to regattas in the local area and further south to North Berwick.

North Berwick Regatta
At Shieldaig Regatta

Our second skiff, Cùl Mòr, was built by Ullapool High School pupils.
In 2013, Ullapool held the first St Ayles Skiff World Championship, which was opened by Princess Anne.
First St Ayles Skiff World Championship

At Stranraer in 2019, our U17 Boys crew won gold at the World Championships.
Later in 2019, an over-50 crew rowed the 50 miles from Stornoway to Ullapool, nonstop, and raised £30,000 for Multiple Sclerosis.
We have all ages rowing with us.

So back to today’s leg. Gairloch Coastal Rowing Club are along for a bit of the ride too.

Gairloch’s skiff, Longa

We are aiming to row north as far as Big Sand, which is as it sounds, a beach, at the north side of the mouth of Loch Gairloch. It is one of the few places not way up a loch where a small boat can land, and that only in calm weather. The coast for miles north and south is very rocky.

The forecast for today is a light wind from the SE, filling in during the day to S force 3. This is excellent for progress but makes Big Sand exposed to surf and tomorrow it will be stronger which might make leaving Big Sand hazardous.

In situations like this one looks for little corners of shelter even if they are a bit off the planned track and Badachro fits the bill. Tucked into a NE facing bay with an island covering the entrance, Badachro is snug!

We launch from the south beach at Redpoint into gentle waves and round Sgeir Glas to see the coast marching north with Big Sand in the distance. After South Erradale comes Opinan, which like many place names on this coast is not unique – another Opinan lies further north.

With a following wind we pass Port Henderson, which like many ‘ports’on this coast is a pretty hard place to land a boat …

Whereas Badachro, as well as a sheltered beach, has an Inn! Our esteemed shore supporters find us in the best of spirits and in no hurry to leave!

Introducing Gairloch CRC

After watching the Worlds in Ullapool in 2013, a group of like-minded enthusiasts got together and the plan to build a skiff for Gairloch was born. Topher Dawson brought the Ullapool boat down for a trial row and we were hooked.

With borrowed moulds from the Ullapool group and after raising enough money from donations, the kit was ordered. Jeremy Fenton generously offered his garage for the build (only JUST big enough!) and work commenced in October 2013. Hugh Macintyre of Laide lead an incredibly talented team of builders with woodworking skills that were a joy to watch. The rest of the club added various other skills – sanding, varnishing, painting, signwriting, holding ‘bits’ and the exciting part – turning it over. Jeremy brought endless trays of tea and biscuits through the winter months…

Gairloch High School Art Department was asked to take part in a competition to design the colour scheme. The winning entry reflected their idea of the colours of the sea and shore, white, dark blue and sea green with orange lettering. The skiff is named Longa after Longa Island which lies at the entrance to Loch Gairloch and means Ship Island in old Norse. The club’s logo is the fish from the famous Pictish stone that was discovered in Gairloch. The stone depicts a fish, probably a salmon, and a bird.

Longa was launched in June 2014. She was towed from the GALE Centre accompanied by the Gairloch & District Pipe Band and a stream of people. At the Gairloch slipway she was named by Mrs Janet Bowen, Lord-Lieutenant of Ross and Cromarty, with a splash of whisky across her bow.

Longa is enjoyed by a variety of rowers who appreciate the chance to meet others in the beautiful environment of Gairloch Bay. Camaraderie, exercise and good craic onboard!

Longa is rarely seen on the regatta circuit. It is difficult to keep a crew training regularly together. Many of the members are involved in the tourist business and Saturdays are too busy for most. There are also conflicts of interest with a lively sailing club in Gairloch.

But for those who row regularly, their thoughts sum up our club:

The smooth dipping of oars in the water, the rhythm of a good crew, and the craic; all around, a wide sea and a wide sky; the chance to spot seals, herons, even an otter: for me this is all part of the joy of a row in our skiff Longa, in Gairloch.

Although Allison and I were not involved in building Longa, we saw her being ceremoniously launched with piper accompaniment a few years ago. In addition to the beautiful lines and paintwork of the skiff, the thought of rowing as part of a crew on the open sea attracted us to join Gairloch Coastal Rowing Club. We’ve rowed frequently, and the scenery, friendship and exercise all contribute to the enjoyment of the experience. Knowing that coastal communities all round the country (and beyond) use the same skiff design, and the fact that the design is based on rowed fishing boats of yesteryear, all adds to the pleasure.

I am new to rowing; for me it is about shared endeavour, the power that five of us create as we work together. It’s about community as well as fitness, about connecting with people whose paths might not otherwise cross with mine. Perhaps most of all I love the silence of this method of moving through the water, and the birds, mammals and fish that we share it with before returning to the noise and demands of our lives.

I love living by the seaside and basically take any chance that I can to be on the water. The skiff is good in many ways, it is sociable, fun and exercise in the beautiful outdoors. I like the fact that it does not require expensive kit and that it is available to all. I enjoyed the times helping to sand and paint our boat, and especially the whisky plank day and the turning the boat day. I hope to keep rowing into my old age.

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