St. Abbs to Tweedmouth – Section 12 | Day 4

11nm = 3.5hrs, very pretty, birds, cliffs, tricky reefs.
We’ll rest or change crews at Burnmouth (about half-way, single toilet ‘cubicle’)
Alternates for safety: Eyemouth, Marshal Meadows Bay.

“But have you ever been at one in a rowing boat at sea,
beyond midnight, drifting quietly in the bay?”
— A. Turner-Cockroft

Whoa, slow her down a bit
We’ve gathered for a very early, darkish, September launch ‘cos parking and turning is TIGHT in St. Abbs. Then later the trailers and camp-followers plan to meet us at Burnmouth and Tweedmouth. Saint Cuthbert was a visitor to the monastery here and apparently spent contemplative nights immersed in the sea. Despite his long contemplations, he never invented the wet-suit, or even the dry-suit.

If you once turn on your side after the hour at which you ought to rise, it is all over. Bolt up at once. — Walter Scott

Ah, here come the Northumberland clubs ‘en masse’ to beef up our numbers:-
Craster (The Jolly Fishermen), Alnmouth (Pride of Aln), Amble (Coquet Spirit), plus Whitburn (Latimer Ledja).

Pirates and mermaids
Only one toilet is open for nine crews plus drivers: 9×6=54. By the time the last has widdled it’s time for the first to visit again. Memo to self: “Should have staggered this departure.” Meanwhile Harbourmaster Richard is sorting the trailer-reversing guddle.

Our dodgy plan:
St. Abbs will visit Eyemouth then return to St. Abbs.
Eyemouth row out and join us from Eyemouth.
Craster will explore the cliffs for a wee while and join up at the Hurkar Rocks.
The others will briefly drop into Eyemouth for an ice-cream.
So, the REAL departure will be all remaining skiffs meeting at Harkness Rocks, off Eyemouth, the ‘ensemble’ then heading south. As we thread our way out of St. Abbs, missing the reefs and feeling the swell, all along the cliff tops we hear the raucous squawk of hundreds of thousands of resident guillemots, razorbills, gulls and a late-departing kittiwakes. With tide turning, it’s full speed ahead around the headland and into Eyemouth where the grey squall turns into a bright summer’s day.

The sea conditions were choppy I recall, so concentration required crafty looks to the cliffs. The location of the harbour was stunning with crystal clear waters, truly a special place. — Pauline, Amble

Narrow, steep, long ‘canyon’
Ahoy! Rogue dive-boats about! The long, narrow, steep Eyemouth ‘canyon’ leads us to the pontoon and ice-cream parlour. Eyemouth, we lust after your convenient boatshed, clubhouse and slipway.



A worried crowd watches as we arrive.
In earlier times, Eyemouth was notorious as a centre for smuggling. As the Scottish port nearest the continent it was a natural for the illicit import of spirits and other goods. Reputedly the roof space of Gunsgreen House, overlooking the harbour, was used as a store for smuggled tea. The house and cellars are described as a “smuggler’s palace”.

We link up off the Hurkars, gulp:-

You get an inkling that the swell may be a bit tasty when the local lifeboat offers to shepherd you OUT of the harbour… and our inklings weren’t wrong as we rose and dipped over some big (yet gentle) rollers. — Amble, heading south from Eyemouth.

If life is about experiences then few things can compare with rowing eight miles out in a skiff with five like-minded people. Such adventures can’t be bought but are simply part and parcel of coastal rowing. — David, Dunbar

There’s the white house!
Well-known as the ‘First and Last’ village in Scotland off the A1, Burnmouth, south of Eyemouth, has a fishing harbour. Approaching Burnmouth we’re looking for the long white house. Yes, there it is!

Pam’s chuckwagon
Can I see our campervan aka ‘Pam’s chuckwagon’? Yes, whoohoo!: bovril, bacon sarnies, scones and steaming coffees awaiting!

Sheep, like people, are ungovernable when hungry. — John Muir

Watch for the breaking waves
As we leave Burnmouth we note the swell has increased again.

Most folk go along the A1, or through Coldstream, or Carter Bar, or take the train. Skiffies cross the border somewhere in the North Sea. — Pauline, Amble

Over sea-border into Old England. Now an English poet, John Masefield:

“A very queer thing is the wind,
I don’t know how it beginned,
And nobody knows where it goes,
It’s the wind, it beginned, and it blows.”

Makes you feel better about your own school poetry, doesn’t it?

Are Amble in trouble, again?
Keep away from the shore, stalwart skiffies, and keep the speed low so we don’t ‘broach’ on the waves.

I grew up in landlocked Bavaria and moved to Hamburg, where I started rowing on the canals, and sailing, so I developed a love for the water that stayed with me; transitioning from moving-seats to fixed-seat wasn’t too bad, and being on the sea rather than in canals is a huge improvement for me. I can forget all the stresses, deadlines and pressures of being an academic. The sea is so-o-o beautiful. — Gabi, Dunbar

Oh, my God! The crews have started singing sea-shanties…

“We’ll rant and we’ll roar,
Like true British sailors,
We’ll rant and we’ll roar,
All on the salt seas…”

Listen here:

Beware commercial shipping.
What happened? We’re already passing Marshal Meadows Bay and approaching Tweedmouth. We see the lighthouse on the end of the 700 metre-long pier.

We’ve phoned HM’s office, we’ve been briefed on VHF: “Today no big commercial shipping; creep along the pier; tide rising so cut across directly to the beach; avoid the breaking surf on Spittal Sands.” We’re in and there’s our clutch of cars and trailers.

That was a tiring day… zzzzzz…

To all, to each, a fair good-night, and pleasing dreams, and slumbers light. — Walter Scott