The RowAround Story – Part 1

So how did RowAround Scotland 2020 begin? The leftover waifs and strays after the SCRA Freshwater Sprints at Loch Tummel in October 2018 were finishing off the leftover booze in the holiday park and discussing the tenth anniversary of the SCRA in 2020 and how to celebrate it. They came up with the circumnavigation concept; the main culprits were Ali (Portobello), Hana (Isle of Mull) and Andy (St Andrews).

Ali (in Tasmania), SCRA committee. She is masterminding the Tenth Anniversary film and crowdfunding with Gaynor (Eskmuthe)
Gaynor (Eskmuthe)

It still seemed like a good idea the next morning and so a (successful) bid was made to Event Scotland for Year of Coasts and Waters funding in the summer of 2019. Topher (Ullapool) and Stuart (Boatie Blest) drew up the overall plan and distances – whether we’d go around clockwise or anti-clockwise, for instance. Robbie (North Berwick) set the guidelines and recruited/cajouled/pressganged pilots for each of the sections; some met at Loch Tummel after the 2019 Freshwater Sprints. Andy consolidated the passage plans, looked up tides, provided charts and wrote risk assessments. A logo competition was held, and won by Fiona (Collieston). Gear was purchased and tested, leaflets designed (Fiona) and merchandise ordered, a website designed by Stuart (Arran), storytellers, poets and artists-in-residence volunteered themselves, press releases written by Kathie (Isle of Seil), a handcrafted logbook made by Rebekah (Ullapool) and grants applied for by Sue (Isle of Seil).

The batons were expertly crafted by Shona and Colin (St Ayles, Anstruther). A trawl net for the microplastics sampling was modified, designed and constructed at Field Studies Council Millport, thanks to Alex (FoCCRs) and team. We sure have amassed some amazing talent from within our own ranks! Apologies for any omissions.

RowAround Scotland 2020 is supported by the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 events fund, managed by EventScotland. In 2020, Scotland celebrates its coasts and waters with a year long programme of events and activities which will shine a spotlight on these vital elements of our landscape. The fund is being rolled over to 2021.
RowAround Scotland 2021 is also supported by the Scottish Natural Heritage Plunge In! The Coasts and Waters Community Fund.

Then lockdown happened on 23 March; our grand launch had been planned for 25 March at Gretna. Virtual RowAround Scotland got ‘ready to row’ immediately, providing a valuable legacy project celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association in its own right, as well as engaging frustrated rowers during lockdown and introducing them to new bits of the Scottish coast. Early on, we had optimistically hoped to slot back into the RowAround in real time, when restrictions were lifted, but it soon became apparent that the country was in for the long haul and it was decided to rollover the whole circumnavigation until next year.

So this is our remote ‘dry run’ for Take Two, the real thing, in 2021, dv.

Some of the team; Robbie, Sue, Kate, Matt (co-pilot for Section 6), Topher, Alan, Wendy & Lindsay at Loch Tummel, October 2019
Andy Rendle, Safety Officer ( St Andrews). Co-Coordinator from July 2020; SCRA Secretary
Robbie Wightman (North Berwick), co-coordinator of RowAround Scotland and Convenor of SCRA until May 2020 – in lockdown disguise
Sue Fenton, co-coordinator of RowAround Scotland and pilot for section 4; SCRA committee member
Jan Bee Brown, storyteller-in-residence (Newhaven). Jan has recorded stories, and sung shanties, for each of the virtual legs. She had Covid early on, and lost her voice for a while
Joel Mason Houck (Kinghorn, Black Rocks), poet-in-residence

Joel admits to not having been particularly excited by the concept of Virtual RowAround, as opposed to the real thing, but he did compose this poem having been inspired by a RowAround meeting at Eli, before the transformation from RAS to VRAS.

Circuitous Thoughts

Circumstances intervene
Circumnavigation dream
Can one of the new clubs use your boat

Circumstantial thoughts abound
Circumscribe the shape of round
Tell me does the baton sink or float

Logisticians calculate
How the boats and teams rotate
Could we maybe tie it to a buoy

Circumvention acts abate
Circumrowers at the gate
We don’t need to actually have it do we

Elspeth Mackenzie, artist-in-residence (Eastern & Newhaven) Elspeth designed SCRA’s ten year poster, and the colouring-in templates of skiffs before succumbing to the virus
Saz Reed, Scottish Association for Marine Science, boffin-in-residence and the (very) enthusiastic leader of the microplastics study
Shona, baton crafter and techie guru (St Ayles, Anstruther) and SCRA committee member
Fiona Bell, graphic designer (logo, T shirts and leaflet); (Collieston)
Virtual RowAround Scotland webmaster extraordinaire, Stuart Turner (Arran)