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Coastal Rowing Afloat in the Moray Firth

What began as a project for the Scottish Fisheries Museum in 2009, has perhaps become the fastest growing sport in Scotland, reviving a tradition that was once central to Scottish fishing communities – skiff building! The project Scottish Coastal Rowing involves 11 communities around the Moray Firth with Wick, Helmsdale, Avoch, Ardersier and Portsoy having their skiffs in the water. Wick and Portsoy already have second boats either in build or on the water! A new community ‘skiff-builds’ is taking place in Findhorn, with interest surfacing in Cromarty, Fortrose, Burghead, Findochty and Banff.

 

As part of the MPF’s AGM programme in February this year, Great Glen House hosted a visit from ‘Esther’, the Inverness Firth’s first ‘St Ayles’ skiff, built by Ardersier Boat Club (ABC). The club formed in 2011 to enable Ardersier to join the Project. They launched ‘Esther’ in November 2013 and since then she has been busy taking novice rowers out in the Firth, and has been on the road helping publicise the project to communities nearby. Esther is number 54 in the Scottish fleet! Over 150 kits have now been sold around Scotland and across the globe as far away as Tasmania and New Zealand.

 

 

The inaugural ‘Skiffie Worlds’ Championships was held in Ullapool in July 2013 to great acclaim. It was well attended by people from across the UK, and by international skiff crews from the USA, Netherlands and Tasmania. Lorna Morrison, ABC, explains the attraction: “Everyone involved in the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project has stories of how it brings a new dimension to their lives. People of all ages are enjoying socialising and learning together, and praise both the fun and competitive elements of the sport. We’re enjoying the teamwork, exercise, and fresh air, while visiting new communities and learning new skills. The Coastal Rowing community is friendly and inclusive – anyone can join in, and with clubs supporting and visiting each other across the country, it must be good for local businesses and communities as well.” Based on a boat from Fair Isle, routinely used for fishing and trips to nearby Shetland and Orkney, the St Ayles skiff has proved seaworthy and fun to handle.

Each skiff starts as a flat pack plywood kit, pre-cut in a small workshop in East Wemyss in Fife. For the project Lorna estimates that a budget around a total of £6000 is required for the plywood kit, timber, trailer, and safety equipment. “I’m looking forward to seeing our new fleet of Moray Firth skiffs in action. We’ll have some competition and company to row with, as well as an excuse for a few camping trips around the coast! I can only say to anyone interested, Come and have a go!”

ABC welcomes new members of all ages, and meets regularly for rowing in Ardersier Bay. Club news and info are posted on the ABC facebook page and website.

Links to the other rowing club projects around the Moray Firth:

Wick Coastal Rowing Club have one Skiff launched ‘Spirit O' Wick’; boat number 49.
Facebook link and email.

Bunillidh Rowing Club (Helmsdale), one skiff launched, ‘Baile an Or’, boat number 33.  Email.

Avoch Community Rowing Club aka "the Skiffties, one skiff launched 'Zulu' (Aug 2014) boat number 72.  Contact Kathy Taylor (chair) or Morgan Jones (secretary) by email.

Portsoy Coastal Rowing Club, two Skiffs launched, ‘Soy Quine’ boat number 41 (bright pink!) and Soy Loon, boat number 51 (lime green!)  Ian Bright (secretary) by email.

Findhorn, under build. Contact Richard Wilson by email for more info.