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First try: Coastal rowing on the Black Isle

Written by Fiona

June 24 2021

Back in 2013 I wrote an article for Scotland Outdoors magazine (now no longer) about the growth of coastal rowing in Scotland. I remember thinking how much the activity appealed to me.

I liked the idea of communities coming together to build a traditional rowing boat and then learning how to row together. That year, the world champs came to Ullapool.

I guess I could have joined a coastal rowing group somewhere close to Glasgow, such as Govan, but I was caught up with other sports – and it seemed to me that I would like to live closer to the community if I was going to join a crew.

And then I forgot about it all entirely… until I moved to the Black Isle last month.

A friend suggested I meet with her friend on the Black Isle and it turns out she is a member of Avoch Community Rowing Club.

I joined a bootcamp connected to the rowing club. Almost the first question someone (rudely! ha!) asked me was my age. For once, it seemed that being in my 50s was a great thing.

Avoch Community Rowing Club, better known as the Skiffties, wanted to form a ladies 50s crew.

There were two boats out on Sunday morning.

First row: Out with the Skiffties

I was nervous about how it might go but I knew I wanted to try and last Sunday morning I join a crew of four. Margaret was also new (and in her 50s).

In “stroke” was Kathy (the very enthusiastic bootcamp instructor and super rower) and John (JR), who said that he took a while to be encouraged to try rowing but as soon as he did he was hooked. We had an excellent and very encouraging cox, David.

I was placed in position three because you apparently need long legs to cope with the seat position.

Almost from the first stroke I knew I would love this sport. It’s such a fantastic combination of physical challenge and mental focus.

I liked how I had to concentrate hard on the stroke of Kathy. I could think of nothing else and that was mindful. I was totally in the present and also surrounded by the stunning outdoors environment.

The Moray Firth was beautifully calm and the water’s surface was almost mirror-like.

My boat!

I loved the effort of legs and core (I used my arms too much but that is common in the first outings). I need to learn when to relax and when to put in the power of a stroke.

I enjoyed being part of a team and when we were all working together it felt so smooth and speedy.

I could see how just one bad “catch” lost us metres and speed very quickly.

I tried different positions in the boat and actually rather liked “stroke”. This requires an ability to set a steady pace and not lose focus. You also need to listen to the instructions of the cox.

Position three was my other favourite place.

Margaret described the experience as “almost as good as horse riding”. I don’t know her but I am guessing she loves horses.

I was buzzing by the end of our time on the water – and tired, too.

I have been invited to compete in my first regatta early next month at Golspie. I am really looking forward to it. I don’t imagine we will do too well with two beginners in the crew of four but I am keen to participate.

It is strange how things come around. From 2013, writing about coastal rowing to 2021 and I have moved to an area where I can become part of an enthusiastic coastal rowing club.

I will be reporting back on the regatta.

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