Royal West & Thames Valley Skiff Club circumnavigate Bute & Cumbrae

Last weekend, following approx. 6 months of planning, a squad consisting of five Club members and eight guests from Thames Valley Skiff Club in London used Whiteforeland and Zebra to row round the Isles of Bute & Cumbrae. Royal West has had a relationship with TVSC since former Captain of Boats Duncan Graham joined TVSC in the early 90’s. We have enjoyed their hospitality when in London, using their Thames Skiffs at times or local knowledge when rowing on the Thames. This has been either in competition or for pleasure.

This adventure started when one of the TVSC members contacted the myself asking advise about rowing across the Great Glen. I advised against it due to the logistical issues in getting boats to it and the probable boredom of the trip. Suggesting a local row from Greenock. It evolved into a three day trip from the Club to Kames, then down to Millport, before the return leg back to the Club.

Saturday morning was initially quite gentle as we rowed towards Cloch in the company of a couple of kayak shaped seals going by the names of Gary & George. We expected some more challenging conditions as we crossed to Toward and that is exactly what we experienced. There were some amongst the squad who had never rowed on anything but the flat Thames, this opened their eyes to our reality. There were also some from Royal West who had raced in these conditions but never for this length of time. It took us approx. 3 hours to cross from Cloch to Toward, and for approx. 2.5 hours we were fighting wind and waves. Turning at Toward and running with the waves up into the Kyles was a huge relief.

The trip up the Kyles was fantastic. Calm waters and the wind at our back. We pulled in at Colintraive briefly, but as we left the rain came on and stayed on for the rest of the hour or so until we landed at Kames.

At each stop we experienced fantastic hospitality. Rev. David Mitchel was waiting on the shore at Kames on Saturday evening, eager to see the boats in which he learned to row. As we were soaked and tired from an epic trip across to Toward earlier in the day, his assistance to get the boats ashore was most welcome. The staff at The Kames Hotel were on hand with room keys for the bedraggled crews, not batting an eyelid at the piles of wet gear and folk traipsing through their lovely hotel. Dinner was great and the relaxed atmosphere of the bar later were much appreciated.

On Sunday we stopped for lunch at the very North end of Inchmarnock. On a beach popular with geese and the local seal population. The latter were very obvious just off shore and seemed to take a liking to attire of one of the TVSC crew, Chris. He had inadvertently dressed very similar to a seal that day in his thermal base layer. Pictured below is the crew of Zebra just before launching off Inchmarnock.

(Is that young Mat Henderson at the Bow?)

As we rounded Garroch Head we were hailed by the local St.Ayles Skiff Cumbrae. They escorted us into the Newton Shore where they had arranged transport for the two Heavy Fours and all our kit up to the Cathedral Of The Isles, where we were booked in for the night. Once again the staff up there were on hand to welcome us. having showered and changed the party made its way to Fraser’s Bar, by the pier, where the landlord was expecting us. Another great meal was had in good company, before retiring to the Newton Bar for a nightcap.

Well that was the plan. Your Vice President, two members of TVSC and the Chairman of Cumbrae CRC joined the regular quiz evening against the 40 students from the Marine research station and turned in a winning and record breaking score. The honour of the island was returned.

Monday morning was a bit overcast initially but our spirits were bolstered by the local club as they turned up to help us get afloat after breakfast. We cannot praise Cumbrae CRC enough for the assistance they provided, THANKS GUYS.

The leg back to the Club saw us returning to the more developed stretch of the river. Leaving Millport and turning North opposite Hunterston then Largs illustrated the very diverse nature of our local area. We pulled in at Wemyss Bay for a comfort break and some lunch, where we also caught up with the Captain of Boats.

Al Black came out to chat as we passed his lighthouse an hour or so after leaving Wemyss Bay. He took the photo below of the two boats with Dunoon in the background.

Arriving back at the Club in the late afternoon we were greeted by family eager to catch up with all the adventures. Boats were unpacked, stowed and showers enjoyed before a well earned dinner at Café Balfe.

Our guests enjoyed themselves and the boats performed great. This type of trip needs to become the norm again. It is at the heart of what the Club does really well.