Plans afloat for Rowaround Scotland bid

Sue Fenton and Liz Furrie at Seil with the specially-made relay batons that will be passed between skiffs, open top boats, during the RowAround Scotland 2020 bid starting this March.

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Word of this year’s RowAround Scotland bid has spread worldwide with requests to take part coming from as far away as Uganda.

Seil’s Sue Fenton, who is co-director of the ambitious expedition which could involve up to 70 rowing clubs, including the island’s own, has heard from keen rowers across the globe desperate to join in the attempt to circumnavigate more than 1,800 miles in open boats called skiffs.

‘The interest has been amazing. We’ve had inquiries from all over the place, and Europe, in particular Holland, and even someone from Uganda who wants a seat,’ said Sue.

This weekend a number of organisers gathered at Seil Island Hall for  passage planning and expedition plotting training.

The row sets off from Gretna’s Blacksmiths Shop with a mock wedding on March 25 – unless water-worthy sweethearts get in touch ready and willing to tie the knot for real.

All the dates are dependent on the weather and the journey, split into 13 different sections handing over relay batons specially fitted with trackers, is due to end six months later at Loch Tummel, marking the 10th anniversary of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association.

Funding support  for the adventure has come from the Year of Coasts and Waters Events Fund managed by the Scottish Government. The award was for £11,000 with match funding from St Ayles’ skiff enthusiasts and crowdfunders.

The Argyll leg is scheduled to start at Ardrishaig up the Crinan Canal for a try-a-row  event at Craignish Boat Club in Ardfern on May 4, giving schoolchildren to octogenarians the chance to get their hands on the oars.

Also coming through the Crinan will hopefully be rowing clubs from Islay and Arran.

Coming up next, Dorus Mor round the head of Craignish Point will be just as tricky as going through the Corryvreckan so getting the tides just right  at that point of the passage will be essential, says Sue.

Experienced help will be at hand thanks to former Luing creel fisherman Robert Latimer who, well-used to that part of the coast, will be joining the row with members of Whitburn Coastal Rowing Club from South Tyneside  where he now lives.

There will also be a stop-off at Craobh Haven before heading next to Eilean Gamnah, a small island at the head of Loch Melfort for a picnic with rowers from Luing, Kimelford and Whitburn.

Balvicar on Seil is next on the itinerary with a row up to Oban where the relay baton will be handed over to the town’s rowing club joined by the Loch Awe Coastal Rowing Club. Stops to follow will be Dunstaffnage and Port Appin.

The Port Appin club hopes to have its skiff finished in time to get on the water and be accompanied  by members of the Glen Coe rowing club for a spin round scenic Castle Stalker.

From Port Appin, the baton will be taken to Lochaline by the Glensanda Quarry workboat and be handed over to the Morvern skiffies to take from Lochaline to Tobermory for the Isle of Mull skiff together with the Iona skiffies heading to Kilchoan and finishing off the Argyll stage.

During the RowAround, film-makers will be capturing footage to show at outdoor festivals and water samples will also be collected as part of a planet-saving micro-plastic study.

Keep up with RowAround Scotland 2020 news at facebook.com/RowAroundScotland/ During the row, tracking data will be sent to www.rowaround.scot to follow its progress.