When a coastal rowing and boatbuilding club holds a raffle, what else is the prize likely to be but . . . a boat.
Boatie Blest raised money for Cockenzie & Port Seton’s Community Rowing Club by raffling a magnificent model of Captain Cook’s famous ship, Endeavor. Winner, Martin Jones of Cockenzie was presented with the prize by Boatie Blest’s Chairman and Captain (Archie Johnston and Stuart Mack) and by renowned model boat-builder, Bob McNeil.
Martin of Whin Park, was thrilled to win having seen Endeavor on display alongside models of traditional fishing boats at the Boatie Blest Exhibition: ‘I’ve seen these boats at the exhibition during the 3 Harbours Arts Festival and in the windows of local houses. The detail and workmanship which goes into them is incredible so my wife and I were thrilled to hear we’d won Bob’s model which now has pride of place in our window’.
The gods of weather, tea and cake chose to Boatie bless us once again over the weekend of 26th – 27th April. The 5th Boatie Blest Regatta was months in the planning and days in the baking. Old friends and their boats traveled from North Berwick, Porty, Dunbar, South Queensferry and Anstruther to join us on Saturday together with new friends and their boat Honesty from the Honest Toun of Musselburgh.
First job of the day was for the Logistics Crew to erect the tea tent and marquee. Little more than two hours later, once reconciliations were complete and the Cake Crew in place, the action moved out onto the water for a day of fast paced oar-to-oar-harbour-wall action, kicking off with the annual Port Seton V Cockenzie grudge match friendly race. The new trophy, designed and manufactured by local artist Avesha DeWolfe, was carried off by the Cockenzie Crew this year making it 2-2 overall. Never mind, there’s always next year.
Every team and crew put in a great show on the Port Seton Pursuit Course throughout the day of heats, semis and finals, with Carmel’s bottle-top medals being won by crews from Anst’er, North Berwick and Boatie Blest. Sunday saw the traditional later than expected start and a generally more relaxed programme. No sign of North Berwick’s Fresher or Novice crew relaxing though as they took first in both categories. Their Junior team also took the medals, fighting off competition from Porty and Boatie Blest.
Sunday afternoon’s events took a turn towards the more unusual, easing in with the only slightly bonkers Port Seton to Cockenzie to Port Seton running/rowing relay. After some controversy over the use of bicycles the running and rowing teams from North Berwick made it back to the beach first.
We were a little surprised to find that three clubs had prepared routines for the inaugural St Ayles Skiff Bossage competition. With a panel of experienced judges, including a proper Dressage Judge, artist Avesha, Ali Porty and a large garden-gnome, the competition was fierce, kicking off with South Queensferry’s bonnie boat and their well coordinated oarspersonship. The Anst’er St Ayles team wowed the assembled crowd with their highland dance themed routine while the Boatie Blest men took to sculling for their performance, which included the never-before attempted, death defying Cornetto Venetian maneuver, in anticipation of the Voga Longa in June. The judges marks were close but St Ayles won the rosette for their fine artistic interpretation and natty (Natalie?) tartan kit.
If that wasn’t all exciting enough the day rounded off with another first – the Thorntree Slalem. Crews took it in turns to compete against the clock over a course of closely spaced buoys. This time it was Porty who turned in the fastest time, proving that they can bob and weave like no other.
A special thank you goes to Stu, who organised the event and to Carmel and Robin ‘The Megaphone’ Abbey, for holding things together. And of course to all the Boatie Bakers who went a long way towards raising over £1,200 over the weekend.
What, not content with just one regatta? Well, two weeks later it was time to travel over the Firth for the return match in North Cockenzie (Anstruther). This is the first time the club has been able to take part at Anst’er since that memorable day in 2010 when six newly completed skiffs competed for the very first time.
Once again St Ayles Rowing club were great hosts, even allowing us to make use of skiff 00, Chris O’ Kanaird, four stout oars and even some local talent to help with the odd victory over their own crews. Saturday’s racing was pretty full-on with, initially at least, some challenging conditions and a first for the Boatie Over 40s Ladies, while Sunday saw things slowing down a little. There were categories for Decades crews and an inter-club race, followed by a very social row for ice cream and a browse in Annie’s shop in Pittenweem. Of course the day had to end with a visit to St Ayles’ sponsors for a fish supper. Full details of the regattas and results can be found on the SCRA website.
Video kindly taken by shore crew: Caroline, Maxine and Ben
In keeping with the St. Ayles skiff’s propensity to spread beyond Caledonia a crew from Port Seton’s Boatie Blest recently took part in the Castle to Castle Race in north Wales. The race departs from the shore at Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey’s south east coast and takes crews through 13 miles of the Menai Straits to Caernarfon Castle on the mainland. Hosted by the Royal Welsh Yacht Cub this is, we think, an open event although all but two of the entrants were Celtic or Pembrokeshire Longboats. We also think that this is the first time a St. Ayles Skiff has visited Cymru, but perhaps you can tell us otherwise?
After spotting the post on the SCRA site Boatie Blest decided at fairly short notice that it would try to get a crew and Boatie Lodge down to Wales for the race weekend. Six members volunteered and accommodation was found at the slightly surreal Fort Belan, an American War of Independence fort near Caernarfon. The crew stayed a scone’s throw from the slipway and dock but the uncharacteristic Welsh weather prevented them from making use of these on-site facilities. Saturday morning dawned wet and windy and it seemed probable that the event would be cancelled but at the last minute race organisers confirmed that despite the marginal conditions the race would start, with a shortened race plan should conditions deteriorate further.
The start was something of a surprise, as all but 5 of the 25 or so boats were well ahead of the line as the cannon fired, clearly preferring the 2 minute penalty to being caught out behind their rivals. From the start the crew knew they were in for a tough haul, as the sw wind and tide conspired against them. With an extra passenger in the bow the nose of the skiff took several substantial dumps of water on board and all of the Longboat coxes were also baling enthusiastically. Within a couple of miles things flattened out a bit as the tidal flow subsided and by the time Boatie Lodge reached the beautiful Menai suspension bridge it was, mercifully, high tide slack water. Beyond the bridge lay the Swellies, the notorious rocky section of channel, where the tide can run at up to 10 knots. The organisers had timed the event well however and all of the boats were able to pass in reasonably clear, if windy, conditions. Boatie Lodge was by this point falling behind the leading pack of Longboats but was still well in the field, with several boats behind her.
Conditions in the straits changed significantly as the race progressed: the wind rose and tide built making the cox’s job a challenging one. The crew were certainly grateful to have club captain Stuart at the helm as the final few miles saw some nasty, short waves and more water spilling over both the bow and its passenger. Caernarfon came into sight suddenly as a sheltering headland was cleared and the crew put in a final burst to overtake one of the longboat competitors as they sped past the harbour mouth. The Royal Welsh Yacht Club cannon fired from the town walls as the skiff crossed the line, indicating that a prize had been won and the crew headed for the beach to compare their aches, pains, bruises and blisters. With the boat finally bailed out (Stuart thought that he had bailed over 50l) she was loaded back onto her trailer and the crew headed for the impressive club house, where club Commodore Brian Roberts presented the Certificate to Boatie Blest as winners of the coveted Mixed Super-Vets Skiff Class!
The arrival of a Skiff at the event drew a lot of attention and many complementary comments were passed on the fine looking boat and its very creditable performance amongst the faster fiberglass longboats. There was clear interest in the whole idea of community-building and who knows, perhaps the next Castle to Castle will see at least one local Skiff taking part?