Seven Go off to Arran

There may not have been lashings of ginger beer in prospect and the Five seem to have grown in number but otherwise the plan to row around Arran bore all the hallmarks of a spiffing adventure.  And so it turned out for the seven WBC&WH members who had taken up the challenge; a complete circumnavigation of the Isle of Arran in the course of a week, negotiating new waters and unfamiliar currents, and finding a bit of downtime to enjoy some of the other experiences on offer on this beautiful island.
The adventure began as the not-so-magnificent seven gathered in their self-catered accommodation in Shiskine, the tow team having already safely delivered The Flying Boat to her safe berth onshore at Lamlash and been provided with a very detailed and informative briefing from local rower Rory, he himself having previously completed a solo row-around in his lovingly self-built Moonshine. Setting the tone for the week to follow, in jig-time delicious fare was produced and enjoyed. Top Tip No 1: foodies and chefs make excellent self-catering companions.  Over the next couple of days, a combination of gaining local knowledge, weather-watching and preparation were in order, with a cheeky row in the company of the Arran Skiffies to keep the Wormit crew on form.
Mid-week, the promised weather window emerged, so at the very uncivilised time of Oh-My-God o’clock and in a light drizzle the inaugural crew set off from Lamlash slipway rowing out past Holy Isle en route to Whiting Bay and towards Kildonan Castle.  The day progressed and the skies cleared, and as Flying Boat passed through Pladda Sound the combination of a gentle breeze and glimpses of the sun encouraged the crew on towards Brennan Head and the southernmost tip of the Island. By now, four hours had elapsed, so sustenance was taken, rowing positions were changed and off the skiff headed for its first port of call at Blackwater Foot. As expected, the channel leading to the small harbour looked less than inviting, so the cox put the skiff safely ashore on Silver Sands bay, a few hundred yards north of the harbour: the drogue was on standby but surf conditions were benign enough for it not to be deployed (a drill practiced in the week before the trip).  After a swift crew change, off the skiff set for its planned destination for the day at Pirnmill, where she was safely received again by the onshore team, including the ever-obliging Rory. A quick summary of the day’s rowing confirmed a passage of 33 miles completed - including stops - in around 9 hours. Top Tip No. 2: the effects of a bruised backside are mitigated effectively by liberal applications of the patient’s tipple of choice (for internal used only).
After a couple of days of blustery conditions, during which bikes were ridden, dogs were walked, castles were visited, open waters were swum and, erm, Arran knitwear was bought, Rowing Day Two arrived as anticipated, with local tides allowing a slightly more civilised start-time.  This also provided a chance, en route up the coastal road to Pirnmill and the skiff, to catch sight of some of the local wildlife.  Amazingly, the Big Three of otter, seal and dolphin all put in an appearance on the glassy surface just a few yards off the beach. Very exciting.  Easing Flying Boat into the water, and with a friendly wave off from the shore team, the second leg of the trip began, with the route up the East coast of the Island leading to the well-named Twelve Apostles row of fisher cottages and round to Lochranza.  Here the crew conducted cat-and-mouse evasion tactics to avoid the passage of an apparently unscheduled service of the Claonaig ferry, which was given a generously wide berth.  Top Tip No. 3: CalMac timetables are a law unto themselves. Who knew?  From Lochranza and its imposing castle, the skiff and her doughty crew made for the next port of call, crew change and call-of-nature opportunity at Sannox Sands.  Greeted by the shore team bearing welcome Danish pastries, a two-for-two swap of rowers was completed and a course set for the final run back to Lamlash.  Before that final destination there lay, however, the challenge of crossing Brodick Bay and its regular ferry crossings en route to and from Ardrossan and Troon.  With visibility reduced to a few hundred yards and the ominous sound of ferry engines drifting in from somewhere in the mist, cautious progress was required. Top Tip No. 4: see Top Tip No. 3 (above).  Potential maritime catastrophe averted and a consequential embarrassing conversation with the WBC&WH rowing lead avoided, Lamlash Bay and the now-familiar sight of Holy Isle hove into view, with a small but enthusiastic reception committee, recognisable by several coloured balloons seemingly requisitioned from a nearby children’s birthday party, ready on the slipway to mark the occasion and to take stock of the final tally: an additional 24 miles rowed in a further 8 and a half hours, making a grand total of 57 miles in 17.5 hours, completed by 7 rowers of which three had gone all the way.
Reflecting later over fish and chips in a local hotel (the foodies and chefs having earned a break from galley duties), all agreed that it had been a challenging, rewarding and fun-filled trip, much enhanced by the knowledge and generosity of the local rowers; Rory not only helped with the row, but even put his impressive workshop at the disposal of those Wormit rowers keen to hone their woodworking skills.  There was even talk of conducting further island row-arounds akin to Munro-bagging.  Watch this space…