Those of you who were at Port Seton Regatta on Saturday can’t have failed to notice some professional-looking media types (identifiable by leather jackets and expensive kit) asking awkward questions, making you sign your life away and filming the races. We’re really excited that a production company are undertaking some test filming to see if we’re interesting enough to follow around Scotland (I may have to push Frazer out of the boat every so often to maintain drama levels and we might have overplayed the likelihood of octopus-attack a bit). It’s by no means a done deal and we’ll hear in the next few weeks whether the project ticks the right boxes or not.
We’ve had a couple of days of filming with them and they are a really lovely bunch of people who have been very gentle with us. Thanks to the Boatie Blest regatta organisers for letting us bring them along and to all the rowers who said nice things about the challenge in their interviews. We were really chuffed with the positive feedback and are delighted that so many of our rowing friends are keen to take part at various stages of the route. Some of them got over-excited on camera and promised to row hundreds of miles with us. We’re going to hold them to that
Despite the season’s best intentions it was a pleasant Spring day yesterday so we made the most of the ambient temperature and got the first of the two top-coats onto Puffin’s hull. There’s so much more to focus on than the change of colour (which we’re really happy with) but seeing her in her new outfit makes it feel like Puffin has undergone a bit of a rebirth. We’re not perfectionists about the painting – she’s going to be hauled up on beaches and slipways and this invariably means scratches and scrapes – but we do want to make a good job of the finish and so there are a few runs and dribbles that will need sanded off before the final coat. The yellow strip below the gunwhales will be white when we’re done and hopefully the combination with the deep blue hull will evoke a Saltire-ish feel.
For the purposes of practising video documention (but mainly to avoid the lion’s share of the painting) I filmed a few bits and pieces and stitched them together with some redneck music – it felt appropriate.
The weather was far too horrific for painting yesterday (the paint tin suggests temperatures of at least 15 degrees C and the horizontal sleet suggested otherwise) so we spent a bit of time on timber sourcing for the oars and I nipped down to the gym for a spell on the ergo with Dangerous Dave from NB rowing club.
We’ve got a regatta coming up at Port Seton on the 18th of April which is a short but lung-busting sprint between harbours and I remembered that there’s a great GoPro video of the Men’s Open winning their race there last year. Fortunately Dangerous Dave knew exactly where on Youtube to find it, probably because he’s stroking in this crew and is therefore the guy at the front. It’s a fast and furious race and unlike any of the other races we have during the season. We’re going to be using GoPro cameras on the trip so it’s good to see that they stand up well to the action of the boat.
He also found a longer video of us getting our Silver medal in the Men’s Open at the World Championships in Ullapool. A much longer race over 2km with a 180 degree buoy turn at halfway it took around 12 minutes of hard slog to get over the line. Unfortunately the young guns of Coigach pipped us to the post but we’ll be going to the next World’s which are tipped to be on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland next year.
Found this great wee video that Katya has made using footage from a wide range of regattas over the last few years and some really nice shots from the World Championships in 2013. As you will see conditions can often be challenging but that doesn’t really stop us getting out and racing – that’s the beauty of coastal rowing!
The footage from the World’s shows the number of clubs that travelled to Ullapool in 2013 from all over the world. The next Championships are next year and with all the new clubs that have formed I suspect it’s going to be massive!
Of course if this sparks your interest in joining the world of coastal rowing visit www.scottishcoastalrowing.org where you’ll find a wealth of information on getting involved, find a club near you or even how to form your own club and build your first skiff.
We’ve finally got the special and reassuringly expensive boat paint! The hull has had it’s first coat of undercoat mixed with top coat courtesy of Frazer, who spent his Sunday afternoon inhaling paint fumes in a confined space and came out looking totally at ease with the world. We have to wait a couple of days before applying the topcoat and seeing the final colour and I can’t wait!
The idea was that we get the underside done so that we can spend more time monkeying around with the new innards without having to worry about flipping her over again. It does mean, however, that we’ll be treating her with kid gloves once she’s right way up to avoid scratches and scrapes.
One of the things we wanted to get out of the way asap was the sand and repaint of the underside. Once this is done we can flip her back over and get cracking with the new buoyancy bulkheads, seats, beer holders and all that good stuff. Taking Puffin off the trailer and flipping her over was not a job for 2 men (however buff and manly those men undoubtedly are) so we roped in some of our club mates who want to row with us on some legs of the journey.
Armed with the raw power of North Berwick’s finest men we flip-reversed the skiff in no time and got her sanded to provide a key for the new paint. The existing colour scheme is ok but we’re going to change it to Bondi Blue with a white trim to evoke the spirit of the Saltire and give a nod to our own club colours. She’ll need a couple of coats but I suspect she’ll look awesome in a short space of time.
After she’s dried it’ll be another flip then the inner paint job which is going to be a lot more time-consuming with lots of nooks and crannies to sand first. We make progress!
The new expedition re-design meant we had to remove the decorative stern and bow pieces in order to make room for the new tiller and Gopro mount. The pieces were carefully sawn off so that they can be returned to their owners or even reattached at a later date. Both pieces had been carefully carved and the puffin head had been imaginatively decorated with a beak full of silicon sand-eels but there’s no room for embellishments when Puffin becomes a sleek expedition vessel!
Its time to delve into the dark underbelly of skiff rowing – and we’re talking bums here. Unlike the sliding seat racing boats the Oxbridge set use, the seat in a skiff is fixed and your body is the thing that has to move with each stroke. This inevitably creates friction and, as we all know, friction is not always your friend.
Skiff-bum is a common complaint after rowing for any length of time and whilst it varies from person to person the general symptoms are pressure sores, welts and even open wounds if you don’t look after your botty properly. To put it into context at the finish line of the NB Men’s Open last year (an 18 minute race) my bum was bleeding freely as a result of poor short choice. We won though so it was totally worth it. Critical to prevention of skiff-derriere are seat-type, protective shorts, gel pads and even vaseline (which some members of NB rowing club apply in commercial quanities).
Seat setup for Puffin is something we want to get right from the off so we’re looking at a wide variety of options. Each of the North Berwick skiffs has a different setup that affects the body in its own way depending on the angle front-to-back, depth and the curve of the edges. The first one I knocked up out of some spare CLS was heavier than any of the NB ones but allowed me to plane a really deep curve on both the front and the back to minimise bum-seat contact. It may seem unusual to curve both front and back but although the leading edge of the seat is often the main pressure point and source of grief, in my experience just as much pain can be caused by bum-cheek compression at the stroke finish when you’re leaning full back. Curving the back of the seat away could minimise this but time will tell.
Upon dry fitting it feels pretty nice to sit on but it’s one thing to sit in a static boat in a shed and quite another to row 25 miles per day on. We’re working on a few variations which will be tested in the April sea-trials.
Puffin has had a clean out and we’ve had a (killer) whale of a time unscrewing things, re-screwing things, taking things apart and forgetting how they went together. The good news is that after a bit of sanding and planing we can see that there’s not much wrong with her! There’s a bit of rot around a couple of the oarlock holes but nothing that some new hardwood and epoxy can’t fix. Her hull looks sound but just to be on the safe side we’re getting NB’s chief boat engineer Norman to come out and have a gander. Fingers crossed she passes the medical.
Although we’re part of the fantastic North Berwick Rowing Club which has built and races 3 St Ayles skiffs, we needed a skiff that could be customised and tinkered with for our expedition. Step in Johnny Johnston from Eyemouth who was trying to find a new home for Puffin – a skiff they had built for St Abbs Rowing Club that is no longer used.
Johnny is a real character. He’s originally from Port Seton and after a spell in the merchant navy spent most of his life as a fisherman operating out of Eyemouth. He has been a driving force in promoting the St Ayles skiff and was really keen to get involved with our project. We’re delighted that he’s offered to either cox or follow us with his reconditioned fishing boat “Good Hope” for the first leg from Eyemouth to North Berwick.
We nipped down with Gareth’s pickup to collect Puffin and she’s now safely esconced in Ian’s tractor shed. Condition looks good although we’re a bit worried that she was stored outside with no cover for a couple of years before being dried off. We’ll soon see if this has caused any rot!