Skiff John B made the rather long journey recently to take part in the amazing Castle 2 Crane for the third year running. Deposited by drivers Millie and Sam at Dumbarton Castle, ready to spend the night with 74 other boats. Predominantly skiffs but a few others too including wee sisters Flossie and Speedwell, pilot gigs and a super wee double skull from Broughty Ferry called Georgia.
Saturday dawned bright and with a forecast for a slight head wind, which we'd need to keep us cool. Millie, Sheena, Scott and Rob were my rowers. Bacon rolls and more coffee were enjoyed before our start place came about. Number 52 and we were off, 12 noon on the dot. Out to the first perch to turn up the Clyde. But wait, that wind is much stronger and my goodness the white tops and waves. The pushing started.
It took us 58 minutes to get the Erskine bridge, such a slog. We'd overtaken a good handful of boats already. Water taken on and a few wee snacks but no stopping for my awesome crew. Up through into the city concentration and loads of encouraging chat. Some great moments of laughter with misheard chat, not like Scott, ....the safety boat actually came over to make sure we were ok as we were all in stitches...it did lighten the load....
So 2 hours in, coming past Braehead shopping centre I can see the top of the masts of the Glenlee. There was a lot of groaning in pain, then back to focusing on catches and relaxing forward. The stroke was long, slow and damn strong, on the last stretch towards the finish we reeled in about ten skiffs. How were we managing it? The momentum kept coming, we caught St Baldred just at the BBC building to cross the line at Finnieston in 2 hours 45 mins. What a row! We drifted a lot of the way back to the retrieval slip, tired, but so chuffed too. It was not easy to get out into a standing position. Blister checking....ouchy.
Huge congratulations and 6th place in the open mixed category, so amazingly fought.
An excellent festival followed with toe tapping music. Clydebuilt put on a really interesting array of stalls and the food and bar were well attended. The last three standing or dancing at the ceilidh were Vik, Ann and myself, much to our delight. We knew what we were doing was helping along the gig rowers. What a fabulous day.
Sunday dawned. Good grief, what happened to the weather? Thunder boomed overhead and boy does it know how to rain through West.
Vik, Ann, Sheena, Lou, Laura, Dave and myself were joined by Arran skiffies David, Emma, Steve, Cil ( who'd even dyed her hair red for the event much to Steve's disgust) Fritz, encouraged by a poorly Stuart. Our Broughty pals, Liz and Kate finished up our crew. Like drowned rats we were trussed up in buoyancy aids, handed little paddles, given some tips, the main one being "no capsizing", and we were off.
Nine teams took part, some very fit looking, one certainly had done it before. Three dragons at a time paddled the 160 m alongside the Glenlee. Our first race took 85 seconds, and left us even more soaked....we swapped about as we only had ten paddlers at once and with a drummer for beat on stroke too. Lou and Laura looked really great holding on tight with their thighs on a really precarious seat in bow. Our times got better with every heat. The slowest of the three was taken out and the other two added together. And we were in fourth place - YEEHA!, the sun was coming out, folk were enjoying it, and smiling too, crowds were shouting, what a great afternoon.
The semi finals saw some poaching of team members to help Ben (organiser of Castle 2 Crane), beaten by a second, by red skiffies. OMG!, into the final! Tactics were formulated, seating, best stroke, beater, and then the tension as logs were removed from the race area. And they're off, and gosh there wasn't much in it at all. Great battles, more friends made, and such a great crew! A fantastic event highly recommend to others for next year.
The journey home was thankfully a lot quicker with baths and early beds at the end of it.Here's to next year, thank you to all the volunteers and organisers, and to the towers too. An oarsome weekend.