Saturday, 24 July 2010


I'm very lucky to live just a few feet from the two-mile-long sands of Portobello beach, and enjoy watching it's different moods at all times of year. Occasionally, on the rare occasion that the sun is out in a cloudless blue sky, it will be covered in day-trippers roasting themselves to a luminous lobster-shade of red while trying to keep the sand out of their sandwiches. Then there are the quieter days when it's only the dog walkers or beachcombers wandering along its length.

Today though was a bit more unusual. For the first time since the 70's Portobello held a rowing regatta. Teams from all over brought they're hand-made wooden crafts to take part, from as far afield as Eyemouth, Anstruther and Achiltibuie. Twenty teams in all took part with four rowers and a skipper on the tiller. Each one rowed out to a marker buoy and back, with four skiffs racing at once. It all became quite exciting and the crowds cheered enthusiastically as each team raced home.

There was a Portobello community boat entry, that had been built locally. Surrounding primary schools had a competition to name the completed skiff, which is called Icebreaker, which did pretty well on the day. The Scottish Coastal Rowing Project supplied the design for the boat, which is a "St Ayles Skiff" and a local group called Row Porty built it for the community. A grant has been given to the group to build a second boat which anyone from the local community will be able to use.

The event was well supported and the activity centered around a local coffee shop called the Beach House, which last year had fenced off a large area adjacent in order to start up Portobello Sailing and Kayaking club. The regatta, run over two days, seems a natural extension of the club. It reminded me of the days when I ran a deli and coffee shop and over the summer we would have regular live jazz outside. It created a real community feeling and the regatta had pretty much the same feel about it today, with everyone smiling and chatting, and generally having a good time.

It is now their hope to run it every year. Judging by the attendance today, even under heavy laden steel-coloured skies, I'm pretty sure it will. And not a beach lobster in sight!

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