Here on Shetland, we have a class of boat. The Yoal. It takes 7 to crew – 6 with an oar each and 1 to shout instructions – and last week I became secretary of the Gulberwick and Quarff Yoal Club. Last night was the first time this year our (y’see, I’ve been in the club a week and it’s already ‘our’) boat got into the water.
There was a light wind down in Wester Quarff, blue skies, calm seas. The boat seemed (to my untutored eye) to be in good form. About 20 of us, men and women, turned up to put our backs to the oars. Some of them have been doing this for years, most of them (like me) hadn’t done anything like this before. Until recently, the smallest boat I’d spent most time on was a Northlink ferry. I’ve been on boats about this size before, but they’ve usually had outboard motors and I’ve been wearing diving kit. Last time I had to row anything was on the Zambezi river, white-water rafting!
Once we’d been given some basic instructions, reassured that everyone gets things wrong on their first time out and doubly reassured when the “experts” spent some time getting their oar properly mounted, we were off. A short jaunt out and back. And it’s complicated! I was at the back on the right-hand side, looking forward to make sure my oar didn’t collide with the man in front whilst simultaneously working out where the sea level was so my oar actually went in and trying to avoid both punching the guy in front of me in the back and whacking my knees with the oar on the return stroke! Aaaargh!
But despite the complications, the difference in rowing stroke between the boat on the water and the rowing machine in my bedroom, the team work, it was fantastic fun! The men’s team – and GQYC hasn’t had a men’s team for over 10 years – meets for the first time on Thursday night. Can’t wait!