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WATCH: History made on Cromarty Firth with launch of Highland Ness yoal Sula

By Hector MacKenzie

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HISTORY was made on the Cromarty Firth at the weekend as well-wishers toasted the fruits of three years of work at the launch of a trailblazing new vessel.

It was a proud day for the Strathpeffer and District Community Rowing Club when their third volunteer-built boat, a Ness yoal named Sula was christened and launched at the Storehouse of Foulis.

Master builder, Angus Macinnes, was joined by many of his crew of 12 builders to see the vessel christened by Paul Mooney from Alness. Mr Mooney had donated the original kit to the club and marked the occasion with a dram donated by the community-owned Glen Wyvis Distillery.

A Ness yoal can be sailed as well as rowed – and her seagoing capabilities were well tested in an easterly Force 5. Safety was well covered with the RNLI Invergordon lifeboat at the launch under coxswain Andrew Murray and the volunteer crew.

Sula was designed by Iain Oughtred, who sadly “went aloft” on Skye last month. He was consulted about the sail plan during the building.

Yoals, which originated from Ness in the south mainland of Shetland, were used in the 17th century as fishing boats.

A large crowd was welcomed by club chairperson Hazel Inglis who explained that the name Sula was chosen by the builders as it’s the Norse name for a gannet. It follows the seabird theme of the two club St. Ayles skiffs, Grebe and Tern.

The name also means peace or Little She Bear and incidentally is the name of one of landowner Hector Munro’s grand-daughters, who attended the launch

A guard of honour, with raised oars, was provided by the club’s two skiffs and the new skiff Auricola from the Portmahomack Coastal Rowing Club Sula was piped into the Moray Firth by pipers John Cranston and George Murdoch (Chanonry Coastal Rowing) with accompaniment from two visiting fiddlers. The skipper of Sula for the day was experienced sailor Marisa Astill-Brown and the crew were Rob Raynor and Alan Mackintosh – both members of the Strathpeffer Club.

Hazel Inglis, club chairperson, said: “It was a great occasion and the club is very fortunate to have members who build our boats and who row, and now sail them and without the builders there would be no boats, no rowing, no sailing and no club!"

She thanked main funders the EDF Corriemoillie Strathpeffer Fund and the Co-op Community Fund. Representatives from both attended the launch

She added: "We also wish to thank Quintin Stevens, proprietor of The Storehouse, for his continued support of our ever increasing club activities and we are looking forward to Sula being sailed at the Invergordon Boating Club, who are can provide safety boat cover and members with sailing experience who will guide us in learning the skills of sailing a traditional boat. Our members and skiffs are looking forward to a busy season of social rowing and participation in regattas and hosting many clubs at our own regatta at The Storehouse on Saturday, June 22.

"We look forward to many new members joining us to participate in Scotland’s fastest growing sport of coastal rowing.”

Anyone over 12 is welcome to join the club and can do so on the club’s website at https://sites.google.com/view/sdcrc

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