Ardglass St Ayles Skiff Launch
A First for Ardglass The first of the nine coastal rowing boats being built by communities along the County Down Coast, was completed and launched this weekend at Ardglass Harbour.
The “Ardglass” , a St Ayles skiff, is the first of her kind seen in these waters and is a 22ft , 4 oar rowing boat. Looking very smart with her deep blue top plank over a white body, she was built by a team of dedicated volunteers as part of the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership’s (SLLP’s) community coastal rowing project “The Narrows Challenges.”
Rickey Le Bloas, a boat builder or many years’ experience explained, “The Ardglass team had a late start but we were determined not to be left behind in the race for the water., Once we found a place to build the boat, it was full steam ahead”.
William Mulhall, the Ardglass team leader, said, ” It was great to see how everyone pulled so hard together to make the project forge ahead - no sooner did the kit arrive than they had it looking like a boat.”
For the Ardglass team this is a particularly great achievement as they only took delivery of their kit eight weeks ago, after securing premises from Hendersons to build the boat and present their exhibition at the harbour. After a slow start, the Ardglass team made a tremendous effort to catch up with the other teams.
The boat, a St Ayles’ Skiff, requires about 800 man hours to build and is very challenging, but the level of interest within the community and support between communities involved in the project has so far been inspiring. The marine ply kits are designed to give non specialists a chance to get involved but at the same time produce a high quality boat that makes even experienced boat builders proud to be involved.
Constable Nick Jenkins, from Peninsula Neighbourhood Policing Team, who was one of the first to see the potential for developing community coastal rowing here, thinks the rowing skiff project is building a great sense of community spirit in the area. "We are really delighted to be involved in this project. The PSNI are frequent visitors to all the boat building premises and it is great to see the progress which is being made. It has been especially impressive to see how young people have worked alongside older members of the team and have been given some sense of ownership of the displays at Ardglass”.
Caroline Nolan from the SLLP was really impressed with how Ardglass had involved their community. “Not only did they build a boat but they also kept it on display to the public throughout the build along with an excellent exhibition of their maritime heritage”.
Now that the boats are getting ready for the water Killyleagh, Strangford, Dundrum, Portaferry, Kircubbin, Portavogie, Ballywalter and Donaghadee, as well as Ardglass are looking for rowers. During the month of September training is being provided by the Sea Cadets for anyone wanting to develop (or find!) their technique on a first come first served basis. The only requirement is that you join the Down Coastal Rowing Club (an umbrella club for the boat building and rowing teams) for a nominal fee of £5.
Membership is free for those under the age of 18 and is open to 11 year olds and older. The Club’s website will soon be on-line but in the meantime check out their Facebook page on f: downcoastalrowing where you will see all the training times and dates that are available.
This is a great opportunity to take up a new activity, get fit and meet people in your community For further information contact Susan McClay at the SLLP office in Portaferry, Tel: 028 427 28886 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org . No experience needed.
The first Narrows Challenge races will take place on 5 October across the Narrows of Strangford Lough and in Castle Ward Bay. This community and tourism initiative has been developed by the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership (SLLP) with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). It has been approved by the Down Rural Area Partnership (DRAP) as part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas and it is supported by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and Down District and Ards Borough Councils.