Keen sailors support rowers and plan to help others find sea legs

From left, Dave Foote, Mac and Jane McHugh.
From left, Dave Foote, Mac and Jane McHugh.

An Alnmouth couple are backing a community rowing project and aiming to bring residential-based skippering courses to the village.

Jane and Mac McHugh, who have run the Red Lion in the seaside village since 2003, have donated money to buy a VHF handheld, ship-to-shore radio for the Pride of Aln skiff, which was built by Alnmouth Community Rowing as part of a scheme to involve more people in coastal rowing.

Alnmouth is one of five places, including Amble, between the Tyne and the Forth to construct its own skiff to encourage more people to try the activity.

More than 50 local people of all ages were involved in the project and the boat was officially launched a year ago.

However, there were only sufficient funds for one VHF radio, which is housed in the skiff.

For safety purposes, it was essential to base a second radio on land to ensure that those using the boat could communicate directly with their shipmates on the shore.

Jane, who is currently studying for her coastal skipper’s qualification, said: “VHF radios are used to call the Coastguard in the event of problems, but it was also important that Alnmouth Rowing could remain in radio contact with the skiff while it is in use.

“The Coastguard recommends that mobiles shouldn’t be used instead of traditional VHF radio for the simple reason that the phone signal is not always reliable at sea.

“Both Mac and I are keen sailors and we wanted to give something back to the community and this was an ideal way to help the project.”

Dave Foote, from Alnmouth Community Rowing, said: “We’re really grateful Jane and Mac stepped in to help us buy this essential piece of kit.

“It’s a useful addition to marine safety, which will provide an extra level of protection and confidence to people using the skiff and those learning about coastal rowing.”

The couple now aims to bring specialist residential coastal skipper courses to the Red Lion, which offers bed and breakfast and has a restaurant and bar serving real ale.

It is planned that the hotel will host the courses during the winter months with an instructor from the Greek islands, with whom Jane studied.

She said: “We’re aiming to start the courses next year because there are no residential courses locally.

“If you want to learn coastal skippering, you have to do it at night classes over the course of a few months.

“The Red Lion will be a great venue to do this.

“When we took it over, we knew nothing about the pub trade – we couldn’t even pull a pint.

“But now we’re a part of the community and we’ve enjoyed organising events like beer festivals and supporting local charities and schemes such as the community skiff.

“Bringing the course to Alnmouth will be great for local trade and we might even get to use the VHF radio for training purposes too.”

For more information on the rowing club, visit http://alnmouthrowing.org, or for the pub, visit www.redlionalnmouth.com