WATCH: Pride of Aln makes her maiden voyage with the Duchess of Northumberland

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The Duchess of Northumberland joined the crew for the maiden voyage of a traditional rowing boat today.

She was one of a four-strong team who took the oars to launch the Pride of Aln at Alnmouth.

The Duchess of Northumberland helps crew the Pride of Aln on her maiden voyage. Picture by Terry Collinson

The Duchess of Northumberland helps crew the Pride of Aln on her maiden voyage. Picture by Terry Collinson

The launch was the culmination of 18 months of work by the Alnmouth Community Rowing Association to build the 22-foot-long skiff.

Three other skiffs - Coquet Spirit from Amble, Crofton from Blyth and Grace from Gosforth - joined Pride of Aln on the water.

Crowds turned out to watch as the Duchess and the rest of the crew rowed away into the estuary, followed by the other boats.

The Boulmer inshore lifeboat was on hand and crew members came to the rescue when Pride of Aln got stuck briefly in the estuary and had to be pulled clear.

It’s a huge community effort and I’m really glad to be able to come and support it.

Duchess of Northumberland

She was then rowed back to the estuary mouth and, to the applause of the watching crowds, out into the waves.

The Duchess said afterwards: “It was great fun, especially when we went out into the waves.”

Before the voyage, she admitted she hadn’t done much rowing.

“I haven’t done much rowing myself but I’m told it’s all a matter of timing and I just do what I’m told. I’m quite strong so I’m sure I’ll manage.”

She praised the work of those behind the skiff project.

“It’s a huge community effort and I’m really glad to be able to come and support it.

“It’s a really good opportunity for the community to embrace this project. Hopefully schools will start showing an interest in the opportunity that they have on their doorstep for young people to come and get some exercise in a fun way.”

The project to build the traditional St Ayles skiff was conceived by members of the community. Most of those involved had no previous experience of boat building and the few who did had never built a rowing skiff like this one before.

The skiff was built at Embleton but is now housed in the old boatshed at Alnmouth beach, which was once the home of the original Alnmouth lifeboat.

She has a £2 coin, given by Gosforth Rowing Club, in her keel, a symbol of good luck for those who use her.

The Alnmouth Community Rowing Association is open to local people of all ages, as well as organisations, and the skiff will be used for recreation, sports training, team building, as well as being entered in regional and national rowing regattas.

Pete Bulloch, from the Association, said: “It’s been a fantastic success. The North East skiff community has come together and this will be the first of many such events here on the beach.”

Pride of Aln was officially launched by the Duchess of Northumberland in November last year.