The evolution of the Forth

As Andy Carnduff hands over the external liaison role at the Forth Yacht Clubs Association to Anne Shedden, the pair talk to us about their hopes and ambitions for the Forth – including a better boating link between East and West of Scotland through the Forth and Clyde Canal.

· Recreation,Yachts,Partnerships,Connectivity

“Over the last 60-odd years, I’ve been sailing or boating in the EU, the US, New Zealand, China and, of course, Scotland,” says Andy Carnduff. “Of all of these, Scotland has provided the best water and winds but not always the best weather, and certainly not the best facilities ashore. That’s a great pity – we should up our standards.”

After 25 years as External Liaison at the Forth Yacht Clubs Association (FYCA), Andy (pictured below) hopes to see a more holistic approach develop towards nurturing the totality of the area’s coastline – one that brings together the interests of all relevant parties. “We need to integrate the provision of coastal facilities to support everyone,” he says. “And we need to recognise and develop both the economic return and the social and wellbeing benefits to society. We have been amazingly fortunate to have inherited a fantastic coastline to use and enjoy but we will preserve this gift for future generations only if we use it to everyone’s benefit – for business, for work, for wellbeing, for pleasure and for health.”

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Andy’s opportunities for global adventures in sailing stemmed from his career as an engineer with a series of overseas postings. But, as he sails his own twin-keeled Jaguar 27’ yacht from its moorings at Aberdour, he believes there is a tendency to underestimate and under-value the significance of the Firth of Forth.

“People have been sailing in, along and out of the Forth and the East coast for something like 3,000 years – we’re just Johnny-come-latelies,” he says. “Most of the harbours here were built in the Middle Ages and during the Industrial Revolution. They were used for fishing and trade with the Low Countries, the Baltic and the World! We have this extraordinary history based on the interconnection between our land, the sea and foreign lands.”

His concern is that not enough is being done today to protect and support these access points between land and sea. “We already have perhaps seven harbours on the firth wholly or partly infilled, their landward areas repurposed with housing built on them or proposed. Houses can be built more or less anywhere, but you can only build harbours between the sea and the land. These are very valuable resources; we should be protecting and developing them.”

Ready for change
Andy is passing on the baton at FYCA to Anne Shedden (pictured below), another engineer, who is happy to invest more time in the organisation following her recent retirement. While Anne enjoyed sailing when at university, her passion for it only fully developed in recent years. “Whether you sail or not, so many people love to get down to the sea. My boat is at Limekilns and, whenever I was down there in the winter, people were asking when the boats would be going back in the water, and saying how good it is to see them out there. Boats imply a quality of life in the surrounding area.”

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Anne will continue to carry the flag for the issues that the FYCA cares about and is keen for the Association to support a sustainable future for the Forth. “A lot of what I worked on throughout my career has involved transformation and improvement, and there's obviously a lot that’s happening on the Forth right now in terms of change,” says Anne. “Whether it’s the windfarms or the Forth Green Freeport, we need to explore what we do as boat clubs to transition to greener sailing and a sustainable Forth.”

“Small isolated small boat clubs can easily miss out on developments or duplicate efforts, so joining together as part of a bigger organisation brings a lot of benefits to everyone,” she adds. “It also connects people with a great depth of knowledge and experience.”

Greener boating
Other issues on Anne’s mind include switching smoothly to cleaner forms of fuel. “The problem with standard diesel now is that it’s lifespan is only about six months,” she says. “A dangerous situation can develop quickly if somebody is in the path of a ship when the wind drops, and then they discover their engine won’t start.” She looks forward to tax arrangements for HVO diesel being resolved so that its usage can be extended from inland boats to seafaring ones as this is an important step towards greener and safer boating that can be taken now – as well as the transition towards the electrification of boats.

“Recreational electric boats are going to arrive within the next 10 years, they’re bound to,” says Andy. “Some electrically powered wind-farm support vessels are already being charged offshore, direct from the wind turbine-powered batteries. We need to get that same concept going with recreational boats.”

The FYCA clubs are focused mainly on yachts, but membership is diverse. “For instance, the Grangemouth club is mostly a motorboat club whereas the East Lothian Yacht Club supports dinghy racing.” says Andy. “Members spend a lot of time personally working on repairs and maintenance.”

Anne believes there are misconceptions about the boating community. “People maybe think that if you own a boat, you must be flush with cash but that’s not the case with small boat owners,” she says. “Small boats are not as expensive as you might think, and the owners tend to work really hard on them. They also care about the areas where they sail, and their knowledge can be useful in the transformation activities on the Forth.”


The canal connection
Andy will remain on the FYCA committee in the short term, focusing his continued efforts on ongoing issues. These include his belief that Scotland is missing a big opportunity by failing to better connect the East and West of Scotland via the Forth and Clyde Canal. Originally opened in 1790, the canal was once of Scotland’s key arterial routes, playing a major role in the Industrial Revolution.

“The canal closed to navigation in the 1960s but reopened in 2001 through National Lottery and other funding. However, it still hasn’t been dredged to the agreed depth,” says Andy. “When the canal was working, it carried small ships that commuted between the Atlantic and the Baltic. Today, the Forth should be one of the conduits to the West Coast for small boats coming from Europe. They currently must use the Caledonian Canal, or occasionally, the Pentland Firth. The idea of sailing through the Central Belt of Scotland is something we should be marketing, but we can't because the canal is not good enough. It’s a missed opportunity.”

The Forth Yacht Clubs Association was formed in 1969 by clubs on the Forth to coordinate activities, represent their interests and promote sailing on the estuary. The association currently has 22 member organisations (representing around 1,000 boats crewed by some 4000 individuals) ranging from Grangemouth in the west, up to Anstruther in the north-east, and south to Dunbar, sailing from Stirling to the North Sea.

The interests of the clubs vary widely, with the association providing support and representation in sailing activities, navigation, environmental issues, coastal protection and safety. In doing so, it also liaises with RYA (Scotland), Forth Ports, Forth& Tay Navigation Service, HM Coastguard, Scottish Canals, Local Councils, the Scottish Government and, of course, the Forth Estuary Forum.

The FYCA also coordinates the racing calendar among clubs, manages the racing handicap system and promotes interclub social and cruising activities.

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