It’s a still morning on the banks of the Blackwood River as I make my way to the Augusta Yacht Club.

The paperbarks hang low and the bright yellow swish bush is in flower. It’s one of those magical days in Tallinup, the Wadandi name for this corner of Australia. I’m here to meet a dedicated group of locals that meet down here every week to row the river.

Augusta Skiffs
'Zoom' getting carefully pushed to the water's edge. Photo: Tim Campbell

Ian Edgar is the first man on the ground, pushing a beautiful timber rowboat down to the water’s edge with the name ‘Zoom’ carefully painted across her bow. Ian offers us a quick scoop around the bay in the skiff, so I clamber in. Everybody is in charge of one oar. Synchronicity is key.

“Carbon neutral!” Ian beams, steering from the front, gently reminding me to bring those elbows in.

I’m struck by the clarity of the water. Small shells reflect from the bottom, a cormorant swims past and dolphins leap through the channel. Ian is patient and good humoured, and we’re back on the shore before I’ve had time to break a sweat.

Everybody is in charge of one oar. Synchronicity is key.

Augusta Skiffs
The regulars might be an eclectic group, but they're just as synchronised too. Photo: Tim Campbell

The regulars have arrived and while they load into ‘Zoom’ to row out past the bend, I sit on the banks with Augusta local Bill Perry to find out more about the project.

“We’re an eclectic group,” Bill says, pointing out the various careers amongst the crew to have all arrived here.

Bill’s had a lifetime of sailing out on the water but now spends more time ashore boat building, facilitating and sharing the group’s work. And there’s plenty to organise.

A regular group of up to twelve people can now be found working three mornings a week, in a shed that fellow local Cliff Owen generously provides at no cost. The skiffs are a Scottish Coastal Row Boat design which is purchased as a kit, and Bill stresses it’s nothing like your usual furniture flatpack.

The decision was made to use recycled Oregon and local timbers for the seats, coxswain and passengers onboard ‘Zoom’ and ‘Colourpatch’. The level of craftsmanship is high, and there is definitely no shortage of skilled woodworkers amongst the team. Together they have had to apply some creative solutions, but sounds as if a constant supply of sticky bun keeps the enthusiasm running.

Augusta Skiffs
Although purchased as a kit, the skiffs are nothing like your usual furniture pack. Photo: Tim Campbell

In addition to the builders, another group of volunteers are involved in organising fundraising and events. Presenting at the Augusta Whale Festival, Cape to Cape marathon registrations, wood raffles, quiz nights, and rowing Santa down the river, the list goes on. The Augusta Rowers also host the Regatta, where other state clubs bring their skiffs to race the Blackwood.

The next project on the table is the Acorn. She’s a smaller vessel at 17 feet long, and much lighter which allows a team of one or two rowers, along with the cox to steer the skiff. And beyond the Acorn, the Augusta Rowers intend to build a ‘pram’ at eight feet. This will also be raffled off to raise funds.

“Otherwise where are we going to store them all,” laughs Bill.

Bill points to the tremendous support from the community of Augusta, and the rising population of skiffs in other regional towns.

“Both Denmark and Nannup have modelled their association on ours, using our build photos during construction, the trailer designs, spar oars.”

And in recognition of the time and effort that goes in to building a skiff, the launch is often a time of celebration, and the Augusta Rowers have travelled regionally to lend a hand of support when other clubs launch. Bill speaks about attending the recent Blackwood Catchment meeting about health and management, both here in the Hardy Inlet and further upstream.

Augusta Skiffs
One of the beautiful Augusta Skiffs, The Colour Patch. Photo: Tim Campbell

Now resting my feet in the cool water by the river’s edge, it dawns on me how these rowers really play an important role as eyes on the river.

Quiet voices signal the return of ‘Zoom’ coming around the corner. There is a settled, steady breath and oars are held to rest on the gunwale. Ribbons of light reflect across the hull, and steady hands disembark to guide ‘Zoom’ into shore.

It dawns on me how these rowers really play an important role as eyes on the river.

There’s something soothing in an automated world, about rekindling an old method or design and making it relevant. Being out on the water in these boats, or just observing them, does have a timeless quality. But equally as striking to me is the community built around these boats, both in and out of the water. And that need has never lost its relevance.

Advice from a Local

Speak to a local expert Advice from a Local Our team of local experts

Our team of local experts are here to help plan and book your stay in the Margaret River Region.