Caroline Catz found the perfect way to unwind after a day’s filming on Doc Martin by joining the Port Isaac rowing team.
“I went out with the Port Isaac rowing team in the gig in the evenings after work which was great. We rowed out from the harbour right out to sea.
“I had to be right at the back so I didn’t smash my oar with someone else. I am an absolute learner and I was petrified by these giant pieces of oak- the oars.
“When someone pushes the boat off you have to hold your oar up in the air before you put it in the sea. But I was so scared I was going to bash someone over the head with my oar. They are so heavy, it feels like you are holding a tree.
“It is really hard work, tough on your arms and wrists. It is fantastic exercise, but it is also very relaxing. The first time I went I was so petrified I was just looking at the oar all the time, trying to keep it in rhythm, so not looking around.
“I had always wondered what Port Isaac looked like from the sea, and to travel along the coast on the sea. I had never done rowing before.
“When it is flat and still it is fine, but when there is any kind of choppiness in the sea that makes it really difficult, you are fighting to keep the oar in the water.”
“The sea needs to be respected. I felt really safe with the rowing team. Those people know the water so well they really know what they are doing. You knew you were in really safe hands.
“The rowing team is made up of local people and has been going since the late 80s. There has always been a tradition of each fishing village having a gig. Traditionally they were like pilot boats to steer the boats into harbour.
Caroline’s invitation to join the rowing team came when she was shopping in the surfers’ shop in Port Isaac.
“It was a beautiful evening and someone came into the shop to say they were short of people for the gig, and the owner of the shop asked if I wanted to go.
“I had watched the team go out and admired them, so I jumped at the chance.”
Caroline also caught the surfing bug while she was in Cornwall. She joined members of the crew on their evening trips to the surfers’ paradise of Polzeath. But the first time she went out on the waves nearly proved disastrous.
“I bought a wet suit and a wooden boogie board. The first time I went out I got myself into a bit of a muddle and went out a bit too deep.
“A giant wave came up from behind me and knocked me over. The boogie board jammed into the sea bed and I got smashed on top of it, right across my middle.
“The crew who were with me were looking at me with absolute horror on their faces. They said I went white and got up spluttering and crawled to the shore. It didn’t put me off, but I did buy a nice new foam board to replace the old wooden one.”
Caroline says part of the joy of filming Doc Martin is being able to enjoy a whole new life style.
“It was great spending three and a half months living by the sea. I enjoyed being out of London. It is just such a different existence. It has a completely different rhythm to it, driven by what the sea is doing rather than whether the Tube has broken down. The house I stay in when I am filming looks right out to sea
“I couldn’t envisage living somewhere like Portwenn though, it’s a bit too small for me.”
Caroline was however wooed by the different lifestyle, and was persuaded to sell her car and buy a camper van for family holidays.
“I’ve enjoyed being out of London so much and being near the sea, and I had seen these fantastic camper vans driving around Cornwall, so I decided to sell the car and buy one.
“The idea is we can leave London for a holiday when we want to. It is very exciting.”
Caroline’s character in Doc Martin, headmistress, Louisa Glasson, is highly unlikely to leave the Cornish hamlet of Portwenn. Her dreams remain focussed on a future with Dr Martin Ellingham.
Despite the doctor’s curmudgeonly manner and complete lack of romance, Louisa is still determined to have a relationship with him. Her persistence appears to be paying off at last.
“I admire her determination. She is determined because she is genuinely in love with him and she thinks it is not happening because of something about his personality that somehow she will change.
“I think there is a slight belief that she might be able to do that; that he will become more what she wants him to be when they are together. It is a classic mistake that people make: that belief you can change people.
“She wants to have a relationship with him, and she has accepted he is socially inept. But whenever she takes steps to get them together something goes wrong. It is heartbreaking for her.”
The arrival of a glamorous new woman in Portwenn who is vying for the Doctor’s attention galvanises Louisa into action. She invites the doctor to a romantic evening of classical music.
Prompted by the sense of romance in the air Louisa seizes her chance to demonstrate how she feels.
“The date at the concert goes very well. It is very romantic, the doc takes Louisa’s hand and it’s all looking quite promising. She initiates a kiss. After the kiss the doc starts to say something. Louisa urges him not to ruin the moment, but of course he manages to. For Louisa that is a really heartbreaking moment because that is when she realises she has been attempting to chase something that is never going to work.”
Louisa storms off believing there is no hope for their relationship. But she’s in for a big surprise when the doctor proposes to her just after he has saved her friend’s life.
“Louisa is in awe at how Martin has been able to bring her friend back to life. As he is leaving her house he stops in the doorway, and out of the blue asks her to marry him.
“She says yes, of course. She has been waiting three years for this moment. A drink would have done!
“It would be great to see them get together at last. We will have to see what happens…..”
Since filming the Doc Martin Christmas special last year, Caroline has taken the opportunity to spend time her baby daughter Honor and son Sonny.
Caroline’s recent television credits include The Vice, In Denial of Murder, Real Men, The Bill, Preston Front, Look Me In The Eye and The Guilty.