Sunday, 12 December 2010

The hunt for Shewie's trivet.

Just over a week ago while I was on the "Song of the paddle" (canoe) forum I read a post by a guy called Shewie (forum name) from Yorkshire who'd been up to Loch Lomond with some fellow canoeists and bushcrafters. They'd been finishing their trip just as the snows had hit us and Shewie had left his trivet (a metal stand for cooking over an open fire) behind while packing up. He wasn't sure if he'd lost it at the layby at Aldochlay or on Inchconnachan island (where they'd camped). Whilst the trivet wasn't worth much, it was much valued as Shewie'd had it made specially to his own design. I said I'd have a look for it the next time I was going out on the Loch.
  My intention had been to go for a paddle much sooner but with the snow and ice we've had and working a lot the opportunity hadn't presented itself until yesterday. The forecast was for a strong northwesterly wind to moderate as the day went on and milder cloudy conditions to turn to cold clear weather during the night.
 I left Helensburgh just after lunchtime and was on the water ready to go by 2:30pm. Just prior to setting off I had to nip back to the van to get something I'd forgotten and what caught my eye lying in the undergrowth next to the pavement? Shewie's trivet, a little rusty from the salt but otherwise unscathed.
Oh well, that'd save me searching Wallaby Island in the gathering gloom!
The Pal was all loaded up ready to go so once I'd safely deposited the trivet in my van it was off onto the loch. The wind had been moderating as forecast but was still gusting so I headed south to get as much shelter as I could. This worked quite well but there was a surprisingly big swell running down the channel between Inchtavannach and the shore. I'd chosen to wear my drysuit just in case the conditions were challenging but it was actually good fun surfing down the swells!
Ben Lomond was looking quite wintery despite the recent thaw.
Once I was round the southwestern corner of Inchtavannach the water was pan flat.
As usual for my trips it was getting dark more quickly than I'd anticipated so I just headed back to my previous campsite on Inchmoan, it's a stunning spot and would be difficult to better.
I managed to get camp set up  before it was completely dark this time and improvised a tripod support for my light (handy while cooking dinner!)

 After eating I got a fire going to keep warm as it had dropped below freezing as soon as the sun had gone down.
I went to bed early as I was knackered from being on night shifts for the last two weeks and it had got really cold. My tent was covered in frost by 9:30pm and the lure of a down sleeping bag was too much to resist. I didn't bother setting an alarm figuring that as I'd be in bed before 10pm I wouldn't sleep late. Eleven and a half hours later I woke up to a stunning morning!
It was still pretty cold though and the tent was coated in ice inside (where the condensation from my breath had frozen) and out.
Time to get breakfast on, blueberry and apple porridge was just what I needed to warm me up!
 After breakfast I packed up then went for a walk about on my bit of the island and picked up as much litter as I could carry (mostly empty drinks bottles and tins). I meant to take a black bin bag for this task but forgot so was restricted to filling up my own small rubbish bag, still the wombles would be proud of me!
Once I had a full bag of junk I set off to paddle east past Inchmoan and round Inchcruin. It was absolutely stunning and I seemed to have the loch to myself.
This picture is looking west to the Luss hills with Inchmoan in the foreground.
Looking north through the "Geggles" (the narrow gap between Inchmoan and Inchcruin) with Ben Lomond prominent on the right and Ben Vorlich in the distance.
Once on the northern side of Inchcruin I started to feel peckish again so decided to head for Bucinch where I knew of a nice picnic spot (Bucinch is the wooded island in the middle of the picture).

I found my nice secluded harbour and went ashore to put the kettle on. While I was waiting for it to boil I started to hear singing getting gradually closer (my spot was hidden in the trees so couldn't see the source of the singing). As the mysterious songsmith got closer I could make out that he was singing a loud but not altogether tuneful rendition of the Verve's "The drugs don't work". It turned out to be a mature (I'd guess in his sixties) guy paddling a sea kayak. After a quick chat (during which he told me the loch was frozen solid on the east shore near Balmaha) he went merrily on his way launching into another song I didn't recognise at the top of his voice. It was the kind of beautiful day that might inspire you to sing but I'm not sure that his enthusiastic effort quite did it justice. Top marks for effort though!
After a bite to eat and a cuppa I set out south again, skirting the west side of Inchcruin then headed across to the point where Inchconnachan, Inchtavannach and Inchmoan are at their most close together. By now the sun was getting low in the sky and after stopping briefly to chat to two more sea kayakers I pushed on.
I had this amazing view of Ben Lomond through the narrows of Inchconnachan (right) and Inchtavannach (left). I'm quite proud of this pic, I think it's one of the best I've ever taken. From here it was a short paddle around the southern end of Inchtavannach back to my put in point.
 I paddle a lot on Loch Lomond and to be honest I can't wait to go further afield to explore in my new canoe but with the short winters days and cold weather it's great to have this beautiful spot virtually on my doorstep. I don't think I could ever tire of paddling around the islands though, the scenery constantly changes with the weather and the seasons and this trip was one of my best so far. Thanks to Shewie for providing the excuse!

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