Sunday, 17 April 2011

The wrong end of the loch!

Myself and Stephen have just been out for a couple of days at the quieter northern end of Loch Lomond, we hoped to meet up with a couple of guys from the Open Canoe Sailing Group (which we've both just joined). Stephen was trying his new 44 sq ft bermudan rig for the first time and this was to be his maiden canoe sailing expedition.
We launched from the public slipway at Tarbet.
We sailed between Tarbet Isle and the shore then headed across to the east side of the loch near Cailness.
Stephen had his sail reefed down while he got used to it so I made the other side first.
 I was greeted by these fierce looking beasties! Some of the feral goats that frequent the area (makes a change from seeing wallabies and ospreys!)
My boat with Stephen in the background. Once he arrived we decided to have a brew stop.
After a cuppa and some flapjack we set off sailing northwards, again the conditions varied (sometimes gentle sailing, sometimes paddle sailing) but we made steady progress.
  Inveruglas in the distance.
We rafted up while Stephen unfurled his full sail area which he hoped would help in the light breeze.
The wind remained light until we started to approach Inveruglas, it must have been funneling down Coiregrogain and all of a sudden we were whizzing along in fine fashion. We decided to head for Inversnaid boathouse where we knew that the other OCSG guys were planning to camp. When we arrived there were two tents but no sign of the occupants. We guessed that they belonged to Dave and Graham and they were still out sailing. We had a scout about and found an excellent looking campsite a little further north which even had it's own sheltered natural harbour so we decided to set up camp, have a bite to eat then do some more sailing. As we were setting up our tarps and hammocks we saw two sails on the far side of the loch which we guessed belonged to Dave and Graham. By the time we'd had a bite to eat they were back so we strolled along to say hello. By the time we'd finished yapping and admiring Dave and Graham's boats it was getting a little late to sail further up the loch so we contented ourselves with a play about just off our campsite.                                                                                                            
You can just make out our tarps in the background in this picture. After playing about for a while we headed in to make some dinner (after pulling the boats up from our harbour!)                                                                                             
You've heard the phrase "a room with a view", we had the tarps with a view!
We made our dinner on my new Yukon firebox (which was excellent) then took a stroll along to the Inversnaid Hotel for a couple of pints with all the coach trip grannies (a surreal experience). We headed back early and were in our hammocks by ten thirty.                                                                                                             

We  got up quite late (it's so nice to laze in a hammock) and we knew Dave and Graham were leaving fairly early (Graham had to drive back to Lancashire!) so not long after we started breakfast Graham showed up (followed by Dave) to say cheerio. There was very little wind and they set off paddling, we wondered if it'd pick up in time for our return journey.                                                                     
Graham in his amazing self converted boat the "Cochon Vert" !!!!!!!!!!!!!            
Dave in his fabulous Raptor 16 outrigger canoe. 
We packed and ate breakfast and by the time we were ready to leave the wind had picked right up with some white horses in evidence. Stephen reefed his rig down again while I wondered how I'd cope with my full area, oh well nothing for it but give it a go! We set off on a reach heading for the west shore and pretty soon I was miles in front of Stephen (with my significantly larger sail area). I did think about luffing up and waiting for Stephen in the middle of the loch but decided it'd be a better idea to get to the shore and wait there. It was an exciting and enjoyable sail across to the safety of the western shore.                                                                  
Looking back towards Inversnaid with Stephen making his way across.
Once Stephen made it safely across the loch we headed off on a fantastic run downwind (with some good swell to surf) back to Tarbet Isle. Here the wind turned flukey and we had a frustrating combination of paddling and sailing for the last short stretch back to the slipway.                                                                      
It was another great trip in the canoe and nice to go somewhere new. I'd hoped to get further north but the fickle wind conditions played against that. Still it was good to meet Dave and Graham and I can't wait for my next trip away.              

Friday, 15 April 2011

Back out on the windsurfing kit.

I've been out windsurfing quite a lot recently. Usually the best time to sail is during autumn and winter however the last two winters have been almost complete wind droughts so the Helensburgh windsurfing crew have had lean pickings.
The last couple of weeks the weather has been much better for sailing, decent wind combined with mild temperatures so it's been great to get out.
I don't have any recent footage of my windsurfing but here's a clip of myself enjoying a nice sunny, windy day last July at our local spot.
Excuse the music, I originally used Muse's "The Uprising" as a soundtrack (hence the name of the video) but I had to do an audio swap (due to copyright issues) and use some random generic crap that YouTube suggested instead. Yay for WMG (not)!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

War and Peace update!

Well I haven't really blogged properly for a little while so thought I should do an update. The lack of bloggage hasn't been because I've been inactive but because most of my trips have been to places I've already covered in previous posts and I didn't want to keep going over old ground. That said I feel some kind of a summary would be in order.
Back in February I went out over three days and two nights with Sean (first night) and Shuzz (second night). This was my maiden trip hammocking and I can't see myself sleeping on the deck much in future given the choice. We camped at our favourite spot on Wallaby island and were graced by the presence of Russell and Sandy the friendly wallabies that we've met before. They were very cheeky and Sean actually had to push Russell away as he had his nose in our food bag! (don't worry, we gave them plenty of treats).

 Shuzzy has a hammock too and it was interesting to compare notes and first impressions. We both reckoned that an underblanket is going to be vital in cooler weather (we used our self inflating mats to insulate underneath but the wrap around nature of a hammock compresses the insulation on the sides of your sleeping bag and causes cold spots).
This is the hammock, the top bit is a built in midgie net with zip entries on each side and held out by bits of twig and bungie cords. It's really comfy once you get used to the strange sensation. I've subsequently adapted a fleece sleeping bag that I have to work as an underblanket and it works well (although I'd need something warmer for really low temperatures). One great thing is that you can just use your sleeping bag unzipped like a quilt which is really convenient for getting in and out.
At the start of March I finally got my sailing rig and after fitting the thwart and mast foot to my canoe was keen to get out and try it out. I set off with my usual kitchen sink canoe camping load aboard for a two night trip. You can see my sailing rig in the blue bag lying on top.

I wanted to camp on Bucinch (a small island I've picnicked on a few times) but when I got there there was a couple already near where I wanted to set up so I paddled on to Inchcruin to another great spot I'd spotted previously. As I approached it looked deserted but as I was about to land a guy and his dog showed up and I spotted his canoe parked on the shore. I went in for a chat anyway and it turned out to be a member of the SOTP canoe forum I go on. He was just leaving but unpacked his stuff to make us a cuppa! What a nice guy! After a drink and a chat he repacked, loaded himself and his beautiful dog aboard his canoe and departed leaving me all alone.

I set up my camp and then the wind picked up so I quickly got into my drysuit and set off to try my sail out. It worked way better than I expected and this bit is in the video I posted earlier here
This is the canoe ready to go.
The next morning my friend Iain paddled out to meet me and after having breakfast and packing my stuff we set off to paddle back to Wallaby island.
Once there I set up camp again, we had lunch then we paddled around the island and explored the old Colquhoun summer house as Iain hadn't seen it before. Then I paddled back to the car park with Iain, refilled my water container and after saying cheerio to Iain, headed back to my camp and the inevitable cheeky wallaby encounter.

The next morning I sailed back to my van in much stronger winds and was again really impressed with my rig.
My next trip was to meet up with Stephen (one of the bushcrafter guys I'd met on my Loch Long trip when I returned Shewie's trivet). He contacted me to say he was heading onto the loch for a night to try out some modifications to his home-made canoe sailing set up so I decided to go too. I was at our meeting place first having sailed all the way from the car park. I dumped my bags under a tree then set off to sail back and meet Stephen. This is the video I'd already posted of my sail.
 Suffice to say I was happy to push my luck a bit once I'd dropped my kit off and inevitably I ended up swimming! Still I learned a lot from that experience and once we set up camp we went back out for a further sail until the wind dropped and part of Stephen's leeboard bracket bent stopping the fun for him.
We spent the evening chatting (Stephen has done some amazing sounding bushcraft courses both here and abroad) and eating and had the usual visit from Russell and Sandy but hit the sack pretty early.
The next morning there was no wind so any thoughts we'd had about improvising a repair to Stephen's leeboard so that we could sail back were forgotten. I was happy to leave later on in case the wind picked up but Stephen decided to head off first thing to get home and start modifying his sailing rig based on what he'd learned.
I hung about and packed up slowly and was visited by a couple of guys from SOTP who were up from St Helens for a weeks paddling (I'd given them some advice on parking for their trip on the forum and told them to look out for me on the loch). We chatted for ages and had a brew together then I set off home. The wind had indeed picked up and I managed to sail all the way back to the van again (including some interesting sailing through the narrows running downwind and gybeing through the S-bend section, good fun).
The next trip was an overnight wallaby watching expedition with Val. We'd been out to see the wallabies before but Val hadn't experienced them coming right into camp. Val paddled her kayak while I took most of the luggage in my canoe.
We camped in our usual wallaby hotspot campsite and had a nice barbeque and a wander about.
Later on Russell and Sandy made an appearance and Val carried out tests to see what a wallaby's favourite food might be!
The next day was beautiful and after breakfast we had a nice paddle back around the other side of the island.

As we paddled around the far side of the island an osprey swooped overhead and landed in a tree nearby, I've never seen an osprey before so was well chuffed!
The final trip update was with Sean and Pat (on his first kayak camping trip) to Inchcruin. Unfortunately I forgot my camera for this one! We had an enjoyable stay on Inchcruin, I did a little more sailing in very light winds and while paddling back the next morning we saw another osprey fly over (from never having seen one to seeing two inside two weeks!)
Since then the weather's been unsettled and windy so I've been doing lots of windsurfing and also attending Shuzzy and  his fiancee Jen's wedding.
I do however have a trip planned for the coming weekend.....................