Monday, 3 October 2011

The less desirable option.

My regular companion on a lot of my earlier camping trips  was Chris (Shuzzy) but unfortunately in the last few months he's not managed to make any trips. This was down to a combination of factors, work, getting married and also he's been busy getting back into swimming again.
 I first met Chris through cycling when we were both members of a local cycling club but prior to that Chris was a promising junior swimmer. When he started cycling seriously he drifted away from swimming (and went on to become a member of the Scottish Junior Cycling team). Recently he's started training again with a particular emphasis on open water swimming and a couple of weeks ago he won the Loch Ness Monster Swim (a one mile open water swim on Loch Ness) from a field of almost two hundred.
Shuzzy was keen to go on a trip last weekend and particularly wanted to go somewhere new but as I watched the weather forecasts evolving over the preceding week it was pretty clear to me that it was going to be pretty windy. Chris's mode of transport for the trip would be his Stand Up Paddle board (SUP) and they don't cope too well with strong winds or choppy water. I knew we could get sheltered water on Loch Lomond but understood Chris's reluctance to go there over a summer weekend. We've had a few trips that have been marred by less than desirable neighbours on Loch Lomond when it's been busy but since those trips I've found a few more remote, sneaky camping spots.
 By Thursday evening it was clear to me that the Loch Lomond was the sensible option on this occasion so Friday afternoon saw us launching from the usual spot.  We sailed and paddled out to the eastern shore of Inchconnachan island to find my secret campsite, the wind was strong in the straits between the mainland and Inchtavanach with a bit of a swell running but as I'd hoped we were soon sheltered by the islands. Unfortunately it was raining constantly and was a bit miserable. To add insult to injury the midgies made an unwelcome appearance too (although thankfully it was a  short lived intrusion). We slung our hammocks and tarps and by the time we started to think of dinner the rain had abated so I lit the firebox and started cooking while Shuzz set about the firewood I'd brought with axe and saw.
Saturday morning dawned fair and after a lie in we had breakfast and pondered what to do with the rest of the day.
 Chris was keen to go for a swim so we settled on a circumnavigation of Inchconnachan. One of the hazards of open water swimming is that of the swimmer being run over by a boat so the plan was for me to stay as close to Chris as possible through the narrows between Inchconnachan and Inchtavanach which can be quite busy with boat traffic. The wind strength and water state varied wildly between the different aspects of the islands but we made it round intact and Chris enjoyed completing a new swim.
We had some lunch  back at camp and Chris phoned Jenny (his wife) to ask if she could pick up the curry paste (that I'd forgotten to bring and that we needed to make our dinner) and drop it off at our put in point. She was kind enough to agree to do the drop off for us so after lunch we had a mission to complete.
I'd had one attempt at sailing two up with the canoe in very light winds so was interested to try it in the stronger wind that I was sure we'd encounter on the sail back to meet Jen. I use an "Anywhere Chair" to seat the passenger and whilst it's a bit  awkward for a passenger to get in the canoe, once in situ it's fairly comfortable. I got the canoe set up ready to go while Shuzz sorted himself out.
As we set off downwind the sail filled pushing the canoe forwards and I think Chris was quite surprised by the speed we were traveling at. Once round the corner we had to tack upwind, the windstrength was perfect giving an exciting ride and allowing me to get the leeward gunwale underwater a few times to give Chris a fright! He soon got into the swing of leaning to windward to help me balance the canoe and despite having a few waves break over the top of him was enjoying the sail. We timed our arrival at our rendez-vous with Jenny well and made the pick up of the missing curry paste (thanks Jen). The return trip was downwind and the reach round the corner of Inchtavanach was really good fun with some good sized swells to surf and was possibly the fastest I've yet managed to sail the canoe.
We decided to sail over to Bucinch island as I wanted to show Chris another potential camp spot (for future reference).
We landed briefly on Bucinch to check out the campsite then sailed upwind into increasing swell to have a look at another spot on Inchcruin. There were some water lilies just  showing.
At this point we decided to head back to camp, time was getting on and we were starting to feel ready for some dinner. The sail back was an easy reach and the views were great in the evening light.                                                                                                    
Soon we were back at camp                                                                                     
Chris set about chopping firewood for heating our dinner and keeping us warm later in the evening while I started cooking in the fading light.                           
Chickpea curry washed down with a cheeky Arran Blonde!                                    
Later we were treated to a full moon rising. We didn't stay up late, the draw of a comfy hammock was too much to resist.                                                               
                             The next morning we knew that we had to pack up and head for home but before we left it seemed like a good opportunity for Chris to get some more wild swimming in. He decided to swim across to Bucinch island and back. There were a few boats about and it's a very open stretch of water, normally Chris would have been wary of swimming water like this but I was able to provide decent safety cover in my canoe.                                                                              
Bucinch is the small wooded island in the distance.    
Shuzzy arrives on Bucinch. A quick breather then we set off back again. Once we arrived back we only had to pack a few things and load the canoe and SUP before we headed for home.                                                                                              
It was great to get back out with Chris and hopefully it won't be too long before we're able to get that trip to a more remote destination that Chris was yearning for.         



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