Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Looking ahead.

The 2011 canoe sailing season is drawing to a close for me, the last OCSG meet has been and gone and my re-scheduled op is looming at the start of December. That will be followed by an enforced lay off of a couple of months. A few of us have a trip planned for next weekend on Loch Lomond and hopefully another one at the end of the month but after that it'll be inactivity and recovery for me.
It'd be easy to feel a bit depressed about this but in fact I'm feeling excited at the prospects for next year (although I won't pretend that I'm not apprehensive at the prospect of undergoing surgery for the first time in my life). I'm hoping to utilise some of my downtime to do a marine vhf radio course so that I'm qualified to use a radio next year and all being well this will tie in neatly with the arrival of a new canoe. I've been chatting with Dave at Solway Dory for a while now about acquiring a decked sailing canoe. Initially this centred on buying a used Solway Dory Shearwater however the plan has now changed to me being one of the first owners of a new type of canoe. Dave mentioned that he was planning to build a new version of the Shearwater incorporating improvements based on experience gained with the original (and it's smaller sister the Fulmar). The new boat should be lighter, more versatile and more seaworthy than it's predecessor and having visited Solway Dory last month to see the new boat in the flesh, I asked Dave to build me one for next season.   
It's amazing how my attitude towards canoe sailing has changed over the last year, I'd always intended to try sailing my canoe however I had no idea just how capable a canoe would prove to be as a small sailing boat. My present canoe has evolved from being a pure paddling boat to being an effective sailing boat but with this evolution of my canoe has also come an evolution in my aspirations. I've found myself yearning to explore further afield and with that comes the added potential of exposure to more severe conditions. I've had a taste of this on some trips this year and each time I've been the least well equipped to cope with those conditions in the groups I've been with. None of my sailing companions has ever mentioned this fact however it's something I've been aware of. The new canoe will be at least as capable of handling severe conditions as any of my potential companions (all that remains is to build up my own experience and knowledge). Having the new canoe would be fairly worthless if I didn't have people to accompany me on these more serious trips and the OCSG has allowed me to make new friends with the experiece and motivation to do so. Graham and I have already started discussing potential long weekend voyages for next season and hopefully others will join us.
So what does next year hold in store then? Well who knows but I have a hit list of places that I'd like to sail.
Top of the list is to visit Loch Nevis and Knoydart, this would entail launching from Mallaig then sailing into Loch Nevis from there. I visited Sourlies bothy at the head of the loch many years ago on a hillwalking trip and have always wanted to go back. A couple of years ago I was scheduled to visit Inverie on another walking trip. Inverie is one of mainland Britains most isolated villages and the self proclaimed "Capital of Knoydart". It's situated approximately half way up Loch Nevis. Due to circumstances beyond my control that trip was compromised and I didn't make it so I regard a visit there as unfinished business.
 Loch Sunart, Loch Shiel and Loch Morar and Loch Sween, Mull, Islay, the Summer Isles, the possibilities are almost endless and they're all there waiting to be explored!

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