I decided to leave later on Friday evening and drive down to the Lakes before finding a layby somewhere quiet where I could bed down in the van. I left Helensburgh at half eight and by midnight I was settled in a picnic area on the deserted western shore of Thirlmere. I didn't sleep too well and woke early so I decided to get up and drive the rest of the way to Coniston and have a leisurely breakfast there. It took me another half hour to get to Coniston so I was in the designated car park making bacon and egg rolls and tea by seven. After that I got the canoe off the van (easy with gravity helping me) and onto it's trolley before loading all the sailing paraphernalia into it and wheeling it down to the lake to rig up. The guys turned up one by one and it was nice to catch up with them again and we were also joined by Alastair who I'd not met before.
Keith and Graham sailing south.We decided to head for Peel Island and eventually made it there around lunchtime. Everyone was feeling the cold as we landed in a bay just around the corner from the island and it was nice to get ashore and stretch the legs and warm up the extremeties. We had a picnic in the woods before launching once more and heading back up the lake. As we were sailing downwind it was easier and quicker than the outward leg.
Dave in the new boat (left) and Alastair sailing north.
We stopped off at the National Trust cafe at Brantwood (from previous experience we knew there'd be an open fire there) and had delicious cakes and hot drinks and warmed ourselves up for a while then it was back on the water for the final leg back to the car park.
Alastair, Dave and Keith all live nearby so they packed up and after saying cheerio headed home. Graham and I drove the short distance to the National Trust campsite in Langdale (which is open all year). By the time we arrived the reception was closed and it was getting dark so we picked a spot and Graham set up his tent while I elected to sleep in my van again. The campsite was surprisingly busy with climbers and hillwalkers (who are a hardier breed than your average camper). I put up my tarp as it had started to drizzle and we cooked dinner under it's shelter before walking the few hundred yards up the road to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel (which has a well known climbers bar) for a few pints of very good OP. Needless to say the walk back to the campsite seemed much shorter! I was pretty tired from my poor night on Friday so slept well only waking for my alarm at eight.
We cooked breakfast, paid the campsite and discussed our options for the day. The forecast was for even lighter winds on Sunday so we thought it might be a paddle rather than a sail and elected to drive over Kirkstone Pass to Ullswater to check out conditions there. We parked just south of the Outwardbound centre in a layby Graham had used before and met some guys from the Song of the paddle canoe forum who were packing up from a wild camping trip. After chatting briefly with them our attention turned to the lake which looked quite promising. There was a nice steady F3/4 blowing down the lake so we quickly assembled our boats and changed into drysuits ready to go.
Once out on the water the conditions were good with some stronger gusts making for good sailing as we headed south down the lake.
The wind picked up as we sailed south and by the time we were past Aira Force there were white horses and a good F4 which was great. Although the wind was nice it was cold again so we decided to set Norfolk Island as our turning point.
As ever the run back down wind was a lot quicker (despite the wind dropping off again) and we were soon back to the car park. Here we met Jasper who turned out to be a former OCSG member who has now turned to sailing a 22ft Drascombe. He'd been out for a paddle in his sea kayak and we chatted with him while he kindly helped us to pack up our boats. He asked us to pass on his regards to any OCSG members who may remember him.Once we'd packed up Graham and I drove up to the Rheged Centre near Penrith for a cuppa and some food before parting ways as Graham headed south and me north on the M6.
It was fantastic to be back in my canoe sailing again and although I felt pretty sore and stiff after the unaccustomed exercise I can already feel that it did me good. Thanks so much to the guys for braving the cold and accompanying me.