Sunday, 27 May 2012

Motorboats and nasty notes.

As my preference has swung away from paddling my canoe towards trying to sail as often as possible I've been wondering if there was a way to combine both paddling and sailing on longer trips without compromising sailing performance or paddling performance. There are some potential expeditions that I'd like to do that would be better suited to my existing canoe than the new one that Solway Dory are building for me. These are trips that are often done purely as paddling trips in open canoes or kayaks but I love the experience of sailing and wondered if it'd be possible to take my canoe prepared to get maximum sailing performance whilst still having the option to paddle the canoe pretty much uncompromised by the sailing components if there was no wind. There was really only one way to find out and that was to have a dry run close to home.
Last week I was on holiday and the original plan I had to get away with Val was compromised by circumstances so a canoe trip was my consolation prize to myself. Being midweek I knew I'd be alone and whilst it's just as easy to drown in familiar water, going on Loch Lomond somehow feels safer (I know that I'm only ever a phone call away from a motorised pick up if I can reach the west shore).
Tuesday afternoon saw me at my usual launching spot with enough food for four days, no idea if I could fit all the bits into my canoe and only the vaguest of plans as to where I was going to go. The loch was like a millpond so it was a good chance to test my theory about paddling the canoe with all the sailing paraphernalia carried with me. I knew from the forecast that I'd be highly unlikely to need the outriggers but for future reference I wanted to know if I could carry them with me. The answer is in this picture.
Whilst the canoe was well laden it was pretty easy to pack everything and still leave myself with a paddling position that wasn't compromised. By the time I set off it was quite late but it was still very warm and the water was like a mirror. I'd decided to head north for a change to explore an area of the loch that I've not seen from the water before. Paddling felt like a hard slog in the stifling heat.
The view ahead as I paddled towards Luss.
Looking south towards my put in and the islands
 and the view north up the loch. As I toiled onwards it became clear to me that I was no longer used to paddling for any length of time and on top of that the site of my recent surgery started to get a little sore. There are bye laws in force on a substantial portion of the east shore prohibiting wild camping so I knew that I couldn't contemplate stopping for the night until I was well north of Rowardennan and as I'd set off so late time was getting on.
As I approached the headland in the picture above there was the faintest evidence of a breeze so I chose to land briefly and rig my sail in an attempt to get some help. It was an awkward spot to go ashore with only a very narrow rocky beach but I managed to rig the sail and set off again with a little assistance from the very light tail wind. I didn't bother with the leeboard and rudder, instead opting to steer with my paddle when there was enough wind to sail properly and paddle sail the rest of the time.
 Approaching Rowardennan (just past the wooded headland).
The wind came and went with no apparent pattern so I just made the best of it when I had the chance. As I went past Rowardennan there were folks enjoying the evening sunshine diving off the pier and wakeboarders a plenty ruining the peace and quiet (and causing me to have to veer off course to present my bow to their wake).
Passing the youth hostel. I'd marked the limit of the no camping zone on my map and once past Ptarmigan Lodge I sailed closer to the shore on the lookout for a decent campsite. Before I spotted anywhere to stop overnight though, I spotted a pair of feral goats grazing on the lochside.
A little further on I spotted a headland with what appeared to be a nice sandy beach and some trees to sling my hammock from so I paddled on towards it. Sure enough when I got closer it looked like a decent spot so I landed and set about rigging my tarp and hammock. It was after eight o'clock when I landed so as soon as I'd set up my shelter I got my dinner started. The midgies were out so while my dinner was cooking I slung my midgie tarp to give myself a safe haven to eat in peace. After dinner I went for a stroll along the beach to take in the views north and south.
I sat around for a while checking the weather forecast on my phone, drinking tea and having a quick chat on Facebook before I climbed into my hammock.
It had been much harder work paddling than I had envisioned and the forecast for the next day was for light easterlies while for Thursday there was no wind forecast at all. I decided that I should make the best of any sailing winds in the morning to get back down the loch rather than heading further north (as I'd sort of planned to) and leave myself with a mammoth paddle back on Thursday. I dozed off to the sound of the endless traffic on the busy A82 road on the far side of the loch.
When I woke I knew straight away that there was a breeze of some form as I could hear small waves lapping against the beach. This gave me a boost as I got up and made my breakfast. I'd been a little crestfallen the night before at the effort required to get to where I had (although I'd achieved my target of paddling north close to Tarbet). The prospect of even a gentle sail buoyed my spirits no end. I decided to just wear my normal clothes in the canoe, it was set to be another scorching day and whilst I knew the water temperature was still dangerously cold I didn't relish the prospect of cooking in my dry trousers and top. I knew that in the light winds a capsize was unlikely and reasoned that if the wind freshened I could land and change or fit my outriggers.
I set the canoe up for sailing this time but still with the outriggers stowed aboard.
The view back just after I departed, my beach campsite visible in the foreground.
Progress varied between nice gentle sailing with the water chuckling past my leeboard to virtual calm when I had to paddle or paddle sail but the spells of sailing were nicely interspersed between the calm spells. 
Pretty soon I was tacking beneath the slopes of the Ptarmigan (a satellite of Ben Lomond). It was an absolute pleasure to be out on the water on such a beautiful day and thankfully all the jetskiers and wakeboarders were still at work so it was nice and peaceful.
 As I passed Rowardennan again the wind dropped right off and as it was so hot I couldn't be bothered paddling so I just sat in the bottom of the canoe and sailed ever so slowly almost dozing off on occasions. I couldn't believe I was still sailing as the water was glassy calm but the tiny wake from the bows of the canoe and the leeboard let me know that I was making some progress. 
Once south of Rowardennan I started to think about landing for some lunch but right on cue the wind came back and I was loathed to waste it so carried on.
Eventually I found a quiet bay on the east shore to stop for a late lunch.
Whilst stopped for lunch I spoke to my friend Sean on the phone. He decided to make the most of the glorious weather and come out and join me that evening. This meant I had a destination to aim for so I set off from my lunch spot to sail across to Inchlonaig island (visible in the distance in the photo above). The wind picked up nicely on this stretch and I started to regret not getting changed at lunchtime but I couldn't be bothered stopping again. From Inchlonaig it was a beat across to the entrance of the narrows between Inctavannach and Inchconnachan. I've sailed through here before but never successfully against the wind so I decided to give it a whirl. The wind was funnelling through the narrows and it was great fun tacking up the narrow channel. Soon I was through and after checking a few spots settled on setting up camp in the familiar spot of wallaby bay. After a bite to eat I set off to meet Sean, it was going dark now and the wind was blowing up to a good F4 so I stuck the outriggers on to ensure I didn't have an unscheduled dip in the dark. 
 I met Sean in his kayak and we paddled back to the campsite. When I'd left the bay had been deserted but I was disappointed to see a cabin cruiser anchored there on our return. As we got close there was a strong smell of diesel and I could see the telltale iridescent sheen on the water, presumably the cruiser had a fuel leak and was polluting the water off our campsite.
Sean set up his tent and I rigged the midge tarp as the wind had dropped, we were serenaded by loud music from the cruiser which was bad enough but the choice of eighties AOR rock only added insult to injury. Still we made the best of things chatting and drinking a few beers and enjoying the lovely aroma of spilled diesel. Later on a couple of wallabies turned up so we fed them with leftovers and some apples I had with me (which they seemed to enjoy).
Thursday morning was glorious again and as forecast there wasn't a breath of wind so Sean and I enjoyed a gentle paddle around the islands. 
We stopped off at a nice sandy cove on Inchmoan and I couldn't resist going in for a swim to cool off, the water was a lot warmer here where it was shallow and it was really pleasant. Try as I might I couldn't persuade Sean to try though so we pushed on. 
It had started to get busy again with speed boats and jetskis so we headed back to the cars. 
I had enough food to stay out another day but the southern end of the loch is unpleasantly crowded in summer so I decided that I'd achieved what I wanted to in testing my canoe in paddling and sailing mode. It was also the first chance I'd had to try the Expedition Bermudan rig as it was intended (it works superbly well). I think my sailing and paddling exploits will be restricted to day trips on Loch Lomond until the autumn drives the crowds away, the continuous jetskis, wakeboats and cruisers combined with the clown leaking diesel into wallaby bay all night left a bit of a bad impression (although I really enjoyed my trip). I also found a nasty threatening printed note from Luss and Arden Community Council on my windscreen when I got back to Aldochlay saying that I shouldn't have left a vehicle there overnight or camped on the loch (both of which are nonsense at this point in time) but more about that in another blog.


  1. It sounds like an idyllic time that you had, I'm envious. I had to read it all and now I'll be late for work but who cares :)

  2. Sounds like a great trip. You're welcome to the midgies tho!

  3. The midgies are just starting to get bad now Mark. That'll be it until September I imagine.