I quite enjoy the section of the M6 south of Penrith down towards Kendal and this enjoyment was heightened by the anticipation of seeing my new canoe for the first time. As motorways go this section of the M6 is quite spectacular, winding it's way over Shap then it's down the other side and off the motorway and into the lovely south Cumbrian countryside. The satnav guided me through the maze of tiny lanes to Solway Dory's workshop where Dave Stubbs met me at the door and led me inside. The canoe sat in the workshop on trestles and hidden under the superb cover that Solway Dory had made for her. The Daves still had a few bits and pieces to do to finish the boat off and these required the mast to be stepped so we had to carry her outside. As Dave Poskitt rolled back the cover the true beauty of the boat was revealed. Dave S and I carried her out into the foyer and put her on the trolley and wheeled her outside. I was pretty overwhelmed by how stunning the canoe was and words and pictures really don't do justice to the craftsmanship of Dave and Dave.
Once the finishing touches on the boat were completed we lifted her onto the roof of my van (a task that was more difficult than I'd anticipated). Soon afterwards I was on my way back to Scotland.
Saturday morning saw me driving up to Rambo's house in Helensburgh to load as much of his kit as possible into the van. He had no car (having left it down south where he's on a course) so once I'd taken his gear he trolleyed his canoe down through the town to Helensburgh pier where I was waiting. We sorted our boats out and packed our camping gear then negotiated the treacherous weed covered slipway into the water next to the pier.
Eventually we managed to get past Rosneath point and by sailing closer to the shore we were able to avoid some of the effects of the foul tide. There were large rafts of debris and sea weed floating in the water which occasionally necessitated lifting the leeboard and rudder to clear them.
Thunder storms had been forecast for the afternoon and it looked as though the weathermen had got it right.
Sunday morning saw us up at 6 a.m. Rambo had to fly back down south that evening to resume his course and we knew that with light winds forecast we'd probably have some hard paddling and slow progress ahead of us. We pooled resources for breakfast with me contributing bacon and Rambo making delicious bannock and adding a tin of beans to the feast. Packing up went smoothly and we were soon hauling the canoes back over the sand to the waters edge (we'd timed it poorly almost catching low water again but it was a slightly shorter distance this time as the tide still had a little way to drop).
As we left Ardentinny there was no wind at all so we had to paddle the boats. I watched our speed on my GPS and we seemed to be able to maintain around 3.5 mph purely by paddling which I felt was respectable.
I arrived back first and struggled to get Aylen up the greasy slipway on my own. Eventually I succeeded and set about unloading and packing away all the gubbins in the van. When Rambo arrived I broke off to give him a hand then we once more loaded all his gear in the van so that he could trolley his canoe back through town to his house.
The new canoe is hugely impressive both in terms of the quality of workmanship by Solway Dory and also in terms of how much more comfortable, secure and fast it feels compared to my Nova Craft while under sail. This trip really only scratched the surface of it's capabilities and I still need to improve the way I load it (I'm used to throwing everything in a big drybag in the open canoe while packing Aylen is more akin to packing a kayak with everything needing to be in small bags to fit through the hatches). I also need to improve the way I get her on and off the van. Currently I'm unable to manage this without assistance (and this would prevent me doing a solo trip). Unless I can improve on this and devise a method of loading and unloading her on my own usage is going to be seriously restricted. Still I can't wait to get her further afield and try to realise more of her potential.
Below is some of the video I captured on the trip.