Last Friday lunchtime I met up with Dave in the big car park in Luss and we set about getting ready for the trip. Last year I loaded my Pal up with more gear than it had ever carried before and this year it was the turn of the Shearwater to see how much camping kit it was able to hold (I wanted the weekend to be comfortable for us all even if the weather tried it's hardest to make the opposite the case!) I was very much aware that Dave had driven all the way from England for the weekend and so rushed to pack my boat in an effort to maximise our time on the water (last year Andy and I only managed to sail out to the campsite and set up camp on the Friday). The result of my rushing was that I failed to maximise the space available in my boat and ended up carrying a lot of gear in the cockpit with me (and Dave even had to carry a bag containing spare camping gear I was taking for another member of the party).
We set off towards the gap between Inchnmoan and Inchtavannach in a strong, gusty wind and squally showers. The wind steadied a little once we were through the gap but the showers continued.
We arrived back as the light started to fail and set about rigging up my giant polytarp as a group shelter and living area. After that it was time for some food.
Following dinner Dave and I sat around a roaring fire chatting and drinking wine. The tarp did it's job well keeping us completely sheltered from the rain showers but the wind flapping the fabric noisily ensured that we weren't visited by any wallabies.
Our neighbours from along the beach popped over briefly for a chat and a drink and before we knew it was eleven o'clock and time for bed.
Saturday morning saw me out of bed just after eight. There was no real rush as we would be waiting for Graham and Ramsay to join us so we had a leisurely breakfast. Graham arrived around nine thirty and put his tent up while Ramsay was delayed a little and arrived later (just dropping his gear off under the tarp to sort out later). Encouragingly both reported decent sailing conditions outwith our sheltered location. We'd already made a plan to replicate last years trip and sail across to Balmaha for lunch at the Oaktree Inn and so just after eleven we were on our way.
We passed through the narrow, shallow gap between Inchmoan and Inchcruin which is known as the Geggles.
Next it was out into the larger body of water beyond the islands where the wind was blowing a little more.
We decided to sail out past Inchcailloch and round the far side of it to access Balmaha and unfortunately as we approached Inchcailloch the wind started to fail. I ended up at the front on this section and had to resort to paddling through the gap between Inchcailloch and Torrinch where we were completely in a wind shadow. After that we turned downwind and were able to sail again (albeit slowly) towards Balmaha. We pulled the boats up out of the water in the little harbour at Balmaha and walked the short distance along the road to the Oaktree Inn where we found a nice warm spot in the heated conservatory area for lunch.
As I cleared the straits of Balamaha the wind did indeed freshen and I was able to sail nicely for a while but as we headed west between Inchcailloch and Inchfad the wind faltered and died again. Still it was a nice afternoon for a paddle and very reminiscent of one year ago (when we'd also had to paddle back from Balmaha).
Rambo pitched his tent amid a little good natured ribbing about it's colour (it's not pink apparently!) while Graham and Dave lit the fire. Graham entertained himself by constructing a scale model of Stonehenge out of logs and we had afternoon tea and cakes by the fire.
A mutual friend of Ramsay and I (Iain) was due to be joining us for the night, he was unable to get away earlier due to family commitments but was hoping to paddle out on his Stand Up Paddle board after dark. As time passed by and with no sign of him we started to doubt whether he'd be coming after all then my phone rang, it was Iain saying that he was lost in the dark! He'd set off in the dark and seen lights on Inchmoan so landed there. This turned out to be the two guys who had been our neighbours the previous night (and who had moved on to camp on Inchmoan). I'd mentioned to them while chatting to them that morning that a friend would hopefully be joining us on an SUP so they'd pointed Iain in our direction. Unfortunately with us all being huddled around the fire and with the fire being well shielded from view by the tarp he'd paddled right past us and on round the corner of Inchconnachan. I advised Iain to set off back in the direction he'd come in (deducing that he'd overshot our camp) and Rambo and I started to walk along the beach to meet him with our torches on. It wasn't long before he came into view and we were able to guide him back to our campsite. Once we'd got back and introductions were made it was time to start dinner. Last year we'd made a big feast for Saturday evening and as it had proved to be fun we'd decided to do it again. I'd taken my dutch oven with me to cook a Moroccan dish while Graham had made homemade kebabs to barbeque and Rambo was making venison stir fry.
As we were cooking a wallaby made an appearance as well (I was relieved as I would have felt I hadn't fulfilled my promise for the trip if we hadn't had a wallaby encounter). He/she was happy to linger nearby scavenging for leftovers much to the delight of Dave, Rambo and Iain who hadn't had a wallaby encounter before.
As was the case last year we made far too much food but it was nice to all sample each others cooking and try different things (needless to say it was all delicious). After dinner we sat around chatting and drinking comfortably warmed by the fire.
Once again it was after eleven by the time we decided to call it quits and go to bed. Overnight it was quite chilly, I got up in the early hours to answer the call of nature to find the inside of the flysheet on my tent to be coated with ice and the stars were out overhead, I was glad I had a nice warm sleeping bag. The sky was still clear when I woke and it was a beautiful morning as we all emerged from our tents and started thinking about breakfast.
After breakfast Iain had to leave to rejoin his family, it looked like a great day for paddling (but not so good for sailing) as we gathered on the beach to say cheerio.
The rest of us slowly packed up (it took a while due to the sheer volume of kit we'd brought!) and by mid morning we were ready to go.
We sailed back the way Dave and I had come on Friday, initially the wind was light and variable but it picked up markedly once we cleared the northern end of Inchconnachan giving some fantastic splashy sailing.
All too soon we were approaching the beach at Luss.
Although it was only just after lunchtime Graham and Dave were facing a long drive back down south and Rambo and I had to shuttle both our boats with one vehicle so we packed up there and then to give ourselves plenty of time.
It's always a worry when you do something for a second time that it won't live up to expectations but this years trip was sufficiently different (with some new faces) for that not to be the case. We managed to incorporate the good points from last year with some new elements to make for another excellent autumn wallaby safari. Roll on 2013!