Bushcrafters.A couple of years ago I spent a weekend with a group of guys I'd met (through the Song Of The Paddle canoe forum) on Loch Long. I went on to have a few adventures with one of them (Stephen) who shared my desire to get into canoe sailing. I've also crossed paths with Rich and Josh from that group a couple of times but haven't done any more trips with them. A few weeks ago Stephen and Rich asked me whether I fancied joining them for a weekend canoing and wild camping on Loch Lomond. I had the weekend free so was delighted to be able to join up with Josh, Rich and Stephen.
We met up at Luss on Friday lunchtime and set off with a vague idea of possible destinations. Stephen and I were sailing while Josh and Rich were paddling their canoes (Josh had intended sailing as well but forgot the rig for his lovely little "Wee McGregor" sailing canoe, luckily she paddles nicely as well!) We set off in light winds and Josh and Rich forged ahead as Stephen and I wallowed about initially. Once we got further out on the loch the wind picked up nicely and gave us the chance to narrow the gap a little and experience some lovely sailing.
Easter Bunnies.Two weeks later was Easter and once more I had the weekend free. A group of us had been pondering possible locations for a trip for Easter weekend for a while and various spots were in contention. Top of the list was to sail from Tayvallich down Loch Sween, camp at the mouth of the loch and sail back up the Sound of Jura to Carsaig Bay the next day. It's a trip we've been contemplating for a while and is high on our "to do" list but as the weekend approached and the weather showed no signs of warming up I expressed my doubts (based on my experiences sailing on Loch Lomond two weeks earlier) about the wisdom of spending an extended period stuck in the boats sailing. Instead I suggested finding somewhere that we could hole up with a comfy base camp, plenty of firewood for keeping warm and make shorter forays onto the water. I was relieved that the others agreed with this suggestion and Graham read my mind and suggested a campsite that he and I know on Loch Long which would fit the bill and not be far to drive to.
Friday lunchtime saw myself, Graham, Ramsay and Tom meeting up at our launching spot on Loch Long. The wind was gusting down the loch sporadically, leading to spells of sustained white horses on the water but interspersed with lighter more fluky spells in between. The tide was very high making launching slightly awkward as the water had covered the beach completely and submerged the lower end of the slipway. This meant loading the boats while they were afloat then wading out underneath the telephone cables which run along the beach at this point before being able to step our masts and sail. Still we all managed to achieve this successfully without dropping any of our gear in the sea or cutting the phone lines to Arrochar!
The lack of launching room meant that we had to set off one at a time and then regroup on the water and inevitably everyone was reluctant to give up hard earned progress upwind so we ended up a little spread out but we knew it wasn't far to our campsite. I was second last away followed by Ramsay who was trying out his canoe rigged with a mizzen sail (using my Expedition Rig) as well as his usual mainsail. This meant that he was potentially able to unleash around 78 sq ft of sail, far more than the rest of us so I expected to be overhauled as I set about catching up with Tom and Graham. In fact it took Ramsay a while to get used to managing the mizzen and he wasn't able to take advantage of his extra firepower on the way to the campsite. I caught Tom and Graham in bizarre fluky winds that saw me sailing close hauled, onto a reach, dead downwind then gybing onto the other tack all without changing course! The snow covered mountains of the Arrochar Alps made a spectacular backdrop to our progress.
The next morning nobody was in much of a rush to do anything, Ramsay's brother Callum turned up for coffee on his way to paddle to Arrochar then portage to Tarbet and paddle back down Loch Lomond in his sea kayak.
After pottering about until just before lunchtime we finally mustered enough resolve to go out on the water. We knew the wind was forecast to be light and inconsistent so eventually decided to sail north on the basis that we would at least have some assistance from the ebbing tide to get back if the wind let us down. Initially the sailing was great, the sun shone raising the temperature (and morale) and we had a steady F3 to beat into.
On Sunday Tom and I had to return home leaving Rambo and Graham to spend another night but as it was a short sail back to the vehicles we weren't in any real hurry to pack up and leave. We pottered about until lunchtime before saying farewell and sailing the short distance south to the slipway where we had launched.
Tom sailing south
and a final view back towards camp.
It was another great weekend, we didn't do as much sailing as we'd hoped but under the circumstances that was to be expected. Hopefully warmer conditions will lead to some more ambitious trips being feasible soon.