GrahamD and I had an enjoyable long weekend at Loch Lomond. The weather was settled and this reinforces my view that spring/early summer is the best time to visit Scotland. There was not a midge in evidence either, which is a major benefit of an early season visit. We hadn't been planning the trip for long. Graham spent the winter adapting an open canoe for sail and wanted to test it with a full, expedition-load of cargo on board. He had christened her (with whisky!) at the beginning of April at an OCSG local meet on Coniston Water, but this was with an unloaded boat. We decided to mount a mini-expedition to the northern end of Loch Lomond, starting from Milarrochy Bay campsite in the south.
Graham had already booked Thursday and Friday off work in order to attend the OCSG national meet at Rutland Water, but chose instead to use these days to join me at Lomond. Rutland is a little too far for me, especially since we are limited to two nights' camping at the reservoir. We opened up the gathering to other OCSG members but, given the late decision, it was no surprise that most had already made plans to travel to Rutland, so just the two of us made the trip (although a couple of new members joined us on Saturday). Despite the low numbers, it was decided to classify the gathering as an OCSG 'local' meet, so Graham and I duly completed the official OCSG sign-out sheets before setting off on Friday.
We met at Milarrochy Bay on Thursday afternoon. He arrived before me and had already had a brief outing in his boat by the time I turned up. The forecast was for very little wind but then conditions on Loch Lomond often bear little relation to conditions in the country as a whole, so I was hopeful we'd get some sailing over the weekend. The staff at Milarrochy Bay was friendly and accommodating, confirming reports to this effect from Julie and WayneD last year. As non-members of the Camping and Caravanning Club we paid GBP14 each for one night's stay and a further GBP5 each in order to leave our cars in the campsite's car park for two days during our trip north. This car parking fee was at a (very) discounted price, so might not be available in peak season or for large groups, since on-site parking space is limited.
Boat launching at the Milarrochy Bay site is down a concrete ramp. We were camped nearby but still had a 50 m portage, so trolleys were needed. Graham had fabricated a folding trolley, which could be stowed under his seat when on the water, but the wheels' bracing system needs further development since his trolley collapsed as soon as he started wheeling his boat towards the ramp on Friday morning. He managed to jury-rig a brace with soft line and it held long enough to allow him to launch his boat.
The loch on Friday morning was, as predicted, flat calm, so we resigned ourselves to a long spell of paddling/rowing. We set off shortly before 10:30 a.m., which is an improvement on what I normally manage on the first day of an expedition.
Our route north took us past the Loch Lomond Sailing Club, where there was no sign of life, around Strathcashell Point and on to the northeastern end of Inchlonaig. I was hoping we'd pick up a little more wind once north of this island and into the main body of the loch and, sure enough, there were a few ruffles in the water, but not enough to tempt me to unfurl my sail. Flukey winds are typical on Lomond and I decided to wait until they were stronger and more consistent before attempting to sail. Looking back I saw that Graham had been tempted to set his sail but he soon gave up and resumed rowing.
We headed towards Ross Point, passing to the east of the larger of the two Ross Isles (which WalterG named "Big Ross" in his report). I've never landed on either island but I thought Big Ross would be a good spot for lunch, provided there was somewhere we could beach our boats. As we approached, I spotted a likely looking beach on the east of the island, where I duly landed at 11:40 a.m. This first stage of the journey, made with sail furled and entirely under paddle power, had taken under 1¼ hours. I was interested to see that my travel recorder registered a peak speed of 4.2 knots for the stage, with an average of 2.3 knots. Since this included many stationary periods, when I stopped paddling to take photos etc., I'm fairly confident that I could maintain a speed of 3 knots under paddle-power alone, even with a fully loaded boat, which is useful to know when planning trips.