Raptor UK canoe sailing

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August 2009

After sailing up between Inchtavannach and Inchconnachan, I stopped to take some photos, thinking that the passage between the two islands was blocked by trees. It wasn't until I continued on my journey that I noticed that the passage between the islands kinked round to the east and that it was still navigable. I then headed back to Cashell, passing north of Inchconnachan. The wind picked up markedly as I passed Strathcashell Point and I arrived at the beach at the same time as a party of school-children sailing Toppers, with varying degrees of control. One bounced off my outrigger before being blown a further 50m up the beach.

I wheeled my Raptor onto the beach on the two Molly carts and left it overnight with the bow pointing into the prevailing wind. By the next morning the wind had strengthened considerably and my Raptor had been blown around 90 degrees and now lay beam-on to the wind. I decided to make another attempt at sailing north and set-off around midday. AndyW was the first OCSG member to arrive at Cashell and we had a brief chat before I set off.

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Removing and stowing the two carts from my Raptor was not easy while trying to hold it with bow into the wind and waves, so I dispensed with the carts for the remainder of the holiday. A couple of (unsolicited but welcome) volunteers from the school group offered to help and held my Raptor facing the wind, which allowed me to place my daggerboard in its slot and lower my rudder before setting off from the shore. Paddling diagonally to the wind in a south-south-west direction allowed me to clear the headland at the mouth of the burn and deploy my foil and unfurl my sail before tacking and starting my journey north. This was a lot of fun and my Raptor gave me plenty of confidence in the conditions. This time the wind held as I passed Rubha Mor and Ptarmigan Lodge and I started to look for somewhere to eat lunch, eventually stopping at an attractive beach near Rubha Curraichd, on the eastern shore. There is no vehicular access to this mountainous area, which is therefore quite remote, so I don't know who was more surprised, myself or a party of four hikers, who passed the beach at the exact moment I landed. The lower of the two tracks, which comprise the West Highland Way footpaths, passes close to the shore by Rubha Curraichd.

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I noticed from my map that Rob Roy's Prison was only about half a mile north of where I had landed, so after lunch I walked along the lower footpath to visit it. I hadn't planned the visit so had no idea what to look for but kept my eyes open for ruins of any description, however after a 15 minute hike I had failed to spot anything that resembled a building so turned back. I subsequently learned that the 'prison' is just "a large crag with a natural cell where Rob Roy is reputed to have held hostages", so I'd probably walked right past it without realising. I hadn't passed any further hikers to ask.

After lunch I continued sailing north. The wind seemed to have moderated after I passed Rubha Mor but it became progressively stronger and more gusty as I came adjacent to Tarbet. The wind was obviously being funnelled strongly down the pass between Arrochar and Tarbet. I hadn't reefed my sail so when a strong gust hit me it probably put a large strain on the rudder, which was holding my Raptor on a close-hauled port tack.

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The rudder modifications I had made in July proved to be unable to cope with the conditions and the starboard cable slipped from where it had been clamped at the rudder, leaving me somewhat handicapped. Initially I raised the rudder, fully furled my sail and attempted to head back south, thinking that the wind should drive me along well and that I could steer with my paddle. Progress was quite slow in the gusty conditions, so I decided to unfurl some sail and eventually found I could make best progress by holding my Raptor at about 45 degrees to the wind, which came over my starboard quarter. Paddling on my port side helped maintain this bearing but occasionally a wind gust would blow my bow around anti-clockwise, causing me to gybe and end up in irons. I then had to drive the bow back around 180 degrees. Intuitively I thought gybing back clockwise would be easiest but I was also able once or twice to tack through the wind anti-clockwise once the gust had passed. This actually felt safer since I mainly wanted to avoid being blown onto the uninhabited,

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