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May 2009

Tayvallich '09 was a challenging but productive meet, producing several 'firsts' for me on my Raptor. We had stayed a night at the campsite during the Luing '08 meet, but this year were based there for the entire week. Some OCSG members were hoping to mount a mini-expedition during the week, spending one night on a remote site before returning to Tayvallich the next day, but in the event this didn't come off due to the conditions (forecast, if not actual).

I arrived late on Friday, 22 May to be greeted by Renate & PaulW, who were having a drink in the terrace of the Tayvallich Inn with WalterG. Paul was using a midge hood and when I headed to the bar after setting up my tent I understood why: the insects were ferocious and the terrace was now deserted. I spent Saturday morning rigging up my Raptor and wheeled it down to the beach in front of the campsite with the mast rigged. I had to cut across the grass to the park entrance to avoid the low-slung telephone wires that crossed the access road.

Large tidal ranges affected us for the entire week that we stayed at Tayvallich. Spring tide was on Tuesday, 26 May with a range of 3.4 metres (over 11 ft) at Oban, the nearest standard port. While the range was less at Tayvallich, it still made the difference between at easy launch/recovery directly from/to the grassy bank and an exhausting drag through the sludge, which forms the seabed in most bays in the area. I didn't bother making secondary port calculations, but my rule-of-thumb of Tayvallich tides being one hour before Oban proved about right.

High tide on Saturday was at about 4:45 pm (range 2.8 m), so I waited until shortly before 4 pm to head off for my first exploration. I decided, since winds were light, to paddle down the first loch to the left on exiting the harbour, Caol Scotnish. With my sail unfurled, I had occasional assistance from the wind, but mostly paddled up to the most northerly end, reaching it in just over an hour.

The road to Tayvallich passes beside the loch and several members said they'd seen my Raptor on the water as they were arriving. Ann & KeithM were the only ones I saw though, as they sounded the horn and waved as they passed. My peak speed for the outing, entering Caol Scotnish, was 7.1 knots (8.1 mph).

Sunday was much more breezy. I managed to erase my GPS data for Sunday and Monday so don't have a note of times and the exact track for those two days, but I buddied up with Ellen & JeffB who were sailing Njuzu and we made plans to head out to the main loch together. I also lost my goggles on Sunday, which meant I missed two days of filming opportunities before remembering that I also had an elastic headband that I could use to mount my camera. WalterG had already been out when I arrived at the beach and reported that he'd encountered strong winds and heavy swell as he sailed across to the eastern side of Loch Sween. This loch should provide some shelter from anything other than winds from the southwest, but F4-5 winds, gusting to F6, were forecast from just this direction for most of the week. This also occasionally made launching hard work since the beach we were using was a lee shore with SW winds. Sunday was probably the most arduous paddle into the wind before water depth was sufficient to deploy my daggerboard and unfurl my sail. Despite Walter's warning, I was surprised at conditions in the main loch. The swell was the highest I had experienced (4'+) and winds were strong.

We headed towards the peninsular south-east of Tayvallich (Rubha Cladh Eņin), tacking several times to avoid the headland and then we gained the relative tranquillity of the larger island south-west of the peninsular (Eilean Loain). We then continued south-west, hugging the eastern shore of Loch Sween. However, once we left the slightly sheltered channel between the mainland and Eilean Loain, the conditions made sailing hard work and we turned back, sailing into the most northeasterly arm of the loch, where we found a pleasant spot to eat lunch across from Achnamara. Ellen & Jeff collected some mussels to eat in the evening, reporting the next day that they had been delicious. Fortified by lunch, we decided to make another attempt sailing down the loch and this time made better progress, as conditions had moderated considerably. After a short stop on a beach about 1 km northeast of Taynish Island, and, starting to feel the cold, we elected to head back to the campsite.

Most of the week was overcast and with periods of heavy rain, as well as strong winds. Despite this, Ellen & Jeff were again keen to sail on Monday, so we headed off towards Castle Sween, about 5 miles southwest of Tayvallich as the seagull flies. It was a bracing sail with periodic stinging rain squalls, so when we reached the castle we were all keen to find somewhere warm and dry to recuperate. We had arrived half an hour too late for lunch served in the campsite restaurant, but the staff didn't object

to us sitting and eating our packed lunches, despite dripping on their (tiled) floor. We left the (Hungarian) waitress a generous tip. She was standing by ready with the mop as we were leaving.

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