Raptor UK canoe sailing

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May 2009

confident in my setup and wanted to try it out over an extended distance. Initially, on leaving Carsaig, I left my mast rigged up. I was able (with care) to pass under telephone lines that crossed the road on three occasions but when I saw some low lying electricity lines I elected not to take the chance and so rigged down my mast and laid it on the sidecar. This is quick to do, so I should just have done it before leaving Carsaig. I made the mistake of not securing the mast though with the result that it tipped off the back off the sidecar when I was ascending a hill at the entrance to Tayvallich. The road from Carsaig is single-track only but there were enough passing places/entrances for me to pull into, so I didn't impede traffic along this surprisingly busy little road. My Molly carts worked well and I arrived back at the launching area at 4:45 pm, so the complete circuit had taken me a total of 5 hours 10 minutes, with a sailing time of under 4 hours and the 1 mile portage took me about 35 minutes. This was probably my most enjoyable day with my Raptor to date. I believe that very few (if any) other boats that are sold today could have accomplished this journey in the same time under the prevailing conditions.

Wednesday, 27 May was again windy but, unlike the previous day, also overcast. I planned to explore the northern end of Linne Mhuirich with Ellen & Jeff but, leaving Tayvallich harbour, I noticed that my sail was damaged and starting to slip down the mast. After I had returned to shore I saw that the webbing at the head of the sail had become worn, allowing it to slip past the end of the mast.

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Our outing was therefore delayed as I returned with mast and sail to the campsite and made a temporary repair, sewing a small piece of webbing at the head of the sail. This allowed me to sail for the remainder of the meet and, on returning home, I sent my sail to Ullman Sails in Plymouth, Devon for a permanent repair. It wasn't until Thursday, when I was portaging my Raptor to the campsite to dismantle it, that I realized the damage must have occurred when the mast tipped onto the road from the sidecar, so it is obviously essential to secure the mast to prevent this from happening. It was lucky for me that I unfurled the sail fully while still close to the harbour, as in this way the sail damage was highlighted. If I had kept the sail reefed until later, I might have been faced with a long(er) paddle home.

Once I had made the temporary repair, I set off again from Tayvallich at 1:45 pm, which was just after low water. Ann & KeithM sailing Penobscot had gone ahead with Ellen & Jeff but Jeff called me on his radio once I came into view in the north of Loch Sween. They stopped for lunch on the east side of Taynish Island and I joined them at 3 pm.

My peak speed for the day was 9.0 knots (10.4 mph) as I sailed close-hauled on a port tack across from the island of Eilean Loain in the north of Loch Sween. My sail southwest was very wet despite the slight swell. With my sail fully unfurled and foil deployed, the Raptor's bow dug into the water, and every wave passed straight over the foredeck and into the cockpit. I have bad memories of leaking hatches so when I saw 4-5 inches of water in my cockpit while sailing on a starboard tack I thought I had the same problem. I had almost decided to beach my boat to check for water in my main hull but instead tacked and was happy to see the water drain immediately from the cockpit.

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The ride became drier once I reefed a little and this also reduced burying of the ama on a port tack. 40 minutes later we set off down the outside of the island, in order to enter the mouth of Linne Mhuirich from the south, with the SW wind helping us. The tide had turned an hour previously and was already flowing strongly through the narrow gap. The south west wind was almost directly against us as we entered so I furled my sail, thinking the current would easily carry me through, but the wind was stronger and I had to paddle vigorously to make any headway. Keith and Jeff both elected to sail through and I copied them once through the narrowest part of the entrance. Their leeboards are better able to cope with sailing in shallow water, as they will kick up when grounded while my daggerboard causes a much more abrupt stop. The water was no more that 30 cm (1 ft) deep at one point, so very few sailing vessels will have entered Linne Mhuirich.

Once past a shallow bar, sailing was easy as we headed to the northeastern end of the loch with a following wind of varying strength. Arriving there at 4:45 pm, we stopped for half an hour before heading back southwest. Ellen and Jeff had hoped to find some oysters but only discarded shells were visible. Snorkelling gear is probably required. Beating back to the Linne Mhuirich exit was fun, with Penobscot and Osprey constantly crossing paths until I elected to stow my foil and fly my ama. The Raptor is markedly quicker when not using the foil in lighter wind but I deployed it again later, as the wind increased in strength.

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