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16 - 21 May 2010

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I recently returned from a very enjoyable Five Lochs expedition in the Upper Clyde, on the west coast of Scotland, with a couple of other OCSG members - AndyW sailing his Solway Dory decked 'Clyde-style' sailing canoe and JohnS sailing his self-built canoe, both Bermudan-rigged. We had been planning this trip since the OCSG meet at Loch Lomond in August 2009 and details were finalised by November 2009, when I sent the proposal to the OCSG Committee to be considered for inclusion in their 2010 calendar. In the event they decided not to take up the offer, so the expedition remained a private affair consisting of our single group of three boats. The trip was planned for mid-May for several reasons. In recent years, the British weather has been most favourable at this time, while our 'summer' has often been a disappointment. It was hoped that the midges would be less prevalent in spring compared to later in the year. There are also normally no OCSG meets scheduled for mid-May, so avoiding any conflict for those who might not have wanted to miss any of the official meets. Lastly, the date selected for the start of the expedition coincided with the Spring tide.

Our expedition was to be an extension of the Three Lochs Tour, a commercial Clydeside steamer service that was introduced in the 1820s, carrying passengers from Dumbarton up Loch Long to Arrochar via Loch Goil. From Arrochar, passengers crossed to Tarbet on Loch Lomond by foot or

coach, before boarding another steamer to Balloch, where a coach finally returned them to Dumbarton. This service continued for 150 years until the pier at Arrochar was closed in 1972. The Clyde Canoe Club (later to become the Loch Lomond Sailing Club) also adopted a variant of the Three Lochs Tour later in the 19th Century. They called their tour 'The Lomond Round' (also known as the Three Lochs Cruise), which involved a clockwise circuit starting from their clubhouse at Rosneath Bay, sailing up Loch Long to Arrochar, having their canoes carted across to Tarbet, sailing down Loch Lomond to Balloch, paddling down the River Leven to Dumbarton, and then finally sailing back to Rosneath. Their route did not appear to include Loch Goil, however, so it would probably have been more correctly named the Two Lochs Cruise. Our Five Lochs expedition was to start from Loch Lomond and it was planned to follow the CCC route, with three additions. These were:

(1) Gareloch - sailing through the Rhu Narrows, past Faslane Naval Base to Garelochhead;
(2) Holy Loch;
(3) Loch Goil - sailing past Carrick Castle to Lochgoilhead.

The Lomond Round

Expedition route

As usual I only started to prepare my bags for the expedition the day before leaving. Hydrovisions designed the Raptor's sidecar to carry a passenger of up to 130 lbs, so I tried to limit my total cargo to this weight. This was the second camping expedition I have undertaken on my Raptor, so I was much more confident in its capabilities, particularly how it would handle when fully loaded. By contrast, at Luing in May 2008, I really had no idea. I was able to meet the 130 lbs cargo limit this time, which definitely helped my Raptor maintain a better trim. One lesson I learned was not to load much inside the hull. At Luing I had stored all my heaviest items there: food, water and tools. While this reduced the sidecar loading, it made portage and beaching my boat very difficult. I didn't get an accurate weight of my cargo prior to Luing but comparing my Raptor's freeboard at Luing to that during the recent expedition makes me believe I was probably carrying about 200 lbs of cargo in 2008. By carrying all the heavy cargo in dry bags loaded on the sidecar this time, it became an easy matter to lighten the boat's load by removing some of the dry bags. This year I initially stored bulky but lightweight items, such as a pillow and clothing, in three dry bags within the main hull. The two 6-inch hatches I installed there make this more feasible but they are still quite restrictive openings. I was able to flatten the bags sufficiently to squeeze them through the hatches but at the end of the first day they had all expanded and were almost impossible to remove from the hull. Lesson learned: only compression-type bags should be stored in the main hull if they contain items that are likely to expand. I ended up only storing one dry bag, containing tools and spares, inside the main hull during the remainder of the expedition.

One of the heaviest items needed on a coastal expedition is fresh water, for drinking, cooking and washing. At Luing I carried six 2-litre bottles, one for each day. This was not only very heavy (over 26 lbs) but also unnecessary, since we were never more than three days without access to clean fresh water. I also found that 2 litre/day was more than I needed. We planned to wild camp for four nights during the Five Lochs, but knew there would be numerous options for replenishing supplies during the trip, so I only took two 2-litre bottles of water plus another 2 litres of juice. This worked out well. I refilled both water bottles and bought another 2 litres of juice at Garelochhead. The others replenished supplies at Kilcreggan.

Saturday, 15 May
The three of us met at the Cashel campsite on Saturday, 15 May. The new moon had been the previous day (Friday) and Spring tide was due the following day (Sunday). The Spring tide would help us clear an old weir at Dumbarton as well as the extensive sand and mud banks in the Firth of Clyde. Although I live closest to Cashel, I was the last to arrive at the campsite. Thankfully the

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