Raptor UK canoe sailing

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16 - 21 May 2010

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egress slipway up the sea wall from the beach, only about 250 metres from the guesthouse, which I had spotted in 2009. It was therefore easy to unload my Raptor, install the carts and wheel it up to the road at the top of the sea wall (the A814), which runs along the eastern shore of Loch Long. I then reloaded my boat and parked it in a convenient space 60 metres away, leaving the slipway free for the others to use. We started to attract quite a crowd of onlookers as we prepared our boats for the short portage to the guesthouse. People were enjoying the start of their weekend, leaning on the sea wall, eating ice cream cones and watching the unusual spectacle. Once all ready,

we set off in convoy towards Fascadail House, which we reached shortly before 6 p.m., and the proprietor (Kevin Bax) showed us where we could park our boats overnight. I was surprised at how difficult it had been to wheel my Raptor up the slightly inclined road to the driveway entrance, which augured badly for the long portage I faced the following day. It was also stern heavy so I experimented that evening and found that strapping my largest dry bag (containing tent, air bed and sleeping bag) to the deck forward of the mast helped balance things. John was also concerned about the portage and obtained Kevin's permission to leave some of his cargo behind at the guesthouse and return for it the next

Fascadail House.

day in his car. We were able to leave things we didn't need overnight in a dry room on the ground floor, which reduced clutter in the family room that we shared. This contained two single beds and a sofa bed (Andy drew the short straw) and was the cheapest option for our one night stay in Arrochar (GBP65 split three ways, breakfast not included). It was also convenient due to its location on Church Road (the B838), which provided us with a less busy exit route from Arrochar the following day. After we had all enjoyed the luxury of warm showers, we treated ourselves to a meal

at the nearby (and surprisingly busy) Village Inn (GBP17 each, including drinks and tip). Kevin had phoned ahead to book us a table, so we didn't have to queue and the food arrived quickly.

Village Inn, Arrochar.

The fifth day's track.

Video clip: Large/small

Friday, 21 May
Daily journey distance (approx.): 15 km (9 miles)
I was up by 6 a.m. and we were on our way before 7:15 a.m., having decided not to pay for

breakfast. I wanted to try and complete the portage to Tarbet before traffic became too heavy on the A83, as I was concerned that my Raptor, being so much wider than the monohulls, could cause an obstruction to traffic on this busy road. It turned out to be a forlorn hope. I was already exhausted by the time I had wheeled my boat 150 metres up the first, steeply inclined section of Church Road. I could hear water sloshing about inside either the ama or main hull, which didn't help, but it was too late to do anything about it. I pressed on for another couple of hundred metres before realising that a new approach was required. I decided to lighten my boat's load and so removed the two heaviest dry bags and

Arrochar portage.

followed Andy carrying these, while John remained with the Raptor. I left the two bags with Andy at the intersection of Church Road with the A83 and returned for my Raptor. John and I then joined Andy with our boats. My Raptor was still not easy to wheel, even with the lighter load but it was Andy who spotted the reason: the port side wheel of the main hull's Molly cart was rubbing against the hull and had been acting as a brake. It had already rubbed away the blue gel coat and exposed the underlying material of my Raptor's hull. We adjusted the cart's position and hoped that the cart would now be OK. The next section of road would be the last steep upward incline of the pass so I decided to make two cargo runs (with the four heaviest bags) before returning for my Raptor. I had hoped that things should be easier from then on but wheeling my Raptor was still difficult, so I continued the remainder of the crossing in the same manner, making two cargo runs each stage before returning for my Raptor. I therefore ended up walking about four times the distance of the other two, over 14 km (7 miles) in total. The problem was that the cart kept slipping and the wheel

Portage still difficult.

Swap carts around.

Carrying cargo first...

..then portage Raptor.

continued to rub on the hull. Half way through the portage, as we were arriving in the outskirts of Tarbet, I decided to investigate further and removed the cart from the main hull. We then saw that

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