Raptor UK canoe sailing

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16 - 21 May 2010

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John drove Andy there to collect his car. Andy was the only one who was going to spend another night by Loch Lomond. John planned to head home after collecting the things he's left behind at Fascadail House and with Roland, driving overnight and having a nap in his car when required.

Both of their boats were still on the water as I passed Cashel on the way home at 7:20 p.m. The drive home took me less than 1 hours. One advantage of finishing the expedition on Loch Lomond was that we were able to wash salt water off our boats and equipment before travelling home. After unloading my boat at Sallochy, I paddled out to deeper water and capsized in order to do this.

The sixth day's track.

Video clip: Large/small

• The only problem I had during the paddle down the River Leven was while passing Bonhill's Black Bridge. There was an unexpected weir there (I'm not sure of its exact location), which was used to divert water from the river into a lade supplying water to the old Dillichip textile works. I had to lift

my boat over this weir. As you approach the bridge you will see an island mid-stream. I recommend keeping to the right (western) side of this island, and to the right of the bridge's central support.

Dillichip textile works.

Black Bridge island.

Black Bridge, Bonhill.

• I think in hindsight that it would be better undertaking this expedition during Neap, rather than Spring, tides. The water depth at high water Neaps should still be more than sufficient to clear the old weir at Dumbarton and the Firth of Clyde sand and mud banks. The important point is to allow sufficient time to arrive at Dumbarton well before high water (I'd recommend 2 hours before), so that the journey down the Firth can be done on the last of the flood tide. This should reduce the swell in the main channel. The volume of water flowing in and out with each tide will be less during Neaps, further reducing the tendency for a steep swell to build if the wind is in opposition to the tidal flow. Also, Neap low waters would be less extreme than during Springs so access to Meikleross Bay would be easier. I recommend allowing 6 hours for the trip from Cashel to the Firth of Clyde, and departing from Cashel 8 hours before HW Dumbarton.

• I think 1 or 2 groups with 3 boats in each is optimal for this expedition.
• I wrote to Martin Lawrence via his publishers, Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson Ltd, to report the error in his Pilot. Imray said they would forward my message but I haven't heard anything further.
I believe there is no reason to avoid Gareloch, despite our problems.
• My Raptor performed flawlessly during the expedition and coped well with all of the conditions, confirming my belief that it is a wonderful craft.
• The total (straight-line) journey distance of the expedition was about 153 km (95 miles).

Total expedition track.

While rigging down my boat I found that the ama contained a lot of water, which I'd heard during the portage from Arrochar. I didn't discover the reason until I returned home, when I found cracks on both sides of the ama at the point that the Molly cart was attached. I don't know when the damage occurred but suspect it was when leaving Meikleross Bay on Wednesday, at the same time that I damaged the main hull's cart. If so, this would mean that the ama was taking on water slowly over three days. Lesson learned: check the boat for leaks at the end of each day's sailing.

Main hull damage.

Damage close-up.

Ama starboard side.

Ama port side.

I have been in touch with Solway Dory and they've said they can repair the damage for me. I've also asked them to make me better carts for my ama and main hull, to replace my Molly carts. These have served me well over the past two years but they're clearly unsuitable for heavy-duty portage and expedition use. Their main advantages were their lightweight and compact design, enabling me to easily carry them with me at all times. Hopefully Solway Dory can come up with elegant replacement carts.

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