Raptor UK canoe sailing

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16 - 21 May 2010

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ground was much drier than in August 2009 (when it was water-logged) and the burn looked very tranquil, compared to the raging torrent last year. I took an extra tent to use for the night at Cashel, so that I wouldn't need to pack a wet tent if it rained overnight (which it did). Andy and John headed off for a meal at the Rowardennan Hotel, while I continued rigging up my boat.

Sunday, 16 May
Daily journey distance (approx.): 38 km (24 miles)
Our plan was to sail to the start of River Leven at Balloch, paddle downriver to Dumbarton and then sail to Rosneath Peninsula, where we intended to wild camp for three nights, using this as our base to explore nearby Gareloch and Holy Loch. The first obstacle we would encounter would be a barrage (and preceding barrier of chained buoys) across River Leven at Balloch, which blocks navigation. This barrage has seven sections, with gates that can be raised or lowered as required to control the height of Loch Lomond and the amount of water flowing downriver. When I was researching the expedition in August 2009, Loch Lomond was very full and none of the barrage gates were visible due to the height of the river, which was in full spate. I found two locations where I thought we would be able to remove our boats from the river prior to the barrage: either onto a grassy bank or up a concrete slipway. We would then need to wheel them past the barrage and relaunch downriver. Ten bridges as well as power lines cross River Leven, so, to be safe, we decided to rig down our masts before entering. The final obstacle on the Leven is an old weir just downstream of Old Dumbarton Bridge, the final crossing over the river. This was supposed to have sections of reinforced concrete still present, which could be a potential hazard for our boats. This lower part of the river is tidal; hence our plan was to start the expedition when the Spring tide would give us extra water depth to pass over the weir safely. It would also help us in the Firth of Clyde, which is surprisingly shallow for much of its width. High water (HW) at Dumbarton would be at 3:08 pm BST on Sunday. We aimed to arrive at Dumbarton at least an hour before HW (2 pm or earlier), and hoped to reach Rosneath Peninsula before the ebb tide started flowing too strongly i.e. by HW+1, which at Rhu Marina would be at 3:48 pm. Sailing the 16 km (10 miles) from Dumbarton to Rosneath Peninsula on the last of the flood tide should reduce the risk of unpleasant seas, due to wind against tide, in the event of (likely) fresh westerly winds. We therefore planned to set off from Cashel before 10 a.m., which would allow us 2 hours for the 11 km (7 mile) sail to Balloch and a further 2 hours for the 11 km (7 mile) journey down the River Leven.

Cashell Burn.

Cashel campsite.

Cashel planning.

Cashel gathering.

Cashel launch area.

Cashel launch area.

Andy gets ready.

Loaded Raptor.

Sidecar loading.

John's preparations.

John leaving Cashel.

Raptor setting sail.

In the event we were 50 minutes late leaving Cashel despite starting our preparations shortly after 6 a.m. We became more proficient (and therefore quicker) at striking camp as the week progressed, but initially it was taking us almost 5 hours from the time we awoke to the time we were all on the water ready to set sail. We had all driven to Cashel in our own cars and Andy had obtained permission from site staff to leave one vehicle in the car park at the entrance to the site, at a cost of GBP3 per day. We left the other two cars at Sallochy in a (free) public car park a couple of miles to the north, on the road to Rowardennan. John left his car at Cashel after giving Andy a lift back from Sallochy. He had the same doubts about his boat that I had had before Luing and wanted the option to bail out if he found he could make no headway against the wind when his boat was heavily laden. He was pleasantly surprised once we set off however. After a short trial to windward it seemed his boat handled the extra weight fine, so we all set off towards Balloch. Initially the wind

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