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Raptor UK canoe sailing

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16 - 21 May 2010

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John passing barrage.

Andy relaunching.

Raptor on slipway.

Relaunching slipway.

the river just after the barrage, so we only had to wheel our boats 100-150 metres or so. The gate at the top of this slipway had been locked when I visited in 2009, so I had proposed relaunching from some grassy banks a further 150 metres downriver. Luckily the gate was now unlocked since the lower water level had exposed a wall lining the river, which, together with the 3-foot drop, made my proposed launch site unsuitable.

The journey downriver was relatively tranquil and enjoyable. The low water level meant that the river was not flowing as swiftly as we might have expected (the Leven is the second fastest flowing river in Scotland). I opted to keep my rudder down since I wasn't confident of steering by paddle alone, and it frequently scraped along the riverbed during the journey down to Dumbarton. My main hull only scraped once though and I also only had to get up and lift my boat over an obstacle on one occasion. This was shortly after passing under the derelict Black Bridge in Bonhill (serving the Dillichip textile works) where the speed of the river

Paddling down Leven.

suddenly increased. I stopped paddling with the result that I lost steerage and was swept into a partially submerged tree. Andy spotting the problem so steered a safer course but I was soon able to lift my boat over the obstacle. This might have been more dangerous if the river had been faster flowing. Lesson learned: the rudder will only work if there is water flowing past it, so in a fast flowing stream (river or tidal), I need to paddle, to maintain speed through the water and be able to steer. I thought I'd need to walk my boat past sections of shallow water but this wasn't necessary.

The Leven widening.

Near Dumbarton.

Passing last bridge.

No sign of the weir.

Shortly after passing under the A82 dual carriageway, the river starts to broaden and turn through three 90 bends before entering the Firth of Clyde at Dumbarton. As I approached the first of these bends I heard a shout from the south bank of the river and saw that it was Roland, who had evidently followed us downriver in his car. He told us to expect a headwind in the Firth of Clyde. We arrived at Dumbarton about one hour after high water, so had no problem crossing the old weir, which was not visible. After entering the Firth of Clyde, I made for a beach at the corner of Levengrove Park to rig up my sail and Andy arrived shortly afterwards. The time was 4:40 p.m., so the trip from the barrage at Balloch had taken a little over 1 hours.

River Leven estuary.

Firth of Clyde.

Dumbarton Castle.

Re-rig sails on beach.

Andy told me that John had decided to take advantage of Roland's presence to offload some of his cargo before entering the Clyde, as he was still concerned about his ability to make way against a headwind, so he had beached his boat on the south bank of the Leven just after the last bridge,

where Roland was waiting with his car. I'd considered this beach during my pre-trip research but thought it looked a lttle sordid, probably explained by a sign above it that said "Sewer"...

Beach by old bridge.

John reduces cargo.

Sailing down Leven.

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