Raptor UK canoe sailing

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16 - 21 May 2010

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The Inshore Waters forecast broadcast by Greenock MRCC at 8:10 a.m. (for Mull of Galloway to Mull of Kintyre including the Firth of Clyde and North Channel) was for Force 3-4 winds, gusting to Force 5-6 later, and the 24-hour forecast was also for strong gusts. We therefore decided to change our itinerary and head for Holy Loch on Monday, leaving Gareloch for the following day, since it would be more sheltered. With the advantage of not having to strike camp, we were able to make an earlier start and set off westwards before 10:30 a.m. I steered for the headland to the west of Kilcreggan where I beached my boat after 1 hours sailing. I ate my packed lunch while waiting for the other two to catch up. After an hour there was still no sign of them so I retraced my steps and

W Kilcreggan beach.

Lunch break.

E Kilcreggan beach.

Leaving Kilcreggan.

spotted them on the beach to the east of Kilcreggan pier eating their lunches. After a further hour we were ready to set off towards Holy Loch but John decided he would not attempt the crossing so, while he returned to the campsite, Andy and I headed west. The sail from Kilcreggan to the entrance of Holy Loch was fun and took under an hour, with a southwesterly breeze and moderate swell onto the port beam. My peak speed for the day (7.6 knots) was reached shortly before entering Holy Loch while sailing on a beam reach (port tack). I chose to wear fewer thermals due to the sunny morning but regretted this during the crossing as I began to feel the cold. High water was at 3:30 p.m. and we wanted to make the return crossing before the tide started to ebb, thinking that the southeast wind could again cause swell to build up in the Firth. So we didn't linger

in Holy Loch, simply sailing to the western end, where we arrived at 3:20 p.m. and then immediately returning east. Holy Loch was the site of a US Navy base for 31 years. From Wikipedia: "Between 1961 and 1992, Holy Loch was the site of the United States Navy's "FBM Refit Site One". It was the home base of Submarine Squadron 14, part of Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet." There is now (18 years later) little evidence of the US naval presence - only some large mooring buoys remain. It seems that the US Navy didn't construct large shore facilities in the area, instead using submarine tenders and a floating dry dock to service their Polaris submarines. With wind and swell on our starboard beams during

Holy Loch.

the sail east, I debated whether to deploy my foil but decided against it since conditions were not extreme and I prefer the feel of my Raptor when not using the foil. The sail back to the campsite took just over an hour from the mouth of Holy Loch and we arrived before 5 p.m. I was surprised at how difficult it was to spot the tents from the sea. John and I both had green tents, which blended in perfectly with the surroundings. Andy's blue tent was hidden behind mine but when he fitted a green tarpaulin that evening (to give himself more shelter), his tent also blended in well.

This was our shortest day's excursion of the expedition and our earliest finish, so we were able to relax a little in the evening. John had arrived back safely and was impressed at how quickly we'd made the round trip to Holy Loch (3 hours). He said he'd had a problem with his rudder downhaul when leaving Kilcreggan, but had managed to repair it OK. At dusk, he and Andy built a bonfire with driftwood on a previous fire site near the tents, using cotton balls impregnated with Vaseline as fire lighters (a Ray Mears' tip). Andy told me the name of a practice I have long used when travelling (but didn't know had a name): to pack a meal and stop to eat it soon after leaving home.

This is known as a Hudson Bay Start. I've found that it's a way to get going a little quicker and if you've forgotten something vital (my wallet one time), it's not too far to return home for it.

Monday's bonfire.

Second day's track.

Video clip: Large/small

Tuesday, 18 May
Daily journey distance (approx.): 28 km (18 miles)
Another beautiful sunny day with little sign of the promised F5-6 gusts - in fact the Firth of Clyde looked very peaceful. I felt better after washing my hair and a shave (using sea water and then rinsing off with a couple of mugs of fresh water). Low water was at 9:17 a.m. There was still not a breath of wind when we set off just after 10:30 a.m., so we paddled around Rosneath Peninsula towards Rhu Narrows, the entrance to Gareloch, with the flood tide assisting us. Faslane Base, which services

Shampoo and shave!

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