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We had 5 taking the course , Alex, Harry, Cammie, Lewis and Sandy, and they had 10 pool sessions and 7 paddles in the loch, sea and river. These included

Luss, Lomond Shores, Kidston (and Rosneath) , Royal Northern (Canoes), Craigendoran (Polo) and the River Leven. The course finished with a Canoe Camp on Loch Lomond. Our conclusion is that, once again,  it proved very successful.

Paddlers: Euan, Geoff, Alex, Jenny, Jessica, Rebekah and Paul

Weather: Good on Saturday, Brilliant on Sunday

Report: The choice of canoes and sea kayaks was intended to give more experience to the Paddlers in a run up to the 2 Star assessment. For the record the sea kayaks unsuprisngly proved the more popular.

We met at Aldlochlay at 2pm and were away before 2.30 for the first leg over to Inchtavannach and Inchconnachan. At this time there was a good breeze from the north.

Rebekah

Paul, Alex and Rebekah

We stopped at Inchconnachan to investigate the old summer house and hunt wallabies. The former was more successful. The summer house is gradually rotting away but some rooms are still OK including the one with the mural

The island mural

A very gentle paddle through the narrows took us to our camp site on Inchtavannach.


A long rest and we were off for an evening paddle. Our first stop was Inchgalbraith, a tiny island with an old ruined castle eminently climbable.

Inchgalbraith Castle with damsel

Close Up of Damsel

Euan having rescued Damsel

On to the long sand beach on Inchmoan for a stroll.

 

Inchmoan

Finally back to the camp for a swim, evening meal and a camp fire

The Beach with excellent fire

The Swimmers

The evening finally darkened at around 10.30 and we went to bed shortly after midnight.

The morning was glorious with Loch Lomond looking at its very best, which is as good as anywhere in the world if not better.

Looking south with Inchgalbraith

A slow lazy start but we were still away just after 10am. 

We moved quite quickly and by 11am were opposite Aldlochay and decided to climb to the top of the hill (the highest point on Loch Lomond at 86m (282 ft). It is surprisingly steep but are rewarded with exceptional views south. The boats are just visible at the edge of the trees/loch on the right. 

The climb is steep and the path poor/non-existent but still worthwhile but an excellent way to spend 30 minutes.

A quick paddle and we were back at Aldlochlay just before midday. An excellent and Hopefully instructive trip.

The Small Isles: June 2018

Paddlers: Hugh, John and Geoff

Weather: Dry with light winds. Sea Mist and overcast at times, otherwise sunny

Route:

Report:  Day 1: Two hours is normally regarded as a maximum time for active exercise without a break. Crossings in excess of 10km, such as from the mainland to the closest of the small isles, Eigg, are therefore regarded with caution. We left Helensburgh just after 8am arriving at the Back of Keppoch Campsite, by Arisaig at 11.15. The campsite is thoroughly recommended with access directly on to the beach and no charge for parking.  After packing the boats and lunch we finally set off about 12.30 into the sea mist that prevented any sight of Eigg.

Getting Ready for Departure

Within 20 minutes our departure point had disappeared and with nothing in front of us we paddled on due west using the boat compasses. These are expensive but absolutely essential in these conditions. Two hours of blind paddling and the shape of Eigg started to emerge through the gloom

Eigg starts to emerge

There is a shingle beach at the north end but camping is impossible there and Hugh was anxious to source a camping spot for future reference so we pushed on round the point to a potential area. Sadly landing was on to weed covered rock and the possible campsite turned out to be a small weed infested sea water based bog. After coffee we pushed on again into the mist surrounding our next target Rum.

 

Rum

As we paddled the mist slowly rose giving a beautiful late afternoon. The south of Rum has virtually nowhere to land and no camping spots until Kinloch, at the head of Loch Scresort.

The Campsite at Kinloch

Our Pitch

The campsite is excellent but the infamous Rum Midge makes the place close to unbearable. If you come BRING A MIDGE NET.  Pitching, eating and above all drinking were a pain so we went off to look for a bar. The hostel and associated bar/brasserie in the castle have now been abandoned with the hostel moving up to the pier and the drinking place to the island shop by the community centre. A very pleasant evening was had by all, with much story telling and vigorous debate, before returning back to the campsite and diving into the tent to avoid the ….,

Day 2: The midges were still there in the morning in even greater profusion. A quick getaway saw us on the water about an hour after exiting the tent and into the midge free zone on the loch.

Getting ready for departure

Kinloch Castle

At the mouth of the loch we were surprised to come across a couple of kilometres of quite serious water, with the meter swell occasionally breaking on to the boats.

From the point we progressed along to a beautiful sand beach only really accessible by kayak

Bagh Rubha Mhoil Ruaidh (Bay of the headlands, beach of the squirrels)

Looking to Skye

A cup of tea and a laze in the sun was the order of the day before the crossing to Canna.

Before crossing we travelled a little further west to the sand beach at Kilmory, a farmstead that houses the Deer Research Station.

Kilmory

From there we set off on the 9km paddle across the Sound of Canna to the harbour at A’Chill.

Crossing to Canna

The previous night Hugh had inadvertently stepped off a bank and jarred an already strained back. On the crossing his discomfort grew to a level that on reaching Canna made further paddling too painful and potentially damaging.

Seals in Canna harbour

Canna harbour dries out and our camp site was over a large and growing sand/rock bank. Both Hugh and I had brought Lomo trolleys and it was thought that these could be used realtively easily to get the boats the 400m across the bank to the water and the camp site. Further discussion on our experiences with the trolleys can be found on http://www.helensburghcc.org.uk/a-note-on-trolleys/

The campsite itself is at the edge of another glorious silver sand beach and virtually midge free. What a pleasure!

Campsite on Canna

The evening was spent repairing the trolleys and debating loudly.

Day 3 Although there was some recovery it was agreed that the risk of going down the exposed east side of Rum, which only has one very poor landing and crossing the Sound of Rum (which can be dangerous) to Eigg, a distance of 28km, was simply too risky. Instead we opted to take the ferry, the Glen Nevis, to Eigg. A very relaxing morning followed with a very gentle paddle to the pier and a coffee at the cafe/shop.

Waiting at the pier

Using the ferry to avoid the long crossings is a very pleasant alternative. Fares are low (£5.90 Mallaig to Canna) and the kayaks go free. On the Rum-Eigg leg there were 5 different groups and 15 kayaks on the boat. A return to Canna with a circumnavigation is high on my “to do” list.

Adding to the pleasures of the scenery were the gastronomic delights of freshly cooked fish and chips washed down with tea.

Typical view of Rum

The busy pier at Rum

After Rum the boat progressed on to Galmisdale, the focus of life on the island and our destination. The camp site is just across the bay from the pier and the excellent cafe/shop/bar. There is a very basic toilet and a lot of flat grass for free.

The Sgurr of Eigg with the campsite above the beach to the left

The chance find of a plank of wood and the deft use of the excellent saw on both plank and a colossal tree trunk, provided enough wood for the only camp fire of the trip. 

Day 4: Time had improved Hugh’s back and he felt confident of making the crossing. The conditions were ideal; cool and flat calm.

 

The mainland from the camp site with sheep. It looks a long way away.

Nearing Back of Keppoch

The journey over took just under the expected 3 hours and was pleasant and uneventful.

Looking back to Eigg (the view we should have had on Saturday). It was a long way away

The final problem was actually finding the campsite.The inlet is hidden from the open sea and our search was not helped by the high tide significantly altering the scene. We finally arrived almost dead-on three hours after we departed. Lunch, loading, a drive and a cup of tea in Ballachulish brought us back to Helensburgh by 6pm.

Overall it was a good trip with fantastic scenery and excellent weather. A return to Canna using the ferry is required.

MUD. The Upper Forth Monday 21st May 2018

Paddlers:  Geoff, Colin and Tim

Weather: Dry, Sunny at times, Breeze from south

Route:

Report:

It seemed like a good idea; sunshine forecast in the East, tide running west to east in morning, east to west after lunch and points of interest; Boness, Blackness Castle, Hopetoun House, the Three Bridges and the new aircraft carrier being assembled at Rosyth. The reality was Mud, More Mud and enough clapotis to worry.

We assembled at 08:30 and were away by 8:45 for the 1.5 hr drive. Our first delay was finding the sea at Boness but eventually we found,  behind some factories, an excellent parking spot by the yacht club with a broad slip adjacent. Sadly the delays meant the water was already receding leaving 50m of glutinous, smelly mud between the end of the slip and the water. A test revealed a capacity to absorb boots, indeed potentially bodies, so we were forced to carry the loaded boats around a rough seaweed strewn, rocky beach for 800m to the water. Even here the mud led to an unpleasant departure.

The paddle down the Forth was pleasant if uninspiring. The mud made any investigation of the Roman port unattractive and even a visit to the majestic Blackness Castle was ruled out because of it. At Hopetoun we hoped to have lunch and a “hard” beach was only 10m from the water’s edge. Tim got out and suggested it was solid enough but this proved to be Fake News. Thirty amusing minutes of sinking in an oily quicksand, falling over into the water as boots got repeatedly stuck and generally getting boats, clothes and persons coated in mud followed. Sadly the water was so filthy it could not be used to wash off the mud. The retreat was sounded.

Trying to find something solid to stand on when relaunching

Mud; on paddles, on seat, in cockpit, on trousers, on arms and legs.

On then to a promised broad concrete slip at Port Edgar, beneath the bridges. Colin’s staked reputation was shattered as we found 1m of mud between water and end of slip and evidence that it was as disgusting as that we had already experienced. So we decided to cross the Forth to a potentially hard landing at North Queensferry. Beneath the bridges the tide swirls around the rocks and bridge footings which causes some worrying quite rough water.  The beach however was excellent being fine-grained sand. On the beach the thickest mud was removed, the long-delayed lunch was partaken and the sun came out.

Small Oil Tanker adds to the bounce

By this time an alternative plan to return to Port Edgar as the tide got up to the slip and then use a Taxi to get the car at Boness was adopted. The plan was to paddle back via the rail bridge and the South Queensferry slip but the turbulence was so worrying to one of our team that he made a beeline direct to Port Edgar without having a look at the fort at Inch Garvie.  He did not miss much.

Back on shore the alternative plan was enacted, the car was collected (it is a surprisingly long way from Queensferry to Boness in a taxi) and we got home just after seven.  A memorable day of around 20km but the Upper Forth is not recommended as a paddling destination except for hippopotami.

 

Training May 2018

The Beginners and Intermediate Thursday night training trips continued through May at Lomond Shores, Craigendoran and on the 17th at Kidston. The last of these was a perfect night with sun and no wind; a little different from the aborted trip last year. Youngsters Paddling on the 17th were: Rowen, Jessica and Jenny (Int) plus Cammy, Alex and . Leaders: Steve T., Allan, John and Geoff

Treshnish Isles – 5th-7th May 2018

 

Paddlers  Holly, Lee, Steve T, Colin, Gordon, Steve W and Hugh

Weather Breezy and Bright. Rain overnight Sunday.

Route 

Report

A good turnout for the first club sea expedition of 2018 with 3 cars headed to Mull for rendezvous at Ulva Ferry or rather just to the north of it where we managed to find off road parking near to the water at Laggan Bay. We assembled rather early since most of the ferries were booked out for the bank holiday and we had to take the 0730 sailing with Colin and Steve T going up late Friday and camping.

Day 1 The wind forecast was 18-20 miles/hour mean, force 4/5 with gusts of 30 miles/hour from the SW so we decided to keep protected from the swell and close to shelter by going from Laggan Bay along the N side of Ulva and Gometra to camp at the extreme W end to hopefully take advantage of the better forecast for Sunday. After a stop for lunch and walk through the tidal gully between the two islands 7.36 Nm took us to Acairseid Mhor, an inlet sheltered by the HW island of Eilean Dioghlum and used by Gometra House. Space for 6 tents was found just S of the tidal channel and a sheltered spot for a driftwood fire. Good camp site for future use.

 

 

Day 2. Due to good internet reception we were able to get a full Met office forecast for our location and Sunday had changed overnight to higher winds pm. This meant we had to get to relative safety by midday so a decision was head direct to Lunga to camp and spend the rest of the day exploring the island. Overnight rain was followed by a dank misty morning. The 4.27 Nm crossing saw conditions improve and the wind freshen to give a brighter day. A 1 metre ocean swell with a superimposed light wind chop made the crossing interesting with the inevitable carpet of sea birds on approach to Lunga.

We landed on a stony beach on the S half of the island which the oldest member of the group had last used about 25 years ago. It was good enough for all the tents and provided enough driftwood for a fire. The afternoon was spent exploring Lunga and visiting the various sea bird colonies including the famous puffin shelf. Gordon then produced a pair of swing rhythm bags (somebody had to tell me what they were called) and did a pretty good demo of an Olympic gymnast before moving on to teaching 3 item juggling. A pleasant evening by a good fire and off to bed for a quiet night, or so we thought…. No one seen them so we can only presume that several birds, probably geese, flew in to roost in safety only to find several tents on their landing strip, with one crashing into Steve W’s pots outside his tent, anyway they flew around making a racket for what seemed ages before all went quiet. So much for the peace and quiet of an uninhabited island!

 

Day 3.

The forecast for Monday had ruled out a return via Staffa and a very early start to ensure we made our 1815 ferry booking so at 0845 we headed N up the Treshnish chain and stopping briefly on Fladda where Holly found a bag that turned out to be a long lost sea kayak towline, requiring only cleaning. On then to Cairn na Burgh Beg and Cairn na Burgh More, both with castle ruins visited by the fitter members of the group whilst the aged checked the wildlife (greater black backed gull with 3 eggs) and drank coffee after forgetting the tea bags.

The crossing to Gometra was uneventful in that there were no whales, dolphins or basking sharks but that was compensated fully by the sighting of a pair of white-tailed sea eagles, an otter and several deer as we retraced our outward course along the N of Ulva. Arriving back at the cars in pleasant sunshine before 1600 having covered just over 13Nm, a good paddle. Steve W even managed a victory roll to test the loaded kayak and found little difference. We were at the ferry in time to get a refreshment in the pub and then had an outdoor fish and chip party on Oban promenade in pleasant sunshine.

A good trip and surprisingly for a bank holiday no other sea kayakers on Lunga.

Hugh M

Sea Kayak Expedition Training 28th April 2018

Paddlers: Hugh, Geoff plus Steve W, Gavin and Sean

Weather: Dry and bright; occasional sun, wind F2. Occasional squall F4 with hail

Report: Part 1 of the day was the outdoor safety test; the conclusion of Sea Kayak Expedition Training. The first exercise involved rescue of an upturned paddler and was accomplished with some expertise in extremely cold water (<8 degrees).

Gavin rescues Steve

Gavin “Pumps Out” after rescue by Sean

The second task was a solo rescue using a paddle float, the most reliable method. Again a success, albeit after a few capsizes as the body twisted into the seat.

Steve does his solo rescue

Sean attempts his solo

The third task involved getting warm, lunching and preparing and ready for the Trip

The Trip Part 2 of the day involves a longish journey to ensure that the paddler would have the stamina to reach safety if conditions degenerated suddenly. The chosen target was the sugar boat. 

Inspecting the MV Captayannis

Heading west for Rosneath Point

The trip out of some 8km was something of a slog for all of us. Nobody wanted to try their hand at climbing on the sugar boat and after a rather cursory visit we were off heading for Rosneath Point and Green Island.

Looking East with Ardmore and the Sugar Boat in the distance

We landed at the good beach at the Green Island signalling/degaussing station for a coffee, stretch and chance to relax in the sun.

After the 15 minute break we headed off across the bay towards the mouth of the Gareloch. On the rocky promontory were a colony of seals but in the north-east could be seen some pretty rough weather which hit us just a few minutes after departure. The wind rose to a strong F4 and the shallow nature of the bay induced a sizeable swell that Gavin and Sean were completely unfamiliar with. Unable to turn Sean was toppled into the sea and Gavin ran for the beach. Although the rescue was achieved without problem the accompanying heavy hail was less than pleasant. With Gavin relaunched, Sean’s boat pumped out and suitable head-wear found, we were off  on an uneventful 4km trip back to our start place at the RNCYC.

As ever it was a good trip with the additional benefit that it taught the Beginners a great deal and showed to all of us why we carry out this safety training. As some of us had previously experienced on Loch Etive the weather can change from calm and pleasant to maelstrom in a matter of minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Loch Long April 23rd 2018

Paddlers. Geoff, Steve W. and John R.

Weather: Lovely and unseasonably warm until clouds covered sun and southerly wind got up

Route: Glen Mallon-Carrick-Mark_Glen Mallon

Report: Another hastily arranged trip to make use of a gap in the weather. Surprised to find both car parks at Finnart full to overflowing so rather than try to push through the hordes of scuba divers we headed further north to the slip at Glen Mallon (just south of the jetty). This was empty and proved an excellent choice. The disadvantages of having to unload and walk across the road (and beach at low tide) was more than balanced by the benefit of not clambering down a broken wall with a kayak amidst the throng.

The paddle north was lovely and relaxing with really just the tide to contend with.

At the light at the entry to Loch Goil we met a pair of kayakers from the Royal West Club heading north to Arrochar.  As it turned out this was not a particularly good choice because as we entered the Loch the wind started to get up from the South East. We headed for Carrick Castle for a lunch break and it became decidedly breezy, running at about F3/4 deflected straight down the loch by the shape of the mountains.

Heading for Carrick Castle

Because of the breeze the paddle back up to the entrance was a bit of a challenge, albeit an enjoyable one. At the mouth the wind moved to a more southerly direction, the sun reappeared and we were swept along by the tide and wind northward. An inspection/coffee break at Mark Cottage (which was very busy with at least three groups) turned into a long and enjoyable debate on the merits of Brexit lying on the beach in the sunshine. A thoroughly enjoyable interlude before a final lovely paddle back to Glen Mallon.

Looking North to The Cobbler and Ben Vane

A relatively short but excellent paddle.

The Three Clyde Castles: March 2018

Paddlers: Geoff, Gordon, Colin, Steve T, Lee, Allan, Innes, Andy

Weather: Incredibly changeable. Millpond and warm sun on departure. Strong (F4) wind, cold and hailstones. Then sun again.

Route: 

Report:

This was a successful club trip about ten years ago and again proved ideal as a last minute, end of winter, paddle. The route includes three castles on the Upper Clyde, one very well known, one just known and one unknown. We set off in beautiful weather  in a flat calm at low tide at just after 10.30. This meant we were on the incoming tide and were expecting a light breeze behind us later in the day.

The crossing to Ardmore seemed long (it is!) and then on across the Clyde to Newark Castle (built 1458: see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newark_Castle,_Port_Glasgow ) . This section of the journey took around 1hr 20 mins.

After a much deserved coffee break and quick scan of the outside of the castle (it was closed ) we headed off towards the huge rock on which stands Dumbarton Castle (originally built possibly 570AD  see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumbarton_Castle ). 

By now the breeze was getting up so our stay at the small beach by the castle entrance was relatively short.

The next section could not have been more different from the first. The breeze had turned into a wind and the whole area was shallow causing a lot of turbulence which was completely new (and a bit disturbing) to some of our paddlers.  To others the chance to surf downwind was taken.

The shore between Dumbarton and Bowling is a sad example of environmental damage and waste. With massive potential the land is unfit for use because of pollution from the oil storage. As we were passing the desolate jetties a huge barge with tugs front and back passed us heading for Rotterdam. 

Dunglass Castle is isolated on a rock promontory in the middle of the desolation and is now surrounded by security fencing fit for a nuclear base. The ruined sea facing walls date from 1380 (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunglass_Castle ) with the rear walls being incorporated in the mansion built around 1800.

In the middle of the castle is a huge monument to Henry Bell of Helensburgh fame. Sadly, this time we could not get in to see it.

From Dunglass we continued east past the old Bowling shipyards, which once built fibre-glass minesweepers, to the Bowling Basin. As anybody who has travelled on the train to Glasgow will know the Basin is a graveyard with the bones of ancient barges and ships semi-submerged in the mud. It remains a mystery why nobody has moved in, cleaned the basin and turned the whole area into an expensive marina.

The final paddle was under the Erskine Bridge to the lovely little beach by the Boden Boo Car Park where the cars were waiting for us. An excellent end to an excellent day covering the 24km in just over 5 hours .

News and Decisions, March 15th

Helensburgh Canoe Club

 

At its meeting 15the March the Club Committee agreed the following

  1. The AGM will take place on Tuesday 3rd April at 7.30pm in the Scout Hall, John St. Topics for the Photo Competition this year are a). Blue Skies and b) Dark Skies and must feature either a kayak/canoe or be taken from one. Nominations are requested for anyone interested in joining the committee.
  2. There will be a Beginners Trip next Saturday 24th March from Luss at 10am. Everybody is welcome but please let us know if you need equipment ASAP.
  3. Club evenings will begin Thursday 18th April and run every Thursday throughout the summer until October. In April, May and June there will be 3 ”groups” a) Young Beginners on the Course (Euan and Allan) b) Intermediate Paddlers (John, Gordon and Steve) and c) Sea Kayakers (Hugh and Geoff). The Intermediate Paddling group is a Skills Training Group with a river orientation and should be of particular interest to younger non-beginners.
  4. The Pool will still be available on Tuesdays throughout April, May and the first part of June for skills practice and for the Basic Skills for Young People The latter commences Tuesday 13th April and finishes with a weekend camp on 24th/25th June. It will be run by Euan Forrest and Allan Jones.
  5. Trip Programmes for River and Sea will be available at the AGM
  6. Midweek Trips will take place on Tuesdays from 26th March
  7. The Club is promoting the BCU/SCA Leadership stream and will be arranging a 1 day FSRT Course and a 2 Day PaddleSport Leader Course.