Number 129 / December 2001

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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ivy but still sturdy and massive looking. We landed on the gravely beach in front and in a short time had explored it thoroughly, for nothing except the walls now remain; but they are likely to stand long enough, being about 10ft. thick. The main court inside is about 60 ft. square and in the centre is a deep well in perfect condition. Leaving the castle, we hoisted our respective clouds of canvas and sailed for Tayvallich at the head. Tayvallich is a small village at the head of one of the prettiest little bays imaginable. It boasts a small inn and while we were at tea there, the landlord got a cart ready to take the canoes over to the Sound of Jura, a distance of about half-a-mile. Only the two larger ones could be got into the cart, so the little Lark was left behind, to be taken over afterwards by some kind-hearted men standing about, who picked her up, packed with luggage as she was, and carried her across at the shoulder.

This short portage saved us nearly a day's journey, so, with renewed spirits, we pushed on against the tide to make Crinan Loch. The wind and the tide meeting made a most disagreeable sea to paddle against and it was with a feeling of great relief that we rounded Ardnoe Point into the still water beyond just as darkness was settling down over the hills. There is a little bay close behind the point, most admirably suited for camping and we were not long in hauling the boats up and having the tents pitched, dark though it was. Usually the tent pins were quite sufficient to hold it down, but the wind was rising and came whistling round the comer in angry gusts, so, to make everything sure, we loaded the edges of the canvas all round with big stones and then after putting on all the extra clothes we had, turned in to sleep with a waterproof sheet below, rugs above, and cork life-belts for pillows.

How to get through the Dorus Mor, opposite Coire Bhreacain [Corryvreckan], was the first problem to be solved as we paddled out of Crinan Loch next morning. It wanted two hours off slack water, the tide still running out, so we made for the furthest up passage of Loch Craignish, thinking the current would be milder there. Somehow or other, we lost the bearings of the place and got into the wrong passage, between some of the smaller islands below, which have very shallow passages between, and through which the tide rushes like a mill race. Things looked very lively ahead. Breakers curling and roaring straight before us, the seas all round being covered with a multitude of angry little three-cornered sort of waves, the most dangerous of all kinds, for a boat never rises to them, they are so steep. To turn back was impossible; on we went smash through it all. Now an eddy would suddenly slew your boat half round and the full force of the paddle would be needed to keep her straight. The next moment a great mass of black water, disgorged from some eddy below, would rise close alongside above the deck and disappear just as quickly, for you are whisked past it like a shot and soon feel yourself among the jumpy little waves at the bottom of the over-fall, as it is called on the charts. We were now within 3 miles of the dreaded whirlpool but the wind was blowing away from us and no distant roar could be made out, though we were on the alert.

Avoiding the Scarba Sound to the left, we made for the narrow passage between Luing and Shuna; then across the lovely Loch Melfort, encircled by its majestic mountains, to Seil Sound, one of the most curious and unique passages of its kind in Scotland. It is more like a river than an arm of the sea, for it is so narrow in one place. [Clachan Bridge] has a single arch across [Clachan Sound], with a span of not more than 30 ft. A canoe was seemingly rara avis up here, for country folks seemed perfectly transfixed with amazement at the sight of such curious boats and stood in groups along the shore staring at us after we had passed them.

I hear that Solway Dory is shortly to publish a book of these accounts, illustrated with photos [now published, see below] - Ed. Acknowledgments to the Clyde Canoe Club, now the Loch Lomond Sailing Club, who point out that Roger Hancock's book "Over The Sea To Skye", contains an account of this and other adventures, as well as photos, etc. (Read Part 2.)


Editor's Review (RoyB)

I sit by the computer, staring out at the clouds and rain scooting across the hills, the rushes shivering in the wind, and look forward to a season as varied and enjoyable as this year's. The AGM seemed to calm much of the turbulence of the previous year so that, despite the disruptions of foot and mouth, we've had much good sailing at convivial meets. According to reports in GOSSIP every venue has provided interesting sport, even Ullswater's gusts failed to keep doughty OCSG sailors off the water. And I've received 3 (!) reports on Low Wray, such was the pleasure in this most beautiful autumn. I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to GOSSIP this year. It can be quite nerve-wracking as the deadline for publication approaches and only two or three pages are filled. However, so far something has always turned up, or I've managed to dig something out of dusty files at the bottom of the cupboard or the Internet. Nevertheless, the greater the range of contributors, the more interesting the GOSSIP, so don't be shy, send me ANYTHING!! It's your magazine, not mine.

There'll be no January issue, as last year, although I am aware that one or two members were a bit miffed. But what with Christmas activities and not much copy I feel justified in taking a break. Importantly, we should all thank DaveT for getting GOSSIP printed and putting all the copies into correctly addressed envelopes, before taking them to the post, and WalterG for this year's ranking chart. And finally, a very merry Christmas to everyone, and best wishes for the coming year! May your sails be filled, but not too full, your voyages be speedy, but not too wet and your company be cheery (but not too close as to get your sheet tangled in my bumpkin!).

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