Number 135 / July 2002

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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na Geadaig. The squall demanded some hurried reefing afloat, and then gave us the first beat of the day as we approached the sandy beach.

This first sailing day had included some quite long crossings (1 hour and 3 hours) and already we were adapting to spending long periods of time in the boats without recourse to the land. We were starting to become rather adept at locking off the mainsheet while having something to eat, and Maatsuyker was even working on perfecting peeing down the daggerboard slot of his canoe. He reported an approximate figure of 85% accuracy in this latter procedure. (Censored, not Victorian, not BCU, not even OCSG.)

Day 2
We awoke to rain, unfavourable wind and a weather forecast that said the situation would improve by mid morning. Sometimes the only thing to do is stay in bed. Eventually the rain stopped and the wind turned around, and so we were tempted to emerge from our pits.

A brisk sail in an even brisker wind ensued, and we made our way through the narrows of Raasay. On our way we passed a traditional fishing boat with a fine looking dipping lugsail. This handsome craft was full of young people from the Raasay House Outdoor Centre, and the members of our party who earn their living working in outdoor centres were tempted to consider what it would be like to have the Sound of Raasay as their place of work rather than Windermere. The conditions, which had been exciting as we passed through the sound of Raasay, soon blew up to a point where they became intimidating enough for us to decide to head for the shore, and a lunch stop at Camastianavaig.

By the end of lunchtime the sun had come out, but the wind was blowing a force five and showed no sign of abating. The fleshpots of Portree were calling however, so we decided to press on around the headland with sails well reefed. As we left the shore Maatsuyker came nearer to capsizing than anyone did on the trip. With his eyes trained through the viewfinder of his camera he failed to notice that the wind had come around his stern. The resulting gybe delivered him with a sharp bump on the back of his head from the boom, and it was only his dingy sailor's instinct to scramble over the side of the boat in the direction of the daggerboard that kept Maatsuyker's sail out of the water.

Once we had left the bay, the wind had definitely risen to a canoe sailor's gale, and Sunart and Lark decided to drop sails all together and run on bare poles. The others all carried mere scraps of sail in various different forms. Water Gypsy and Petrel used their mizzens as main sails, Explorer flew just a small jib and Maatsuyker roller reefed his mainsail down to around one fifth of its normal size. Maatsuyker and Lark found their reefing systems to be particularly effective and discovered that, despite their tiny sails, they were able to tack and sail back into the force five to six winds. The other craft which seemed most at home in the wind was Water Gypsy which, with its outriggers, seemed almost unaffected by the strong wind, apart from having a tendency to ship a little water when the waves were abeam.

Despite the strong wind the journey passed without incident, and the party soon found itself enjoying calmer waters in the lee of the headland as it explored a large sea cave. On leaving the sea cave the wind was found to be blowing almost directly from Portree, and close-hauled sailing with well-reefed sails was required. The strength of the wind had reduced slightly by now, but was still blowing a good force four or five, so it was with some small feelings of relief that we arrived at the harbour in Portree.

Portree provided us with the opportunity to resupply as well as the inevitable cream tea. We lingered for a while, weighing up our options of where to camp, and eventually opted for a pleasant sail across the bay to a campsite next to a firm sandy beach.

(Read Part 2)


Wild Weather At Coniston (SueB)

I always thoroughly enjoy Keith's training weekends - not least because they always remind me that I need training! The weather was not ideal for people trying out new boats, and certainly gave me a headache or two trying to work out how to manage my ketch rig reefed down to 2 x 14 sq. feet when, on certain points of sail, the rudder stopped working altogether and I had to steer by juggling with the main and mizzen sheets.

The Sunart is a great boat two up, so when it came to a question of getting everyone across the lake to Brantwood for tea, it seemed to make sense to take three across. So we set off - Jan at the helm, DaveT in the middle and me in the bow. Well - we made it, but every wave we hit went over my head. It was wet. On the far shore we screamed to a halt, dropped sail, and picked up a passenger (from Steve's boat, Steve having gone back to assist with a capsize) to paddle the short distance to Brantwood. Interesting! We were very overloaded - and I think it's the first time I've lost control of a paddling boat (if you don't count going down rapids!). We did a 360-degree turn before getting moving in the right direction! Tea however was, as usual, wonderful.

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