Number 204 / November 2008

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Expedition Of Two Halves (JeffB)

It seems likely that some people were put off participating in the Windermere canoe camping weekend by the weather forecast, but a total of 13 people turned up with ten boats at Lakeside in the most unpromising weather I've ever experienced on an OCSG trip (Scotland included). While this is fewer than have participated in previous years, it does show a remarkable dedication, or in the case of Frank and Ed, our visitors from Ireland, an unwillingness to waste a ferry booking. The

weather was foul, but the wind was not yet the force 6 to 7 that was forecast. This necessitated changing into our dry suits inside the car before venturing out into the elements, a real feat of contortionism (the arms were difficult too). Getting ready seemed to take far longer in the rain, but eventually we all presented ourselves for Steve's briefing in which he rightly emphasised the seriousness of the venture, given the weather forecast, and key safety measures, such as letting go of the sheet and letting the sails weathercock forward of the mast in heavy weather, and importance of buddy groups.

Our group, the Solway Dory Daves and Ellen and I were ready and away first, which later turned out to be of some benefit to us. The bay at South Camp was relatively sheltered and once out in the lake, we took off for a roller coaster ride downwind to Cockshott Point at Bowness. Although I thought we had a very modest spread of sail, we were still overtaking the swell and on one occasion the bow carried straight on through the next wave, sending a sheet of water across the whole foredeck into the cockpit - a first for Njuzu.

We reached Bowness in about an hour and, as the weather had been deteriorating the whole way, we were very grateful for the shelter of the beach. Looking back down the lake from the point, we saw other boats appear out of the murk and duck in behind the point at Ferry House. We were cold and had concluded that we would not be able to do anything to help in case of a drama and so had sort of resolved to head off for the shelter of a café, but we could not tear ourselves away from the action and stayed to see everybody ashore. Given the conditions by this stage, this did not take very long.

The boats came hurtling into the straight under tiny scraps of sail, including Frank and Ed, whose boat was totally awash, having dived into a wave like us. Unfortunately, without the benefit of a foredeck, they had come off second best. They finished up on the island opposite Cockshott Point, but

managed to get the rig off and bail out sufficiently to paddle across, with Steve in close attendance. Peter and Penny also hung about a bit while things were sorted, but then had rather a struggle beating back with such heavily reefed sails. They later said they were much happier with their new configuration of port and starboard amas (floats) and would not have liked to be out with the original asymmetric arrangement.

The folk at the café were extremely tolerant when we descended on them and dripped copiously all over their carpet and upholstery. They did sell a few lunches though and apart from us, their business was far from brisk, so we were hardly scaring away custom. There was considerable debate about when we should set off, and it was eventually decided we should not delay beyond three o'clock, as we would want to get camp set up before dark and there was the possibility of time-consuming dramas occurring on the way.

The wind had moderated slightly before we set off, but it soon became very fickle, with occasional strong gusts and periods of light winds. Most confusing was the sound of rushing water in the swollen becks that sounded like gale force winds in the trees. Before we had reached half way to the Low Wray campsite, we had all shaken out our reefs and sailed sedately on to the group campsite.

As soon as we had hauled all the boats up, Steve set off to confirm arrangements, having instructed us not to pitch camp as there was some doubt about where we would be staying. While waiting, Ellen and I looked for mushrooms, but had a rather disappointing haul, one small boletus and a few small chanterelles; they did make a nice appetiser at supper though. Steve came back to tell us that we all had to move round onto the public part of the campsite, so we had to lift all the boats down again and paddle round the corner. Steve and several other public-spirited individuals set about erecting tarpaulins for a communal cooking shelter, while the rest of us pitched our tents. It was still raining heavily and our tent inner was saturated before we got the flysheet on. Maybe we should buy a new tent that pitches outer first.

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