An expedition by the O.C.S.G in the Sound of Jura 2008

Steve launching his Avocetsailing canoes ocsg cruisemy shearwatersailing canoesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisecampsite on luingsunset on luingsailing canoe ocsg expeditionsailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruiseshags on a rocksailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisecamping sailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruiserazorbills, luingsailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruisesailing canoes ocsg cruiseIn the summer of 2008, some members of the open canoe sailing group went on an expedition on the west coast of Scotland. There were 11 sailors in 7 sailing canoes. Richard, an ex member, had recently moved to the island of Luing and he invited us to launch from his garden and leave our cars there for the week. Having a good launch site and a secure place to leave the cars is usually the first thing to organize. This was a great site, on the north east coast of Luing with plenty of sheltered water in which to sail and get the cruise off to a good start.


We spent the first night on Richard's lawn after driving up on Saturday. This allowed us to have a longer day on Sunday for the first sail. The weather was good, dry and warm with a forecast of fairly strong northerly winds. We decided to set off into the wind. Going north would take us into more enclosed, sheltered water and if the strong northerlies persisted all week we would have a quick run back to our starting place. Running downwind before a strong breeze for a couple of days at the start of a trip can take you so far that you cannot get back to the cars in the time available.



The group consisted of myself (Dave Stubbs) in a Shearwater,




Keith and Anne Morris in their Old Town Penobscot





Anthony Titley and his son in their Avocet






Dave Mack in his Raptor outrigger canoe






Jeff and Ellen Broome in their homemade plywood sailing canoe






Dave and Jan Poskitt in their Shearwater,





Steve Robinson in his Avocet .




Anthony was new to the group and as such we did not really know how competant a sailor he was. All the canoes were using outriggers and Keith lent Anthony a pair so as to make all the boats as even as possible. Again setting out sailing upwind was going to show up any weaknesses and allow us to tailor the cruise to suit his ability.


We decided to head out round the west side of Seil island and make for Easdale. The first challenge was to beat out of Cuan Sound. The tide was still against us but due to turn shortly so we gave it a go and after a short stuggle made it out to clear water. As we got out of the shelter of the island we felt the strong northerly wind and had a good beat up to Easdale. Anthony initially was not pointing high enough and was lagging behind but with a bit of instruction on flattening his very full sail and sheeting in a bit more he began making good progress.

We stopped at Easdale for lunch at a south facing beach and discussed our options. There was no one leader so it was more of a democracy. Every year we seem to go through this process of planning the route. It is folly to plan a route in advance because small  boat sailors are somewhat at the mercy of the weather and need to plan a route that offers the most shelter and protection from the strong prevailing winds. However the members turn up with a wish list; wouldnt it be nice to go here , or i would like to go there. Steve and i had been looking at the long term forecast and wondering could we manage to sail around the isle of Mull. Others fancied sailing up into Loch Linnie, etc.

As we had lunch the wind began to build to a force 5 and eventually there were large waves with white caps running down between us and the distant shores of Mull. That option was too adventurous for most people, so we decided to try going north along the shore of Seil heading for Kerrera and more shelter. We set off into the Sound of Insh beating into big waves and strong wind but it soon became clear that the several miles to the shelter of Kerrera would be too challenging, so we went back to the beach to have a rest and a re-think.

The view south in the warm sun and shelter of the island looked very inviting and a new plan emerged to go south  and explore Loch Sween.











We set off with reefed sails running in a force 5 but soon the wind moderated and we had a pleasant sail down the west side of Luing.


We passed the island of Fladda with its lighthouse




Eventually we paddled in light wind to find a campsite on Luing facing Eilean Mhic Chiarain.



The wind died completely and we had a very pleasant camp with stunning views and a wonderfull sunset.


I saw an otter briefly  and with whisky being passed round it proved to be a memorable camp, perhaps somewhat tempered by the arrival of the midges










The next morning we still had ideal sailing conditions and we set off again running south. The wind was still quite strong so we reefed the sails to keep everything under control.










As we went further south the wind moderated and full sails were set. The tide was with us and we made good progress.


Occasionaly we would sail over some disturbed water of a tidal overfall to add a bit of interest, but generally it was relaxing sailing in nice clear sunshine.The views across to Jura on our starboard shore were stunning.


At one point when we had got somewhat strung out, Anthony found himself way out at the front and decided to tack back upwind to rejoin us. He ended up in the edge of a huge back eddy that was just to the north of the tidal surge that goes through the Dorus Mor. In dying wind we had to sit and wait whilst he and then Dave Mack went for a long circular detour around the eddy, eventually coming back out into the main channel about quarter of a mile behind us.


Later when the wind picked up Dave Mack realised that his Raptor was loosing freeboard. He suspected that water that was coming up out of his dagger board case was flooding into his hull through a leaky hatch but he was worried in case the hull had been holed. He set off for the shore shouting that he was sinking so we all followed. When we landed we found quite a lot of water had got into his hull, but on inspection we couldn't find any holes so it must have just been the hatch. When it had been baled it proved fine for the rest of the trip.


We had lunch seeing as we were all on shore. Later we kept near to the shore as Dave was somewhat nervous about his leak.


We stopped for our camp in a deep inlet a few miles north of the entrance to Loch Sween. Again it was a good campsite. The views were not as good because it was enclosed but it was very secluded with no signs of civilization apart from an old walled fish trap at the head of the inlet. As it was early a few people went exploring. Later Anthony suprised us by getting out a set of practice bagpipes and treating us to a few refrains.














The next day was again good weather with sunshine and plenty of wind. We continued sailing south until we reached the mouth of Loch Sween. The island of Danna looked to have some good campsites with nice sandy beaches but it was too early in the day to stop. As we rounded the corner past several small islands the wind picked up and we started to beat up Loch Sween. We were opposite Castle Sween and the wind had reached force 5 gusting 6 so we decided to land for lunch.



After lunch the wind had moderated so we continued up Loch Sween and headed for the public campsite at Tayvallich. The thought of a warm shower and a meal out at the pub was too tempting to miss. The campsite owner came down with a large van and transported all our gear up onto the site and we left the canoes on the shore in the harbour.



The next day some of the group wanted to try a portage across to Carsaig. Keith and Anne and Dave Mack decided against the portage and set off back down Loch Sween. The other five canoes did the one mile portage along the road to Carsaig. The campsite owner helped us cheat a little by taking over our gear but by late morning we were setting off back up the Sound of Jura. The weather then decided to change and the wind dropped and the rain started. The tide was slight but it was against us and the wind was so slight that we eventually gave up and paddled. We stopped for lunch in a small inlet and it was not pleasant. The midges were out and the rain made it difficult for me as i tried to cook bannocks for lunch. My mixture got wetter and wetter and ended up a sticky mess.




We continued paddling for another couple of hours and eventually made it to Crinan where we had a break from the rain and found a cafe. The rain stopped and we paddled off again to find another nice campsite on a small penninsular looking back down the Sound of Jura. Meanwhile Keith, Anne and Dave made it out of Loch Sween and all the way up to the inlet where we had our lunch. They had a rather miserable camp as the ground was boggy and the midges were horrible.




The route north back to the cars from where we were took us through the Dorus Mor, a tidal gate next to Craignish Point. The tide would be flowing against us at speeds of up to 8 knots and would not go slack and turn till about 3pm. As we knew the others would still be behind us we decided to wait until the afternoon before we set off in the hope of meeting up with them. We kept a watch and listened on the VHF in the hope of contacting them before they slipped by on the outside. However by 1-30pm there had been no sign of them so we set off. It was about 3 miles to the Dorus Mor and there was no wind so we paddled. By the time that we reached the narrows the tide was still flowing against us but with not much strength and we managed to get through.


Once through a gentle breeze came up from the north and we managed to get sailing again although the tide continued to stream south for a while making progress slow. Eventually the tide turned and the wind picked up and we had a great beat  up the channel between Scarba and the mainland. We managed to raise Keith on the VHF and found that he had set off early on the last of the flood and slipped past in the early morning before we were awake.


We passed rafts of guillimots and razorbills fishing in the calm waters. They did not seem concerned about the aproaching boats and just slowly paddled out of the way at the last second. We met up and headed for the final campsite on the south east tip of Luing where we found the most delightful site with good access to a sandy beach and acres of flat, short grazed grass.


On the last day it was a fairly short sail of about 5 miles into the wind to get back to the cars. We beat up Shuna Sound in a good force 3 to 4, ideal sailing conditions. As we approached Richards, we took a short cut behind Torsa, tacking up a narrow channel against the tide in failing wind.

Eveyone agreed that it had been a great trip. The weather had genarally been great exept for the one wet day. The campsites were also excellent. On some of our previous trips we found ourselves late at night trying to find a small scrap of flat boggy land just big enough to pitch the tent, or rough, rocky beaches that had us stuggling to carry boats and gear above the high water mark.


We had covered about 60 miles in 5 days of sailing. It had not been our longest trip but it had been fairly leisurely and relaxing. The large size of the group probably made this appropriate.  Not setting off too early, a good lunch stop and setting up camp at teatime meant that we had time to socialize, cook outdoors, go for a short walk, have an explore all before the midges got too bad. Both Dave and I decided though that next year we would organize a smaller party so that we could push ourselves a bit more, and perhaps do something more challenging.