Last post

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Thanks for readng,

John, Carl and Nigel

Day 3 and last day

I was back on it so we were back to the famous 3.
Due to the prevailing northerly winds we adjusted the route so we headed to Muirtown locks to do the final day in reverse. John dropped Carl and I off and went back to what would be our finish point to drop car off and hopefully hitch back. Luckily John got a lift from a very entertaining truck driver – who was another keen outdoorsy type – thanks for the lift.
We started in pleasant conditions but would be hit with hail showers during the day. We headed along the canal to Dochgarroch which was going to be our overnight camping spot. We also took lunch there as there are no berthing opportunities on Loch Ness.
We continued after lunch to cross Loch Dochfour which would eventually open up to the expanse of Loch Ness which is where we realised the magnitude of the forecasted winds. We’d enjoyed the tailwinds in the morning but it was a different story on loch ness where the waves were huge (for canoes) which would push you down a roller then spin you sideways and therefore be in the precarious position of being side on to the wind and the waves.
This turned into a war of attrition calling for support strokes galore. We headed up towards the Clansman Hotel where Carl our inexperienced paddler decided he’d had enough of the dangerous conditions and decided to bail and walk/run back to the car awaiting our return.
I must say he deserves all the plaudits for completing 52 miles out of 60 in very testing conditions which in my opinion would test even experienced paddlers.
So then it was down to 2, so off we set, next stop the finish and the car passing Urqhart Castle on the way which seemed to make the swell huge and testing in most ways. I almost went over and managed to pull off a very deep support stroke – I knew I’d not forget the skills I’d learned 25+years ago.
We plodded on and eventually reached our arranged get out and finish (for John).
Well done John, a great achievement !
Car loaded up we headed back to the Clannsman to pick Carl’s boat up.
Then there was a Nigel epic as I wanted to view the dolphins on the black isle. So off we headed to Fortrose all the while saying they weren’t guaranteed. We arrived for the turn of the tide and it was bitterly cold so John got to use his survival tent in anger as we sat on the beach waiting for the dolphins who unfortunately didn’t show 😦 don’t know if I’ll ever hear the end of this.
So back to the informal composite at Dochgarroch lochs and whilst Carl and I pitched the tent John returned to Inverness to pickup takeaway pizza.
Caledonian Canal Done 🙂

Day 2 – guest blog spot by John Bell

After a wonderful nights rest at the Great Glenn hostel, south laggan we woke refreshed and we made our way down to the start which was a get in opposite the floating pub, the Eagle inn at South Laggan lochs. We travelled up the canal which would lead us to loch Oich. We marvelled at the wildlife which turned out to be Nigel hiding in the trees throwing stones in the river – well one of us was easily fooled (me).
Loch Oich was like a millpond which was an absolute pleasure and the sun burning through fog. We made good progress down loch Oich aiming to take te easy route down the river Oich which was Carl’s first river trip which would take us to fort Augustus. The river Oich is a white water river with 2 grade 2 sections. We made excellent progress and Carl demonstrated some of his newly acquired skills including recovery of upstream pin on rock!!
We passed some pleasant fisherman and headed to fort Augustus where we met Nigel for lunch.
During lunch we noticed the wind increasing on Loch Ness showing some white tops. Nigel came up with a brilliant idea when he asked if we’d like to be dropped off up the loch instead and paddle back down to Fort Augustus which would mean we’d have the wind on our back – we jumped at the chance.
We loaded up the canoes and headed den the loch to a suitable drop off point which meant an abseil own the backside to reach the loch.
Paddling with the wind behind us with the 2 foot swell wasn’t as easy as we’d thought and it was demanding and demoralising. We covered the 1st mile in 30 mins. We did try and rig a sail at one point. We cracked on and improved our speed to 3.2 miles/hr. Carl fell asleep on one of the rest stops!!
Eventually we made it back to fort augustus to meet Nigel at the car.
10.1 miles on the loch done!!

Count me out for today

After a sleep disturbed night due to a very sore right shoulder I’m giving today a miss although the boys are going to continue albeit rejigging their route to account for the wind direction.
After setting Carl and John away and reverting to plan a for the route due to lack if winds)I’ve returned to the hostel for free wifi and another cuppa. I headed down to the canal to video them paddling past.
I’ll hopefully be heading across to the black isle later to try and see the dolphins but today in essence is going to be a lazy day for me 😦

First day was a nightmare :-(

The drive up to Fort William starting at 2-30 went without a hitch and we made good progress meaning we arrived in fort William for 8 and heading straight to McDonald’s for breakfast and then headed off to the Corpach sea loch office for us to collect key for facilities along the way. The guy in the office asked where we were headed and was surprised when we said south laggan. He replied with good luck and it doesn’t get dark until 10pm – and he wasn’t far off the mark.
John headed off to the laggan yh to drop the car off and with the intention of hitching back. The hitch didn’t work but John got the local bus back,
We hit the water in glorious sunshine by 11am and headed along the canal for 6 miles which had head winds in places. But nothing like what was to come. Lunch was taken at gairlochy lochs.
Then we headed off across loch lochy for 12 miles (therefore classed as open water) into relentless very strong headwinds causing rollers down the loch which REALLY slowed progress.
I must say I nearly abandoned with 4 miles to go but was talked around and headed on..
We eventually arrived at the place on the canal where we got out at 8pm and it was a John bell moment – dragging the boats up a steep overgrown hill and down the other side and over a barbed wire fence before disturbing some sheep before eventually arriving at the great Glenn hostel and our abode for the night.
Showers done, pizza in (cheers Carl) and beers started it wasn’t long before we were noddy dogs and ready for an early night.
In conclusion:
I hate headwinds, I should’ve done more than one hours trying in the past 25 yrs, I have a very sore shoulder
Carl, for a beginner did really well with only a couple of moments to cause concern and an impromptu support stroke.
John, as we know is a proficient paddler but he always has a mad moment and his came at the end of the day


Welcome to the blog of the adventures of our Caledonian Canal kayak challenge 2012.

We (3 drinking partners) discussed (over drinks) the possibility of paddling the Caledonian Canal utilising the newly established Canoe Trail which goes from Corpach (Fort William) on West through 60 miles of Canals and open lochs (including Loch Ness) to end in Inverness on the East. West to East as this should take advantage of favourable westerly winds (although this turned out not to be the case).

As I am a very ex paddler (25 years ago) and one other was a complete novice we would have to beg and borrow all manner of kit.

As per usual instead of the recommended 5 days we would attempt it in 3!!!