This expedition took place between the 28th September and the 5th October. A group of twelve took on the locks and the lochs of the beautiful but demanding Caledonian Canal. Preparations for the row were appropriate and detailed with rows around Barton Broad and planning meetings. Tom H and Kate took on the responsibility of towing between Hanworth and Corpach, the launching site.
Ready to go …
Bluejacket was launched, at 11 am on 28th September, from a timber yard in Corpach. The weather was mixed but anticipation was high. Ahead lay Corpach Sea Lock and Neptune’s Staircase. Veronica called this phase, “the end of the beginning.” Vicky won the first caption competition with, “Are you seriously going to row the Caledonian Canal in pink shorts?”
Throughout the journey, lock keepers ensured that Bluejacket’s passage was eased and away from larger vessels. Corpach Sea Lock was negotiated efficiently. Great care was taken when approaching Neptune’s Staircase with its long system of locks. Tom coxed Barry, Diana, Vicky and Peter through the first gate. Then Barry and Peter hauled Bluejacket from the towpath with Kate, Veronica and Alan providing support. The coffee and sandwiches were welcome!
After Neptune’s Staircase, and a night at the Premier Inn, the group gathered on the barge at Banavie to be shown around by the crew: Dave, Chris, Lucy and James. Ros Crana is equipped with a lounge, a dining room, a galley and small but comfortable cabins. It also carries bikes, a sailing boat and canoes for non-rowing days. For a first expedition, Alan, Catherine, Amanda, John and Veronica rowed to Gairlochy whilst the rest of us walked the six miles. Mixed weather again! Bluejacket was moored opposite Ros Crana for the night. The barge served as a great safety vessel throughout the expedition. Gairlochy was a good base to set off across Loch Lochy on the following morning, Sunday 30th, as you can see in the bottom picture.
Rowing on the open water in sun, rain and wind was a great experience. Sunday 30th saw two crews take turns to tackle Loch Lochy. Ros Crana was always in close attendance and was well placed at the half way stage for the crew change. An excellent row! Meanwhile, Diana and Kate walked fourteen miles. The mooring was at Laggan Lochs for the night. The Ros Crana crew saw Bluejacket safely through all locks.
Monday 1st October was another brilliant day’s walking and rowing. In the morning, Barry coxed the morning crew along the peaceful waters of Laggan Avenue. Stags were sighted. The walkers had a good view of Ros Crana and Bluejacket in the vast landscape. After lunch, Catherine coxed the afternoon crew across Loch Oich to be taken through the locks at Fort Augustus.
Tuesday 2nd October began with the group meeting to walk a hilly route through the trees around Fort Augustus. Chris was once again an able guide and the view over Loch Ness was spectacular. Crabbers looking skyward in the woods must be worth a caption. The afternoon was devoted to rowing and sailing. Group members alternated between “Bluejacket” and the sailing boat “Spylgarn” – a Falmouth Bass. The Loch Ness waters were demanding! No sightings of Nessie. Both boats were beached up a Foyers inlet before the group cruised back to Fort Augustus in Ros Crana. Lucy was a real star transporting people between shore and barge in the Pioneer and Tom’s whiskey was very welcome. As one Crabber remarked during the barge journey back to Fort Augustus, “Did we really row that far?”