Sail Caledonia is a raid, by sail and oar, across Scotland along the Caledonian Canal. This year I was in my father's 100 year old Orkney Yole Mohican.
Rigging Mohican at Lochaber Yacht Club just south of Fort William.
And into the salt waters of Loch Eil.
Beating up the loch into strong headwinds and white caps rising. The trailer journey from Orkney to Fort William had opened up some seams and cracked a plank. What you can't see here is the frantic bailing after the electric bilge pump gave up – later found to be blocked.
My father, my sister and me. My daughter is out of site, kneeling in the bilges bailing.
My daughter can take a break from bailing in the quiet of Corpach sea lock.
That's lock, not loch!
The route of Sail Caledonia takes us right across Scotland along the Caledonian Canal, though the imaginatively named Loch Lochy, the diminutive Loch Oich and the 20 mile long Loch Ness.
Along the canals we rowed – sometimes racing, at least that was the theory.
And on the lochs we sailed – usually racing.
Lunch alongside a pontoon after passing through one of the many locks.
It's gratifying to have a road bridge swing to let us through. Sometimes we got a tow from a boat with an outboard – thank you!. The Union Jack is explained by some boats' enthusiasm for the Jubilee.
We discovered that Mohican is surprisingly competive in light winds.
And runs down wind very nicely.
She performs well beating into the wind in choppy seas. Which is good considering most of the sailing was into a strong north easterly.
Sail Caledonia offers serious sailing in challenging conditions, and an excellent opportunity to test one's boat – and oneself – in conditions that one might not, without the confidence of the team's safety cover, venture out of the harbour.
But Mohican's an old boat. The long journey by trailer, and the hard sailing have taken their toll. After some gentler sailing in her home waters over the summer she'll be visiting the local boat builder for some repairs.
We all enjoyed Sail Caledonia and look forward to returning; I plan to be back in 2013 in Scratch. I didn't realise until after the event that my sister hadn't sailed before; despite her baptism by water, bailing furiously to keep Loch Eil out of the boat, and us on top of Loch Eil, she's now signing up for sailing lessons.
More posts about Sail Caledonia.