The Caledonian canal
Having stayed the night in Inverness, Alchemy and I were the first ones to enter the sea lock (the entrance into the canal) the following morning. I was eager to start moving through the canal as quickly as possible… especially now I had realised that we had a total of twenty-nine locks to pass through!
It had taken me just over a month to reach the Caledonian canal, and well, what an adventure it had been. Over the course of my trip so far, I had already had some amazing experiences. I was constantly meeting new, interesting people, in new places which I had never been to before; not to mention the wildlife I was encountering, the seals, porpoises, dolphins, puffins (especially around Flamborough Head). So, this was what was filling my mind as we trundled through the first locks of the canal that morning.
We had around 6 locks to go until the famous Loch Ness so we decided to try to get through as many locks as possible that morning before the lock-keepers stopped for lunch. By mid-afternoon we were back out on “open water” for a lovely afternoon sail down Loch Ness. Loch Ness is an incredibly picturesque part of the world – twenty miles of water, with towering hills either side of it, from where you can get the most amazing views of the landscape.
As we were sailing down that afternoon the weather was incredible, we had bright sun beaming down on us and a light breeze coming from behind. Most people in this sort of weather would have been lying down, relaxing and reading a book. Not me! That’s boring! Instead, I decided to take advantage of the incredible weather and put up the spinnaker. Spinnakers are large sails that are used for when you are sailing downwind. They tend to be very big and are infamous for being an absolute pain! So, whilst the spinnaker went up, so did the stress levels! It was all worth it though because soon we had a huge billowing sail, full of colour, dragging us along Loch Ness at an astonishing rate. It was incredible. For me, seeing my spinnaker up was a huge achievement, I felt on top of the world! Not for long though. Within 20 minutes of having raised the thing, the wind had picked up and I had to take it down again!
The rest of the trip through the Caledonian was a bit of a rush really. Storm Ellen, which had been brewing in the North Atlantic for a while now, was forecasted to hit the west coast of Scotland soon. Very soon. I had two days to get out of the canal and sail the thirty odd miles to Oban, my first stop on the West coast. I knew storm Ellen was going to halt progress for a while, but I preferred to be stuck in Oban where I could get some repairs done instead of in the Caledonian where there weren’t any of those sorts of services.
It was tight trying to get there in time, but I was hugely helped by a flotilla of boats from Nairn Sailing Club, who allowed me to join their “lock group” in the canal so that we could take our boats through all together, reducing the waiting time in-between locks. They also kept me entertained with their great banter and singing which echoed around the walls of the locks. I was sorry when we went our separate ways at the end of the canal.
By the third afternoon of being in the Caledonian, I was back out onto open water and was moored up in Oban by midnight.
I ended up staying in Oban for five days until the weather cleared up again and I could carry on.