West to East Kayak Attempt
Two South Lakeland paddlers Peter Hart (Windermere) and Keith Longney (Kendal) completed the 95k paddle of the Caledonian Canal (Fort William to Inverness) non stop in 13hrs 34mins.
It consisted of 35k of canal paddling and 60k Loch Paddling including Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Ness and Loch Douchfour together with 12 portages of varying length between 350 meters and 750 meters. Their aim was to beat the 14hr record set in a sea kayak in the 1990s and at the same time raise money for the N.W Air Ambulance.
Corpach - Gairlochy
They set off from Corpach on the west coast of Scotland at 3.56am just as dawn was breaking. The first 750 meters involved carrying the kayak around a series of locks followed by a short 5 minute paddle before reaching another set of locks and the famous swing bridge at Banavie.
Once past Banavie it was straight forward paddle on the canal for 10k in pleasant conditions and they were able to make good time to Gairlochy
Gairlochy - Laggan
After negotiating the locks at Gairlochy however they were in for a shock as the entered Loch Lochy
The forecast had been for light easterly winds but they faced 20mph winds directly into their faces.
The wind had whipped up big waves and they had no alternative but to paddle closer to the shore for some protection. Waves however still continued to crash over the deck and their bodies giving them a soaking every minute
At this point in the challenge they began to wonder what they had let themselves in for.
Fortunately after 45mins of terrible conditions the wind eased and they were able to get back into a good paddling rhythm.
They were glad to see Laggan at the Eastern end of the Loch even if it meant they had to carry the kayak around the Lock complex.
Laggan - Fort Augustus
A 5k stretch of canal followed before they entered Loch Oich a small narrow beautiful Loch. Conditions were ideal and they were able to paddle at a good speed. After leaving Loch Oich they entered the canal again and after 10k and three sets of locks arrived at Fort Augustus.
Loch Ness lay ahead and 35k of paddling, they asked themselves would the weather be kind.
Fort Augustus - Dochgarroch
The answer was no, the wind was blowing at over 20mph directly into their faces.
After 15mins of paddling they again made the decision to find some shelter by paddling close to the shore.
This helped but in a loch the size of Loch Ness there is very little shelter. After hours of paddling not only had they not seen the Loch Ness Monster but any other boats until they approached Bona Lighthouse. Even at the eastern end of the Loch the wind continued to whip up big waves. A short stretch of canal then led into the small narrow Loch Dochfour, before they finally reached Dochgarroch and another set of locks for them to negotiate.
Dochgarroch - Clachnaharry
After emptying the kayak of water for one last time they set off on the final 10k of canal relieved they had left behind the wind and huge waves of Loch Ness.
After negotiating four further sets of locks they finally arrived at Clachnaharry Sea Loch at 5.30pm.
Total time taken 13 hours and 34 minutes.