By Steven Paul.
I decided to take advantage of unusually benign October weather and a free weekend, and trail my Gull (a GRP mark 1 / mark 2?) [mark 2] which is 1969 vintage, to Balloch on the southern shore of Loch Lomond. Launching in at the national park's public slipway, beside the old railway pier to which the paddle steamer "Maid of the Loch" is berthed. The paddle steamer is undergoing a refit by volunteers who hope to have her sailing again in a couple of years time. I recall family trips on her during my childhood, and visits to the engine room.
Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway has good car & trailer parking facilities, toilets and showers, and a ranger station where you register to launch. As I was launching in by hand using a trolley, there was no fee to pay, but if you're launching with a car there would be. Also, since my Gull (Stroppie) has no engine, there is no need to register her for use on the loch. I was carrying oars as well as sails....
As can be seen, the loch was like glass at 10.30am, as I ghosted away from the pontoon and out into the southern end of Loch Lomond and past the paddle steamer.
Progress was slow going for the first mile or so, but I was in no rush, enjoying the October sunshine, so unusual in this part of the world. A breeze began to fill in, and the sky clouded over, so it was time for a jacket and a decision as to where to head for. I had initially considered Balmaha as a destination, but decided against this once out into the open water, as the wind would have been right on the nose and a beat the whole way, so instead I decided to make for the village of Luss, on the western shore, around 8 miles away from Balloch.
I sailed on northward, past the marina at Cameron House Hotel, then Duck Bay Marina (a strange name, as no boats are moored there), and aimed for the western end of the island of Inchmurrin (apparently the largest island on fresh water in Great Britain). There is a pub on Inchmurrin, but it was a bit early in the day for a pint! The breeze was steady now, around F2, and progress was steady but not that quick. My next decision was which way to get to Luss, as there were a group of islands ahead of me. To my left, I was passing the golf course and Rossdhu House. I made the decision to go west, and sail through the narrow channel between the mainland shore at Aldochlay and the island of Inchtavannach. I skirted round the eastern shore of Inchgalbraith (a man made crannog, with remains of the Galbraith's castle), and swund round west towards the channel. The wind died.... It was time for the oars to be deployed and to head between the 2 sets of port and starboard can buoys into the narrow, glassy channel. Boats on swinging moorings ahead of me, though it seemed lots had already been hauled out for the end of the season.
About halfway through the channel, some of the breeze was managing to filter through and sailing was possible again, though progress was slow. I was getting hungry now, and sandwiches were waiting to be eaten at Luss village.
As I sailed past Aldochlay Boat Club to my left, the channel opened out again into open water, a man fishing from the shoreline, but not much sign of activity. I skirted the land, and came in a bit too close to the shore and felt the centreboard grounding on the sandy bottom, so I sailed eastwards and further out into deeper water. There were a couple of small motor boats about now, and a small passenger ferry boat. Not long now until Luss would be in sight.
Steady light breeze once more, and now Luss pier was in sight, with the village behind. I sailed to the north of the pier, although I could probably have tied up to the pier itself, as it wasn't particularly busy, but I decided on the beach instead. The wind had swung northerly now, and there was a bit of a nip in the air as I turned for shore, furled the jib, raised the centreboard and the rudder and swung Stroppie head to wind, and stepped out on to the coarse sandy beach. I dropped the main and pulled her up the beach. Time for sandwiches!
The video camera attached to the boom had run out of battery by this stage, so it was on to the phone for photos now....
Luss is a pretty wee village with shops, cafe, toilets, petrol station etc.... A couple of Japanese tourists were having their photos taken next to my beached Gull on my return from the village. Kayaking and stand up paddle boarding was taking place off the beach, with some other hardy folk enjoying the autumn day on the water.
Time to head back for Balloch.... An enjoyable day cruise in beautiful scenery and uncrowded water.
Thanks Steven for a superb post. It's just what we need to keep the blog active and encourage Gull sailing. I may be relying on other Gull sailors more now for content as our baby is due at Christmas and I may have less time to post! So please send pictures and text for the blog. It's always appreciated.