We all looked felt and looked a bit wounded after yesterdays horrendous outing on Loch Locky, where we got battered by the brutal headwind. We carried out our usual morning tasks before leaving for our start location, which was the now notorious Loch Locky.
The weather was beautiful as we were dropped off to our start location, but we were once again late. It was 11:30am now, and we had wanted to be in the water by 10am. We were not going to make our dinner reservation, so we tasked Caitriona with changing the booking from 4.30pm to 6.30pm. These two hours would be felt at the end of the day when we were likely to be putting up tents in the twilight, as we had to switch campsites for the last time on the trip.
Unfortunately it is forbidden to swim in the man-made canals along the Caledonian Canal in Scotland. You can get fined quite heavily. So I jumped on the back of Claire Palmer board. We had to paddle a 2km stretch of canal, before we got to the start of Loch Oich, where I could start swimming. We had the perfect weather, sun was shining, and we had a slight tailwind. This was going to be so much easier than yesterday we all thought.
The canal started to widen out, and we had reached Loch Oich. We found a strand to pull over, so that I could get myself ready for the swim. The wind had picked up, so there was now a big wind behind us.
Loch Oich was beautiful. It was the smallest of the three lochs that make up the Caledonian Canal, but it was my favourite so far.
The first 45-minutes were lovely, everyone was enjoying the weather. I was making great time, and Loch Oich was a joy to swim in. After this, the wind started to pick up even more. We were all excited about the prospect of quicker times. Not that we wanted to be out and not in the water, we were just thinking about the pitching of tents later in the day. The wind was giving the support paddlers a boost, which they thoroughly deserved and needed after yesterdays slog of a day. At one point I was we came to the conclusion that Claire was travelling faster than me swimming, when she stood on her SUP doing yoga and nothing else. I was delighted that my support crew were having a much easier day today.
We’d been in the water about two hours, and it was about 13:45pm, so we decided we had earned some well-deserved lunch. We picked an island up ahead as the ideal location to get some grub, however, as we approached the wind picked up and it was blatantly obvious that we were completely exposed. It was clear that we needed to find shelter from the wind.
After about five minutes, we found a really nice spot next to a derelict house. It was as peaceful as anything else I’ve encountered in my life. Nobody was about; we could just sit there and relax and take in the wonderful scenery that the Caledonian Canal had to offer. Caitriona Hurley had packed us all up a little lunch box with sandwiches, sausage rolls and oranges in. We were desperate for food, and we wolfed these down as quickly as possible. We all had to warm ourselves up, we were all running up and down the hill up to the house trying to get our muscles working and warm ourselves up. After what turned out to be a long lunch, we had to get back out in the water.
Soon after lunch, waves started to form. The wind picked up to around 20-30mph and things were getting very real. The paddlers were really struggling to keep their speed down in order to stay with my swimming speed. They had the brakes on the whole time, which is more difficult than it sounds.
Luke Palmer decided that the best way to warm up was to get his arms moving and paddle into the headwind. This wasn’t the best idea, as within minutes he was drenched from the water splashing up each time he went through a wave. He came back defeated and colder than before.
The wind started to die down for a minute, and the paddlers were keeping perfect speed with me. All they had to do was sit on their boards. Claire found that if she wanted a little more speed, then she just had to pull her Hydrock jacket open, and use it as a sail. We were all surprised how well this actually worked. She was flying down Loch Oich.
Loads of boats were travelling up and down the loch, and most of them were taking pictures and waving at us. I think everyone travelling though the Caledonian Canal knew what we were attempting, as we had to tell each loch keeper our daily plans, as we did not have a VHF radio with us.
The wind was now at gale force. It was so strong that the guys had to try everything in their power to not leave me behind. Luke stood up and the wind got him up to full speed in seconds. This was 3-4 times the speed I can achieve in the water, and Luke was not doing anything! There is something nice about just letting nature’s power take us where she wanted. The power of this wind slightly worried us about the days to come on Loch Ness.
We reached the weir that signals the end of the Loch Oich. Here we had to make a decision about whether to swim the river, or paddle the canal. As we approached the canal we were looking for a safe place to get out, someone was shouting at me to get out the water, was I in danger? No, just reached canal space and getting a telling off, well, at least it wasn’t a fine! There were a couple of bridges that span across the river, so we had a few good vantage points to access it from. Luke, being a structural engineer, particularly liked the suspension bridge that had its connecting wires, level with the bridge deck. You could hear the steel creek as you went over the bridge. It was both unsettling and amazing at the same time.
Finally, after about 30-minutes, we decided that no matter how much we wanted to, we couldn’t swim the river. It was far too shallow and fast flowing for all of us to travel down it with some form of control. I would have loved to have swam it, but it would have been too difficult for me and my two stand-up paddle boarders.
So, we jumped on the SUP’s and paddled through the canal. Soon after starting the canal we reached our first loch. We had to get the boards out of the loch and around to the other side. Luckily for us, a couple of people offered to help. This however didn’t save us any time, as we then proceeded to talk to the people for about 30-minutes about what we were doing and the weather. A father and son were canoeing the entire Caledonian Canal with all their gear on their canoe. The father informed us that they had to terminate their voyage today as there were 39mph winds forecasted over the next few days. He said it would make Loch Ness very dangerous. Claire, Luke and I, all looked at each other with an element of disappointment. We knew that Mother Nature was going to roar once again, and our plans could be in jeopardy. We can only afford to lose one day, otherwise, we’re not finishing the challenge!
We finally got to the final set of lochs rising up from Fort Augustus. We had made it to the finish point for the day, we had reached the very touristy location of Fort Augustus, which marks the beginning of Loch Ness. It was a strangely commercialised area, which have created an industry from the famous serpentine creature that lurks somewhere within the 230m depths of Loch Ness. The Loch Ness monster was the reason why all these people were here pointing cameras.
We walked over to a place called the Boathouse Inn, which was located right on the bank of Loch Ness. We had the best seats in the place; it was next to a big window that looks down the length of the Loch. The food was amazing, and they gave it to us complimentary. Amazing, best end of a swim to date.
We had to rush off, as we had to get to the campsite and pitch our tents in the twilight. When we got to Cannich Campsite, we realised how lucky we were to be staying in such a nice campsite. It’s out of the way, but that’s a lot of its charm. They have a great set up, hot showers, a tv room, fridge, café and even a dedicated room for drying stuff.
Tomorrow is looking quite windy, and we have been informed that there is a gale force wind forecasted for Loch Ness. This is getting quite frustrating now, but that is something out of our control. But we can worry about that tomorrow.
If people would like to donate, you can do so by visiting my Just Giving page, it’s really simple to do. All monies will go directly to Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Charity.
As always do consider hitting the ‘SHARE’ button.
I have to thank the following people/companies for helping us out on this adventure:
Puravida Boardriders, Oshea Surf, Zone3, Back2Front Physiotherapy Ltd,Meridian Foods, The Grazing Shed, SwimSecure, Bunroy Park, Cannich Caravan & Camping Park, and The Boathouse Lochside Restaurant.
Daily distance travelled – 18.69km
Total distance travelled – 49.78km
Daily time on water – 6hr 06min
Total time on water – 17hr 09min