Sailing around on the same small body of water where you live is a good way to get used to your boat, to improve your skills and learn how to sail well. Once you have mastered your skills though, sailing around in one place can become a bit mundane. Most sailing clubs run racing events which can spice up your interest and make sailing round the buoys a bit more fun. But unless you are in one of the fastest boats you are unlikely to do well.

One of the main attractions to canoe sailing is the ease at which you can transport your canoe to new places. This brings with it the adventure of exploring new locations. At the OCSG we tend to meet at different large bodies of water throughout the country. We often go to places without a slipway where launching a larger craft would be very difficult. Sailing canoes’ light weight and maneuverability on a small trolley means that we can explore more out of the way places than larger boats including, for the more experienced canoe sailors, more adventurous locations and voyages.

Car Topping on a roofrack

Sailing canoes, like canoes and kayaks in general, are easy to transport on the roof of a car. This makes them easy to transport around the country, or even abroad, in search of new cruising grounds. Members have taken their canoes with them on holiday to many European countries, such as Ireland, France, Holland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Using a canoe trailer

Once you have friends to go canoe sailing with it is possible to move multiple boats with one vehicle using a dedicated canoe trailer. Here we are embarking on a long trip to Scotland, sharing diesel costs  and having company to chat with on the way. Having friends is also a help when loading and unloading boats, or when carrying canoes up a rocky landing on an inhospitable shore.

Portage Trolley

Sailing canoes, compared to other small sailing craft, come into their own when moving the canoe on shore. We use dedicated trolleys for moving the canoe to and from the water and for launching. Unlike dinghy launching trolleys, trolleys for sailing canoes are small, light and are easily transported in the canoe so that when you sail to another location you have the trolley at hand to help you get the canoe up the beach.

Getting the canoes above the high water mark

When cruising on the sea, it is best to find a nice beach to land on. On rocky shores sailing canoes are small and light enough that you, and a few companions, can carry the canoes and camping gear up the beach. If the beach is sand or small shingle it is easy to tie the trolley in place in shallow water and then pull your boat up the beach on your own. Ordnance Survey maps usually show up nice sandy beaches and a quick look on Google Earth can confirm that its landable. Sandy beaches, though, can sometimes have surf on them so, depending on wind direction, one end of the beach is more likely to have fewer waves than the other. Surf needs to be taken with care and even small waves can turn the canoe and capsize you if you’re caught unawares.

If you are planning on camping overnight , or staying for an extended break , its important that you find the strand line or high water mark and take your canoe above it. You don’t want the high tide to float your boat so that it drifts away overnight.  Its also best to put out a small anchor in case the next tide reaches a bit higher than predicted. On the West Coast of Scotland there is a multitude of beaches away from habitation that often have a cropped grassy meadow behind, which make perfect places for wild camping.

Portaging the canoe on a road.

Trolleys are not just used for getting the canoe up a beach. In the West Coast of Scotland the sea lochs often have a road cutting across between them. Occasionally it can make sense to portage the sailing canoe along the road and into another Loch, missing out a long exposed sail around the headland. This might be because of worsening weather would mean sailing around the intervening headland could be very exposed. Or it might be just a short cut to reduce your journey time as you might have to get back home for work. Either way, portages are not usually fun and we try to avoid including them in a trip if we can.

Or on a rough track

The sailing canoes are light enough and the trolleys are robust enough that even serious portages along quite rough tracks can be undertaken. This portage was on a trip we had , from Tayvallich on the mainland, around the Isle of Jura. Bad weather held us up for two days on an idyllic beach on the North of Islay. We decided to cut our expedition short by portaging from Inner Loch Tarbert on Jura on the west coast to Tarbert on the east coast, missing out the Gulf of Corryvreckan.