Friday 21st July
Kim, myself and Escape (BRe 006) were on the road from Kent to Coniston at 0630hrs. When we arrived at Coniston boating centre we rigged Escape on the shore and left them to park her in the yard with their tractor, talk about being pampered.
We headed for the Ship Inn and over the course of the evening and a few ciders the rest of the Gulpers (a group of Swallows) appeared and plans were made for the following day.
0900hrs on the shores of Coniston Water with almost no wind and plenty of rain. The Bluebird Café, a most welcome haven. Over a cuppa we scoured the various weather web sites, the most optimistic suggesting it would clear up after lunch. A walk round the small village of Coniston to find an eatery for the evening and we arrived back at the Blue Bird Café 1230. With a light SSW wind and clearing skies we decided to launch. Matthew had arrived without a boat so we invited him to join us. A good thing it was for some people. We hadn’t been that long on the water when Matthew spotted 3 Canadian canoes in the middle of the lake apparently in some difficulties. We started up the outboard and went to investigate. We discovered 4 people in the water with two capsized/waterlogged canoes and 1 upright canoe with the 2 people in that trying to hang onto everything and everyone. We pulled the 4 in the water onto Escape, thank goodness for the large cockpit and after emptying some of the water out of the two canoes towed them to shore.
That evening we met up with some of the group in the Black Bull whilst others went for a evening sail.
We were on the water at about 0945 with 5 other Swallows. Winds were light from the South as we made best speed for Peel Island. Tarika was fast in the light winds but Turaco III left us all behind by some margin. Sadly Sea Pig turned back early as they had to be away. At about 1200hrs the wind fell away and as I was keen to get to Peel Island we started up the outboard. Not 10 mins later the wind picked up and we sailed round the island being very wary of the inshore route as we had been warned about rocks which could be seen looming under the water. With all the normal landing sites taken we came alongside a small cliff face which Matthew scaled with the mooring line.
Whilst we messed about on the Island the others sailed on by and disappeared round a bend. We headed off after them. Turaco III was the first we met as she reappeared heading north so her owner could get on the road. Matthew also needed to be away so we gave chase whilst the remaining boats went ashore for a late lunch. Despite our best efforts on the run back, centreplate up, me sitting on the fore deck and jib pinned out, Turaco III pulled away from us until the wind dropped and Turaco III started her Torquedo. Almost at the point of the electric motor starting the wind swung through 180 degrees and picked up so we had a good final sail back to port.
4 boats left and with a F2-3 from the north it was the first time we had put the ballast in. It was a lovely days sail with fine views of the surrounding fells. We went about half way down the lake where we put ashore for lunch. An initially grumpy landowner came by but once he found we were not from “one of them [outward bound] schools” he was very pleasant.
No sailing today and Kim and I planned a good walk up Dow Cragg, across Goat’s Hawse, up to The Old Man of Coniston and back down via Goat’s Water. Sadly the cloud was at 400m (1300ft) so no great views from the top of Dow Cragg and with no sign that is would clear we cut down to Goat’s Water leaving the Old Man for another day.
Only two boats left and with a wet and windy morning we drove to Ambleside and then Brentwood House where we had a slightly odd but very tasty lunch of Cumberland sausage sandwich and scone with cream & jam. The afternoon saw the rain stop and the wind ease. I started with ballast and two reefs but it was soon apparent that the lunch had provided enough additional ballast to shake out one of the reefs. A lively if short sail ensued. A lovely evening meal at the Steam Bistro in Coniston, highly recommend.
And then there was only one. Again the morning was not conducive to sailing so a drive over Wrynose Pass to see how the PHEV car coped with a real hill and then a drive down the Duddon valley to find the ancient stone circle of Sunkenkirk or Swinside. Back at Coniston water we sailed with ballast two reefs and no mizzen. According to the GPS we clocked 6 knots on the reach, 5.5 on the run and Escape was stable and fun to sail but without causing Kim any discomfort.
Despite some trepidation about it being the first weekend of the holidays it did not prove to be an issue and it was great that one family was able to come and reduce the average age of the group by some significant margin! Our thanks to Matthew for getting us all together and thanks to all who came, making it such a great week. Hopefully catch up with you all again before next year.