Sail Caledonia provides a unique opportunity to sail and row in company on one of the most diverse and beautiful inland waterways in the world. The event starts in the salt water of Loch Linnhe at Fort William travels across the canals and lochs of the great glen, including Loch Ness, and ends in the beautiful Beauly Lock that opens into the Moray Firth east of Inverness. The waterway provides stretches of canal for rowing and open locks where boats can sail unhindered. Throughout the journey, the dramatic Scottish landscape makes its mark: the great Neptune’s staircase flight of locks – the longest flight of staircase lochs in the UK, the lovely Loch Oich or the forbidding length of Loch Ness, hemmed in by surrounding peaks. The weather is also part of the challenge, it may be swelteringly hot for rowing, or a bit cooler than one would like for a sail, but the weather’s frequently changing moods heighten the atmosphere and the sense of adventure.
The event is primarily a challenge. A challenge away from today’s motorised world, one that can be undertaken by all age groups and abilities. For some the challenge may just be completing the 66 mile traverse of the Scottish mainland by water, for others, the challenge may be to perform well in the sailing and rowing events organised each day. There is also the chance to compete for the Highlander Trophy for those who shun the help and support of the Sail Caledonia team and travel independently, transporting all their gear and cooking their food. For less hardy individuals there is the option to camp in some beautiful canal side locations, not otherwise available to campers, or to have the luxury of a cabin in Fingal, the mother ship. For campers, life is relatively easy as all equipment is transported to the next evening stop by the Sail Caledonia Team.
Since the dawn of time, when any similar size boats make passage together it’s inevitable that a race ensues. Sail Caledonia is no different, but in true expedition style, the racing is well organised but relaxed and amicable. In this spirit teams sometimes swap members in order to experience each other’s craft. For some, this event is a chance to test boats that are new or unfamiliar. The Sail Caledonia team advise on personal safety and safety assess craft before they are launched. They also provide support when on the water in case of difficulties and provide an opportunity to capsize boats in a safe environment in order to prepare better for that unwanted event.
When the race is lost or won and when the hurly burly’s done it’s time to congregate for the evening meal in the company of fellow members of the expedition. It’s a time to discuss the day’s events, relax as dusk moves in and bathes the hills in the last rays of the day’s sunshine and have a drink or two from Fingal’s wheelhouse bar while strains of music drift up from the saloon below.
On the last night, once the boats are hauled and prepared for the trip home, there is a prize giving and celidh to round off a truly memorable week. There are trophies for each class, for an outright event winner, then there’s the awarding of the Highlander Trophy and recognition and celebration of a few more memorable incidents besides. All teams are encouraged to take an active part in celebrating the end of a wonderful week.
As the curtains drop on another Sail Caledonia challenge, one is left with some fantastic
memories. These are supported by the expedition photographer who has captured your
event and provides access to the on-