Day 3 – Paddle across Scotland Winter 2020


Day 3 – Portage, It seems fitting to try and explain the difficulties and admin we had to go through off the water as well as on throughout the journey and a good chunk of this expedition was spent moving our boards and equipment around Lock gates on the canals. Called a ‘portage’ it just so happens that this day was the most demanding for the difficulties we faced off the water. 

Imagine it. It’s raining, freezing cold and for the last 2 hours you’ve been using your arms and putting pressure through your legs to allow yourself to paddle efficiently down a choppy Loch, your fingers are cold, you can barley feel your feet and your body is aching everywhere but all of a sudden, your faced with a 700m long series of Lock gates. What do you do? Jump off and walk around right? Well on a touring SUP board loaded down with gear, that’s not quite as easy as it sounds. 

Individually we were each carrying around 60lbs of gear that included everything we needed to live from our boards. Combined, that’s over 180lbs of gear that we had to unload from the boards, haul up a slippery bank, carry 700m, return for the boards, carry another 700m, reload the boards and then lower carefully back into the water down another slippery bank. I cannot explain how absolutely exhausting that is to do and on this particular day, we had to do it 5 times along with 15 miles of strenuous paddling. 

Portaging became an absolute nightmare for us, it would use up valuable time, daylight that we couldn’t really afford to lose and it was breaking us as well as taking its toll on our boards. Sam had badly cracked his toe and toenail and pulling the boards out through reeds, thorns and onto old pontoons was a puncture waiting to happen, not to mention the massive strain we put on the fins every time the heavily loaded rear accidentally touched the ground. Luckily Hatha have made a super strong board here and it stood up to the abuse we had to put them through on a frequent basis.

Once through all of the portages and the stretches of Loch Ceann and Loch Oich we finally made it to Fort Augustus, where the canal opened up into the daunting expanse of Loch Ness. Tomorrow’s challenge.