The Canal Saturday 7th May

We had a fantastic sail down Loch Ness yesterday, a north-easterly force 5-6, right up our stern, so the motor was off and, I'd like to say we gently ghosted down the loch, but it was more of a charge; 7 knots + . It was quite chilly and it's 25ish miles so we didn't mind getting a move on
to Fort Augustus. We had a full crew aboard, Joe flew in to Inverness first thing, Sam Barker, Gina's son, and his friend Joe Were also joined us and a young American tourist, Bridget, whom we had met in a pub the previous night. Bridget is travelling alone, there are advantages and disadvantages of travelling on your own..... strangers talk to you! We noticed her in the pub, looking slightly uncomfortable, and self-conscious and started chatting to her, she's visiting Ireland and Scotland, trying to manage on as little money as possible, sometimes sleeping in a hostel, other nights in her hire car to save a few bucks, quite an adventurous young woman. We invited her to join us for a day, sailing down Loch Ness, gave her our number, explained where to find us and really didn't expect to see her again, but good on her, she pitched up in good time and came along for the ride.
It was such a lovely day, having the youngsters aboard meant a day full of chatter and laughter and it was really useful having the extra hands to get the boat through the first staircase of locks. The Caledonian Canal is up there with the best sailing experiences in the world and we were really looking forward to it, not least the possibility of spotting Nessy!
I can't say we had a definite sighting, or even a glimpse to be perfectly honest, but.....on more than one occasion, our echo-sounder alarmed, after previously registering 100+ metres! suddenly it was registering zero metres! were we about to go aground or, was Nessy swimming just below our keel? clearly the only plausible explanation. So there we have it, she's out there, and, just like dolphins swim along the bow-wave, Nessy swims just under the boat, scratching her back on the keel.
Sunday had a quiet start, so much so that we weren't ready for the first transit up the Fort Augustus staircase of locks, there are about six locks in a row, it takes about an hour, we were expecting the next opportunity to be about 11.30. We finally reached the top just before 4pm! It doesn't help that the lock keepers stop work for an hour for lunch at some point, all of them. There are some parts of Scotland that really feel more like Italy, or Greece, but at least they didn't go and have a lie down as well.
So, today's passage consisted of about 500 metres of horizontal progress but also about about 50 feet vertically too, that feels pretty cool to me, a good day's work.
We settled onto our new berthing spot at the top of the staircase and went for a walk. This adventure has always been about exploring the UK, not just observing from sea, or even, loch level, but getting out and about to experience as much as we can, on foot or bike. We had a lovely walk, in brilliant sunshine up through the forest above Fort Augustus, beautiful, good to wake up our climbing muscles in preparation for Ben Nevis in a few days time.
Back to the boat for supper and I was determined to cook a roast. We have a tiny oven, grill and two ring burners, so I wasn't being over-ambitious at all, ...!
Actually, it was OK; roast chicken, mash, gravy, cabbage, carrots and cauliflower cheese, Chris and Joe drew the short straw; the washing

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