Susie Theis


The Caledonian Canal

My knowledge of canals was limited prior to this trip; not exactly the kind of skill I ever thought I'd use as an adult. So, I didn't really know what to expect when we pulled up to the first lock in Corpach. We stood out in the rain, protected by our foul weather gear, waiting for the lock keeper to let us in. Ben Nevis, the UK's tallest peak,  stood in the background, shrouded by eerie spring clouds. 

The whole process was pretty fascinating. Some parts of the canal were more populated than others with tourists gathered around like spectators. We had four adults to move the boat along which made things very efficient. Our main duties consisted of positioning bumpers to help fend off the old stone walls and walking the boat from one lock to the next with bow and stern lines. Once positioned in a new lock the staff would raise or lower the water level before opening the gates into the next lock. People wandered along, stopping to admire the various boats and make small talk with their captains. Onlookers asked about the boat's home port, crew and destination as we waiting for the water levels to rise or fall.

We'd typically go through a series of locks at one time. Between the locks were waterways, both natural and artificial, that stretched on for miles. Most of the time these were too narrow to sail through so we spent a good portion of our time motoring. However, we were able to raise the sails briefly in both Loch Lochy and Loch Ness. Construction of the canal began in 1803. At the time is was a massive undertaking for Britain but today is used mostly for leisure. It's possible to navigate through the canal in two days but we took our time stopping each night to explore the surrounding areas. We spent two days in the tiny town of Fort Augustus which became our home while we did a little monster hunting.

Sadly, there were no Nessie sightings for Arctic Monkey and after about seven days in the canal we moved on to Inverness, the capitol of the Scottish highlands. There we began the extensive process of arctic provisioning.