07.00 hrs on Friday 1 April 2016 saw Sandy, Leigh, Bernie, Derek and Graham Roy meeting at the Clubs Outdoor Store in Clydebank. Was this some elaborate April fool prank? No, we were meeting to start our three day open canoe descent of the River Spey.
3 hrs took us to our starting point at Kincraig on the north end of loch Insh where we unloaded the boats and then a further 3 hrs were needed to shuttle a car to Spey Bay and return to the start point. Eventually we were off! It was a fairly windy and wet day but we were thankful that the wind was coming from the south west so it was at our backs as we paddled north. 10 km of paddling took us to Aviemore, but no stops for us and a further 11 km took us to Boat of Garten. We then paddled on to our first campsite on an island which was about 2 km downstream. Total paddle for the day was about 23km.
Day 2 saw us up bright and early. A much nicer day with sunshine and no winds. After breakfast we dismantled the campsite and then packed the boats to get on the river for 09.00. The river is wide and meanders over the next session to Grantown-on-Spey which is reached after 10 km. We took a provision stop here for provisions with Sandy discovering and liking chicken and haggis pie!
After an early brunch we carried on with river picking up speed through some grade 2 rapids and on to Boat of Cromdale after another 5 km. The river then seems to pick up a bit and the scenery is excellent as we passed Ballindalloch and the confluence with the River Avon. 21 km after leaving Grantown we then came to the Blacksboat rapid aka the washing machine. We all manged through without major mishap, all shipping some water and Dereks bag going for an authorised swim and then carried on for a further 5km through the various rapids making up the white water section to Knockando. This rapid was negotiated without incident and we decided to carry on for another hour to look for a campsite.
Thinking that the hardest section of white water was over proved to be a mistake as, after another km or so, Sandy and Leigh went for a swim as their boat filled up with water in a long wave train and they tipped over whilst trying to paddle it to the side. The water was cold! We recovered the boat and the equipment that escaped from the boat and Sandy and Leigh were soon back in and paddling onwards. After a further 2km we stopped and found a campsite for the night.
This had been a big day was some learning for everyone. We paddled 42km, we learned not to relax after the hard bit and we learned that double bagging (item in dry bag, then packed in a further dry bag or barrel) is the only way to keep things dry in a canoe.
Day 3 again saw us up bright and early, however the weather was not so kind as the day before with rain and light winds. Again we were on the water for 09.00. 2km downstream we passed Charlestown of Aberlour and then under the Thomas Telford bridge at Craigellachie. We the continued past Rothes, Fochabers and after a four hour paddle we reached the sea at Spey Bay. This last section was scenic with enough rapids to keep our interest and the occasional strainer to be aware or is that beware of! Total paddle for the day was 29 km.
We didnt hang about due to the cold winds and rain at Spey Bay. The boats were loaded on the trailer and we then returned to Kincraig to pick up the other car. As we travelled back we reflected on an excellent trip where we paddled 94km in excellent scenery, changeable weather and on an interesting and sometimes challenging river. We wild camped both nights and we were careful to clear up and leave nothing behind us other than ripples in the water.