2 New Podcasts

The Oban area of Scotland has such superb sea kayaking it deserves two podcasts and both are published today. Ken Lacey of Sea Kayak Scotland describes a great way to visit the Garvellachs and other good routes. Tony Hammock of Sea Freedom Kayak has picked the Dorus Mor. Find them at SeaKayakRoutes.com

Rainbow for One

I'm rather impressed with this single-skin one person tent which I've been testing for TGO Magazine.

It's called the Rainbow-1 and is made by Henry Shires, a teacher who lives in the USA and has discovered TarpTent.com, his cottage industry tent making business, is taking over his life. We used one of his prototype "Squal" designs, an A shape tent, on our 2002 Pacific Crest Trail hike, but this is the first of his transverse arch design.

I've written a full review for the magazine the basics are: Weight: 965g Price: $215 (pretty good with the current exchange rate) Dimensions: L=264cm W=117cm H=109cm

There are just six pegs and no guy lines and yet, provided the end points into the wind, it seems quite stable. “The beak”, the door and porch area, fastens with Velcro and the flaps can be staked out to create a small porch with just enough room to cook.

The Rainbow-1 looks roomy enough for two but performs best as a solo tent. Cunningly, the walls have a slightly larger ‘footprint’ than the bath-tub floor and the two are connected by bug-netting. Gravity draws condensation down the walls where it drips, not onto the floor, but through the netting into the ground. In summer, biting insects can’t get up through the gap into the tent, so you can seal yourself off from midges. There’s also a large, midge-proof vent at the top of the back wall ideally placed to expel warm, moist rising air.

I plan to use this in some mountain marathons this year so it'll be interesting to see how well it performs with two people inside.

Keeping flares dry

I blogged about these PackMate bags a few weeks ago and to date they seem to be working well. The bags are designed to hold clothing for long term storage and are quite robust with a grid 'mesh' and an apparently sturdy zip lock.

Parachute flares fit exactly across the width of the bag, which means it can easily be rolled.

It fits into a much smaller space than a dry bag and slips into a bungee behind my seat in the kayak cockpit. I've only used them once on the wate and will report back on their longer term suitability.

Error - SeaKayakRoutes.com website

Something has gone slightly sideways on my SeaKayakRoutes.com website.

Big thanks to Phil Atwell for the e-mail to say the 3 & 4 Star award Podcast is actually the Greenland Podcast - whoops!

I know for sure it was the 3 & 4 Star Award podcast, because it downloaded into my iTunes. Something must have gone screwy when I added the 5 Star podcast. This is slightly awkward to fix, and I can't change it until 1st Feb when the new Podcast(s) appear.

However, 3 & 4 star podcast (and many more!) can be found in the Podcast Library. The link there works fine. If anyone else notices glitches, I'm always keen to hear.

1st 2007 Paddle

The grim, grey weather of the last few weeks has been like living inside a Tupperware box. Today, we saw a glint of blue through a gap in the lid and headed out to make the most of it. Down on sheltered Loch Creran we made a few discoveries.

Firstly, some creature has been nibbling the padded thigh braces inside my kayak. Secondly, when Liz’s nephew had a minor epic in it, he kicked off a foot peg, and it took half an hour to get the rail undone so I could slide the peg back on. Third, even though it was sheltered where we launched, the forecast Force 5-7 was lurking out in the Lynn of Lorn.
We had intended to paddle around Eriska and launched just after slack water. This would have brought us back through the narrow channel on the flood and a fair old speed. However, when we nosed around Eriska the wind hit. Frankly, neither of us have our sea-legs back yet, so we came back into a little shelter and practiced turning strokes in the wind and under an old pier before heading back the way we came.

Not much of a destination paddle today, but I’m glad we’ve found this little route because it promises to be a good, short route.

New Mountain Marathon

The Highlander Mountain Marathon is new to this years calendar, and early it is too.

It'll happen on 31st March / 1st April - 'All Fools Day', perhaps a suitable choice. Another member of the Westies running club was also looking for a partner as I was so we're hoping to team up. He's having to moderate his ambitions on my behalf, tackling the C class ( 45km 2000m ascent) rather than the B class (50km 2400m ascent) but the weather might turn the whole thing into a tougher challenge than those stark figures would suggest.

All we know about the location for the event is this:

The Marathon will take place this year within 1 hour's travel of Inverness and 4 hours' travel from Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Competition takes place in a remote and moutainous (sic) area where the bulk of the ground is rough hillground and moorland with some intricate contour detail. In view of the time of year however, the courses will avoid the highest sumits (sic) and competitors are unlikely to find themselves exceeding a height of 700 metres. Location of the event will be publicised on this web site from The 17th of March 2007.

Looks like I have some extra weekend training to do. Incidentally, I've written about the Original Mountain Marathon, before and after the event. There's also a Podcast done by TGO Magazine.

Corran Ferry

Douglas commented on my previous post about the ferry last weekend, so I thought I'd add a few of the other photos in the sequence. It's amazing the conditions in which the men can keep this boat running. Good luck to them for tomorrow (Thursday) which threatens to be another stormy day in Scotland.


We've been out collecting rubbish from one of our favourite beaches, the 'Singing Sands'. It is piled up, so visitors probably assume someone comes along with a quad or argo and hauls it out. In our experience, over the last couple of years, this doesn't happen.

I was running without a rucksack, but Liz took her bike and GoLite Gust rucksack, filled it, and carried it out. The glass bottles all went into the recycle point at Acharacle.

On an entirely different subject... reading Derrick's Blog, I see someone else has started kayak podcasting, Radio Rutabaga in the US.

Podcast - 5 Star Award

It was fun on the Corran ferry this weekend in high winds.

A rather appropriate time to publish the latest Podcast.
What does it take to pass the 5-star BCU award? A certain amount of myth has grown up around the top personal performance award run by the British Canoe Union. Doug Cooper, head of paddlesport at Glenmore Lodge, cuts through that myth with a clear explanation of the skills you’ll need to be a 5 star paddler. Listen or subscribe free here. Or download from Podcast Library.

Northern Isles Sea Kayak Book

Those busy folk at Pesda Press have come up with another interesting book.
The Northern Isles, Orkney and Shetland Sea Kayaking is due out 16th March price £19.99.
This is from the press release:
Their relative isolation, stunning scenery and Norse history make Orkney and Shetland a very special place. For the sea kayaker island archipelagos are particularly rewarding … none more so than these.
Illustrated with superb colour photographs and useful maps throughout, this book is a practical guide to help you select and plan trips. It will provide inspiration for future voyages and a souvenir of journeys undertaken.As well as providing essential information on where to start and finish, distances, times and tidal information, the book does much to stimulate interest in the environment. It is full of facts and anecdotes about local history, geology, scenery, seabirds and sea mammals.
Author Biography:
Tom Smith

Tom was introduced to paddling by a relative on Loch Tummel in a home-made lath and canvas canoe. While doing youth work in Edinburgh he decided to join a course for instructors, during which he found himself paddling out to the Bass Rock one perfect summer evening. He has been a sea paddler ever since. Early trips were mostly on the west and north coasts after a move to Easter Ross.
A further move to Shetland followed in 1976. Nearly thirty years of exploring the Shetland coastline led to the decision in 2004 to set up Sea Kayak Shetland, offering guided trips, coaching and equipment sales. Tom is a BCU Level 3 Coach and Local Coaching Organiser for Shetland. Off-season he likes to travel, to paddle and walk, and just be a tourist. In addition to Shetland and the west coast of Scotland he has kayaked in places as diverse as Norway, the Greek islands and Tasmania.

Chris Jex
An introduction to outdoor activities whilst on a school trip to North Wales enabled Chris to take part in and continue his passion for climbing, walking and kayaking at an early age.
Over the past sixteen years Chris has worked in the outdoor industry instructing, developing and managing outdoor activities at outdoor centres in the Outer Hebrides, Skye, North Wales, France and Orkney. Chris has lived and worked in Orkney for the past seven years working as the Outdoor Education Advisor on behalf of Orkney Islands Council. He has paddled, dived, climbed, travelled and worked remote and beautiful places within the UK, Morocco, France, Italy, Thailand, The Philippines, Sri Lanka and India.
Chris has shared his love of the outdoors by coaching and instructing others in a wide range of outdoor activities. He holds a Level 4 Sea and Inland Coach qualification, Mountain Instructor Award, Open Water Scuba Instructor, Level 3 Open Canoe Coach Award and Paraglider Pilot rating.

New Book

I've not paddled too many canoes, but I like the look of this book which will be published 16th March by Pesda Press costing £15.99. Here's what their press release says:

"Eddy Palmer has chosen his favourite twenty-five inland touring routes and described them in loving detail. The routes are beautifully illustrated with numerous colour photos and specially commissioned maps.
The selected routes are suitable for open canoes, sit-on-tops and touring kayaks. Many of them are multi-day trips that can be tackled as a single voyage or a series of day trips. Great variety is provided, the journeys taking place on inland lochs, sheltered sea lochs and rivers of up to Grade 2.
A wonderful book for planning, dreaming of future voyages, or sharing your experiences with non-paddling friends."

The North West Wilderness
1 Kylesku - Lochs and coast
2 The inverpolly Lochs
3 Loch Marree

The Great Glen
4 River Glass and River Beauly
5 The Great Glen
6 Glen Garry

The North East - Twixt Dee and Spey
7 River Spey
8 River Dee

Skye to Mull - West Coast Favourites
9 Loch Huorn
10 Loch Morar and Loch Nevis
11 Loch Shiel Circuit
12 Loch Sunart

Majestic Mountains and Lochs
13 Across Rannoch Moor
14 Loch Etive
15 Loch Awe
16 Balquhidder - Rob Roy Country

The Cowal Peninsula
17 Loch Lomond
18 Loch Eck to Lochgoilhead
19 Loch Ruel to Loch Striven
20 Tayvallich and Loch Sween

Perthshire and Stirlingshire
21 The Tay System - river Dochart, Loch Tay and River Tay
22 River Earn
23 River Teith

Southern Gems
River Ken, River Dee and Loch Ken
River Tweed


I've just bought a pair of waterproof headphones from Aquapac, costing £32 including delivery.

While they'll be very helpful while I'm running in the torrents of rain which seem to hurl themselves on Glasgow on a daily basis this winter, the main reason for having them is to record podcasts on the water. I monitor the input while I'm recording so I can detect any unwanted mic noise.

Now all I need is a waterproof microphone - Richard at Tripple Echo Productions, with whom I've worked on a number of Radio Four programmes, assures me he has one I can use. The sound quality of these in-ear headphones seems quite good and they come with a handy storage "float". They're advertised as being "Guaranteed Submersible" to 10m/33ft which I hope I never accidentally have to test.

Podcast - New 3 & 4 Star

Happy New Year!

The 3 and 4 Star awards are part of a personal development scheme run by the British Canoe Union and during 2007 the sea-kayaking awards will undergo significant change.

Doug Cooper helped devise the new awards and in the first podcast of 2007 he explains what’s changing and what’s not.

Doug is head of paddle-sports at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, and also did last month's podcast on Greenland. Fortunately, he's an entertaining and well informed speaker, because he'll also be doing the second January Podcast. In response to a specific request I received, Doug will explain the skills and experience needed to complete the 5 Star award, demolishing some of the myths along the way.

Listen on-line or subscribe free to the podcasts by clicking the subscribe button on this page. Alternatively, download direct from the Podcast Library. Thanks to Dawn Horsburgh for the photo.